Creating a presentation that keeps a captive audience engaged is tough. Creating a presentation that keeps distracted students engaged is a much harder task again.
Whether your are demonstrating to a class or presenting at a conference, keeping an audience focused on your content is more challenging than it used to be. Children and adult audience members alike, now have glowing distractions in their pockets and are expecting the instant gratification that comes from the Internet generation. Text on slides no longer has the appeal and will easily lose the attention battle to a Facebook update or a new cow on FarmVille.
Here are a few tools that will help you enthrall your audience and keep your presentations on the entertaining side of educational:
SlideRocket is a hosted web app designed to take presentations to the next level with graphical prowess and multimedia integration. It is a great transition for anyone familiar with PowerPoint, but who is tired of dull presentations in over used templates.
Although the content of your presentation is of course the most important part, small visual improvements can have a big effect on audience engagement and participation. This is particularly true for an easily distracted audience such as students or young children. Some of the more impressive features of SlideRocket are enhanced text effects, slick slide transitions, media integration (audio, video, animation) and graphic effects. You can see in the below example just how smooth and beautiful slide transitions are and how much more interactive it looks than a standard PowerPoint.
Most people would now be familiar with Prezi, but it is uncanny to see the response you still get when launching one of these versus a conventional presentation. Prezi applies a whole new approach to presenting by taking a perspective view rather than the linear slide view we are more familiar with.
Similar to SlideRocket, Prezi is a hosted web app and boasts all the benefits of storing your work in the cloud. Where Prezi defines itself from the competition is it’s large free-form canvas for guiding your audience through your content. You can see in the below example just how different a Prezi presentation is to what most people are familiar with. The experience has been described as the digital equivalent to taking your audience through your content in a helicopter versus holding up sheets of printed paper.
The Internet phenomenon that is YouTube still reigns as one of the most useful resources on the web, particularly for creating engaging presentations. Both tools mentioned above allow the embedding of YouTube content and you would be hard pressed to find a platform that does not incorporate the sites video.
As well as being just plain entertaining, YouTube let’s you re-use material from respected individuals and thought-leaders in whatever field you happen to be presenting. It is important to put your own individual flare into your work, but there are instance where we can use fantastic ready made content to help get the message across. You will also find that a short video in a presentation helps your audience re-focus and will give you a short break to gather yourself for the remaining talk. From personal experience it is always good to start a presentation with a short, funny video to put your audience in the right frame of mind.
A presentation does not necessarily need to be slides or strictly use presentation software. In fact presenting your content in new and interesting ways is one of the best methods to maintain your audiences attention.
Tiki-Toki is a relatively new web app for creating beautiful interactive timelines. A timeline is a great way to present data visually and will help students understand perspective and put information into chronological sequence. Tiki-Toki really does look stunning and the smooth easy to use interface makes it ideal for presenting to both small classes or large conferences.
The timeline format is also a great tool to involve the whole class in the creation of a presentation. Each student or group can focus on creating content for a certain time period or event. The timeline can then be consolidated and the final timeline presented to the class.
Infographics are popping up everywhere. They are a great way to get a message across by visualizing data rather than bombarding a reader with vast amounts of text. The same principles apply to presenting and this makes Infographics a fantastic way to convey your data without putting the room to sleep.
Visual.ly is a site dedicated to Infographics and data visualizations. They host a huge amount of quality Infographics on a wide variety of topics. You can choose to embed or re-use pre-made graphics in your own presentations or in the not too distant future the site will be offering tools to help you create your own.
A hot tip is to embed an Infographic into your Prezi presentation. The canvas nature of the application allows you to pan and zoom to areas of interest when necessary, but still retain the full impact of the overall graphic.
Canva, like Haiku Deck, is an entirely self-contained alternative to PowerPoint. It’s more complicated than Haiku, but with the added complication comes more flexibility and more style too.
Canva does a whole load of stuff besides slides, and I like the distinctive design feel that runs throughout their products. We’ll focus on presentation-making today, though – here’s what the slide design view looks like:
On the left are various extremely stylish and useful layouts. I don’t know how well you can see in the pic but the very first layout at the top-left, and the one below it, have a sort of criss-cross fence effect over them – that denotes that the picture needs to be purchased (for $1). Images without the criss-cross effect, like the one in my example slide, are free to use. Like Haiku Deck, Canva uses filters to allow a uniform feel to your presentations and make it easier to write directly onto slides – you can see I’ve got the filter options open above, and there’s plenty of filters to choose from.
I think Canva versus Haiku is the classic effort versus reward conundrum – with Canva you need to put a lot more effort in, but you get a lot more out if you do. My only reservations with it are that the templates are literally for one slide at a time (whereas Haiku templates are for the whole deck) and it’s a bit fiddly to build your own content until you get used to it. As with Haiku I think this tool would be more useful for conference presentations than for internal infolit materials.