Design Matters

The Art and Science of Keeping Your Audience Engaged. Guideline about the Story, Design, and Delivery approach.

By Kelsey Brannan

Illustrations by Magda Gogo

You can read countless studies which describe how the human attention span is shrinking. The increased accessibility to constant streams of digital media has reduced the human attention span to merely 5 seconds — less than that of a goldfish! But has anyone ever considered the fact that companies may just be getting better at giving people the products or information they need in a shorter amount of time?

The design and functionality of popular social media and e-commerce platforms which saturate our society shape and control our attention. With the advancement of user experience (UX) design, we are making it easier for people to access the information they need or desire within seconds. Think about Amazon.com. I can now buy a sofa or a new pair of shoes in a matter of seconds with the beauty of online commerce. Or think about Vine, a six-second video platform that has the power to entertain and influence popular culture. When you think about the structural design of these digital tools we use everyday, it certainly makes it easier to understand why our attention span is now only 5 seconds. The truth is, however, it doesn’t matter how short or long the human attention span is because we can control it through design. Design matters.

The same argument can be applied to PowerPoint presentations. You can shape and mold the way your audience interacts with your presentation slides. While there is not one scientific method or formula to engage your audience, there is a three step guideline I want to share with you that can help you capture and hold your audience’s attention. I call this guideline the Story, Design, and Delivery (SDD) approach.

Step 1: Story

Explain your story like you are explaining it to your grandmother. You have probably heard of this method before, laughed and then eventually forgotten about it. But try it, it actually works! You don’t need to impress or overcomplicate your story. As the world becomes increasingly more complex, humans like simple stories that have an honorable cause, a call to action, and a clear step towards future growth or continuation. Also, they like stories that have a human-centered goal. Start your presentation with a simple hook about a personal story. Ask yourself, why is your company, product or service important? Does it solve a problem? What human emotion does it touch? A good example of a slide design to open your story with is the “Background” style slide. Background slides feature a large image with white space where text from an inspirational quote can be placed.

If you have a team or a face to your story, introduce them! People like faces in PowerPoint presentations because they tell stories of human experience. SlidesCamp has a library of face-focused slide templates to choose from.

Next, build a story map that outlines your story. On SlidesCamp you can download “Event Roadmap” PowerPoint slide templates. You’ll notice that these templates utilize linear lines, circles, monochromatic colors, and grouped images to help you outline your message.

Now that your story is set up, here are some design tips to keep in mind as you build the rest of your slides for your presentation.

Step #2: Design

Users of the web today look for visual clues to obtain the information they need. If they fail to find it within five to eight seconds they tend to leave. Thus, the more accessible and more bold essential information is, the more engaged your user will be and the more likely they will return to use it. How does this apply to your presentation design? Well, treat each slide of your presentation like a website. Your audience member just entered your website (presentation) and you want them to find what they need before they decide to look elsewhere (or become distracted). Think about it, what is the least amount of information you can have on your slide to get point across? And how can you add images, place text, or use color to draw attention?

Bolded text, clusters of graphics, and faces will always attract attention.” — Andrew Tate, Design Psychology

The wrong image can mislead, confuse or even distract your audience. It’s extremely important that you do not bold text or add photos to your presentation that will distract your audience from the story you are trying to tell. However, an image that distracts one user may not distract another. So let’s face it. Sometimes there is no way of controlling audience attention because of the socio-economic variables that make up human subjectivity. But if you choose an image that enhances the information on the slide you’ll have more of a chance of engaging your audience. Within the SlidesCamp library, there are loads of pre-designed PowerPoint slide templates that make it easy to relate your message to the images and text on your slide.

SlidesCamp also allows you to customize the color schemes of your slides to underscore the tone of your presentation and brand. Simply select the slide you want to download and choose a color that matches the emotion you are trying to harness. Yes, there is such a thing as color psychology! Color psychology is popularly thought of as the assignment of colors to specific human emotions.

For instance, people often associate green with health and red as expressing excitement. However, according to academic research on color marketing, it is more important to use colors that support your brand rather than relying on colors to evoke stereotypical emotions. In other words, color can help make your brand more visible and understood, but you first need to know what your brand means.

Step #3: Delivery

So you have your story, you have a pretty good design, now it’s time to talk delivery. You can have an inspirational story and fabulous human-centered presentation design, but if you don’t have a strategy for delivering your presentation to your audience then you might as well not have a presentation.

“Successful presenters engage audiences with strategies that make them feel part of the presentation.” — Sheila B. Robinson, Audience Engagement Strategy Book

Sheila Robinson the author of the Audience Engagement Strategy Book, outlines a whole list of great presentation delivery strategies to help engage with your audience during your presentation, such as eye contact techniques, asking rhetorical questions and more.

One strategy that SlidesCamp can help you with is social media media plugging.

Now, more than ever, audience members are looking for ways to connect. At the opening of your presentation, ask the audience to tweet interesting facts from your presentation. Create a simple slide that includes your hashtag and your company’s social media handles. Pitching social media will not only make your audience feel like they are a part of the presentation, but it also creates a phenomenal feedback system! For example, the tweets the audience members post will highlight the parts of your presentation they found the most compelling. Lastly, it also serves as free and effective marketing for your brand and story online! After all, the voice of your audience can be your best marketing strategy.

Remember, you have more control over your audience’s attention span than you think. Whether you are in sales or finance, the Story, Design, and Delivery (SDD) approach I outlined in this article will help you improve the overall delivery and reception of your presentation.

I encourage you to browse the downloadable PowerPoint Templates offered on SlidesCamp to help you design your story and deliver your presentation to your audience.

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