In his book Brain Rules, Prof. John Medina from the University of Washington’s Medical School asserts that because of how our brains are constructed, audience attention levels will plummet at just 10 minutes into your PowerPoint presentation. That’s a scary thought, especially if your presentation builds to key messaging that comes later on.
Interactive Presentation Ideas
The brain needs a break from focusing on a single thing, and the only way you can recapture your audience’s attention is by ‘restarting the clock’. This means introducing an exciting new component that creates an emotional connection. It doesn’t need to be a startling revelation that shocks everyone out of their seats; you can regain and retain your audience’s attention simply by making your presentation more interactive and involving them directly.
Use the following interactive presentation ideas to wake up audience snoozers, seize their eyes away from their smartphones, and get them really engaging with your presentation content.
Hook Them In
‘Hooking’ an audience in is a technique commonly used in education to introduce new concepts to learners. Teachers (or presenters) generate initial interest by delivering snippets of information that capture the audience’s imagination.
It’s a powerful interactive presentation idea that we even used recently on this very blog with the post ‘What PowerPoint Design Has in Common Filmmaking’. Initially, the reader might think that these two things couldn’t be more different – so leading with a statement about how these disparate disciplines are similar to each other immediately creates interest and lures readers in with the desire to learn more.
Once your presentation arrives at a key point, throw your audience a ‘hook’ then dive into your content to explain how you arrived at that conclusion.
Tell a Story
Since the earliest cave paintings and our ancestors gathering around fires, stories have always been a huge part of human culture and civilisation. They’ve been used to transfer information from generation to generation because, when listening to a story, multiple parts of our brains are activated and retention increases.
It might seem obvious that stories are much more engaging and memorable that dull recitations of facts and figures, but you wouldn’t think so looking at most corporate PowerPoint presentations.
So think of your presentation as one arching narrative – give it the proper structure with a clear beginning, middle and end. Introduce conflict and provide a powerful resolution that reinforces your key messages.
You can also add humour to your presentation to better engage your audience and make otherwise dull topics stick in in your audience’s minds – just make sure you follow our tips to execute it the right way.
Let the Visuals Lead
We all know the old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words, but it’s true: the human brain processes visual information an incredible 60,000 faster than text – meaning that we’re all visual learners.
It’s much faster and easier to explain and understand abstract concepts using images than it is with walls of text. And presentations are a visual medium: so show, don’t just tell.
Use high-quality imagery in your presentation to help you communicate your narrative in an easy to understand, intuitive way. Support these with slick PowerPoint animations and transitions that help your messages flow along with minimal disruption.
Give a Non-Linear Presentation
Instead of deflecting questions and promising that topics will be covered later on, this interactive presentation idea enables you to be entirely audience driven in your approach.
Divide your PowerPoint presentation up into key topics and use a hyperlinking system to allow you to easily navigate to each one. Zoom for PowerPoint can really help with this non-linear presentation style.
You can then communicate with your audience, asking them what interests them most about your topic, then jump around to the parts that are important to them. This type of collaborative presenting enables you to better engage your audience by demonstrating that you’re responsive and have their interests at front of mind.
Involve Your Audience
Attention is likely to drop off soon enough if your presentation is a one-way conversation, so engage your audience directly using techniques that call for their involvement.
You can ask questions or take live polls then discuss the responses (try using a service like sli.do to accomplish this). Or try dividing your audience into small groups to conduct a short task then feed back their findings into your key presentation points.
These kind of activities generate discussion around your topic and draw on your audience’s knowledge to make them feel valued – and they all work well when used with a ‘hook’.
Body Language and Hand Gestures
Unsure of what to do with your hands when presenting? You don’t need politician-style media training to make your body language work for you.
Non-verbal communication plays a large part in how we construct meaning, so it makes sense to consider how to use it in your presentation. You can make things more interesting for your audience by using your body language to enhance what you’re saying. For example, use dynamic gestures to motivate your audience when delivering key points. Or take advantage of calm, deliberate movements to remove barriers and call attention to specific information. It’s important to mix things up to appear natural and credible.
And presentation body language goes beyond reinforcing your messaging – it’s useful from a biological standpoint. As discussed in her body language TED talk, Harvard academic Amy Cuddy’s research found that using ‘assertive’ body language released testosterone and reduced cortisol in both men and women, thereby increasing confidence and decreasing stress.
Don’t let your audience switch off. Use these interactive presentation ideas to keep your audience focused and engaged way beyond the first few slides.