How to design slides for an online audience?
The way we present might never be the same again. Gone are the days that we are required to be gathered physically at a meeting venue to deliver our presentation.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world has been in various modes of locked down. With social distancing imposed everywhere, the way we communicate and conduct businesses has moved into the online space overnight. Individuals and organisations must therefore change with the times to stay competitive.
Online presentations will be the new norm. Presenting online is not new. We have all been doing this occasionally in conference calls and virtual meetings. Some more often than others.
In-person meetings and presentations might quickly be the thing of the past as large group gathering of people might no longer be possible and activities that involve gathering of people are discouraged.
As I worked on redesigning my slides for online delivery of my corporate training programmes, I realized a few things that I should and shouldn’t do.
In general, online presentations still follows the basic rules of in-person presentations, but with a few considerations to ensure the audience is engaged and happy.
- Keep slides’ content simple. Keeping slides’ content simple is important. May it be in-person presentations or online presentations. You want to encourage your audience to listen to you. Don’t make them read small words or complicated content on their computer or mobile screen.
- One key point per slide. When possible show one message per slide. This not only allows you to easily keep your slide simple, but also allows you to stay focused and organised during the presentation delivery. In addition, it will help your audience follow you easier, as they don’t have to search for information on the slide while listening to you. This also applies if your slides contain images. Show one image per slide when possible and fill up the entire slide with that one image.
- Use extra large sizes. Make texts and objects on your slides extra big. Making things bigger is good. They are easier for your audience to see and a lot more comfortable for their eyes. When things are bigger, they are also more exciting. They give you that extra impact immediately without extra effort.
- Advance your slides more frequent. The attention span of your audience is shorter in online presentations compared to in-person presentations. In order to engage the audience, we want to keep changing what the audience is looking at without distracting them. Having more slides thus keeping content on each slide less, will allow you to advance to the next slide more frequent.
- Reformat your slides for maximum visibility. Depending on your delivery platform and how you intend to present your slides, customise your slides’ format (3:4, 16:10, 16:9, etc.,) so that your audience gets a great experience. Most of the popular video meeting platform defaults to 16:9 format. If you are presenting on multiple platforms, you might need to have multiple versions of your presentation slides. If you are using Picture-In-Picture (PIP) feature, you might want to also adjust your slides to accommodate PIP so to be sure that your slide content doesn’t use the area where the PIP is occupying.
- Do away with animations. Sending animations through the network is very different from projecting it through a projector. Very often the internet does not have enough bandwidth to send animation sequences smoothly in real time. What your audience sees will be a jerky presentation, at times a frozen screen. The experience will not be a good one. Remove animations including transitions from the slides you use for online presentations.
- Videos may not play well. I would avoid embedded videos in presentation slides. Instead, make references and take still snapshots of the video for your slides. Then provide a link to the video on YouTube or the webpage that you are hosting the video so that your audience can view it after the presentation.
All these might seem a lot more effort which they are, however the end results and viewers’ experience will be much better.
Your audience might not notice the amount of effort you have invested in designing the presentation, but they will enjoy listening and participating in your online session.