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How to Make a PowerPoint Presentation More Interactive

PowerPoint presentations dazzled audiences everywhere when they first made their appearances in boardrooms, meetings and classrooms in the late 90s. These days they are staples in both professional and academic environments. So prevalent is their use that it can be argued that they are losing their efficacy. But, this is not the fault of the technology or the presenter; rather the answer may lie in the way presentations are being delivered. Not much has changed throughout the years and audiences have built a sort of tolerance to PowerPoint presentations. In order to capture and maintain the attention of the audience, presenters may need to adopt some new tactics.

Whether they be students or employees, audience members are usually coming doing, seeing or listening to something else before attending the presentation. They will come in with the “baggage” of whatever it was they were doing previously. They are distracted. Instead of jumping right into the presentation and overwhelming their already busy minds with slide after slide of information it may be a good idea to perform some sort of exercise to help them clear their minds and give it the breathing room to accept the information that you are about to deal out to them. This can take the form of a joke, a story, a game or even something as simple as asking them how their weekends went.

Presentations can often run dry, boring and uninteresting. To bridge this attention gap the presenter can and should tell some stories. Presentation after all can be thought of as formalized storytelling. Stories bring the subject matter down to a personal level and make it more relatable. This also makes it more memorable. By intertwining the message or value of the presentation within the story, the presenter is not only making sure that it sticks within the mind of the audience member, but almost makes them crave more of the story thereby giving the presenter more attention.

Humans are innately visual creatures. Our biology, behavior and social cues all indicate that we are easily stimulated by and respond well to visual signals. This is why it is critical to insert some sort of video into a PowerPoint presentation. It need not be an overtly long video, but just something to break up the monotony of slide after slide of text. Videos are familiar scenes to a person’s mind, it can become a ground point within a conversation. The minds and attention of audience members will tend to wander, even in the presence of the best presenters, and videos allows the presenter to subconsciously bring back straying attention of their listeners. Another method of visual stimulation is through the use of props. These physical representations of the information contained in the slides help solidify the ideas in the minds of the audience.

Even with all the features and visuals available in PowerPoint, the majority of presentations often devolve to a wall of text assaulting the eyes of the audience. Unsurprisingly, things get too predictable, people get bored, their minds wander and next thing you know, you’ve lost the audience. A non-linear presentation takes an unorthodox approach to presenting, constantly zooming in and out of the scope of the subject, from highly detailed pieces of data to a grand overview of the entire project. It can also mean allowing the audience to steer the conversation, which keeps their minds engaged and occupied.

Asking your audience questions throughout the presentation is a tactic used by some of the best presenters in the world and benefits all party members. Quizzing the audience can seem a bit mean spirited, as if it’s a test of sorts. But, for the presenter asking a question reveals a wealth of information. It shows whether the audience understands the presentation and the information being conveyed. It also reveals who is an actually listening and engagement rate. More importantly, it keeps participants on their toes and makes them want to pay attention in the event that they may be called upon to answer a question. This can be a simple question, but it can be a bit more complex like a room wide poll, which also has the added bonus of forming bonds between audience members.

Just like how slide after slide of text can numb the brain of an audience, so too can the constant sight and voice of a presenter. If possible, an academic PowerPoint presentation can be split up and presented by different people especially students in college or university. Doing so will not only stimulate the minds of the audience, but will present a greater level of interactivity and engagement. Bringing up an expert to speak about their field or line of work shows the audience that you are not a know-it-all and that the highest quality of knowledge is being delivered to them.