The Golden Rule to Interactive PowerPoint Presentations

Part One - The Golden Rule: Grab Your Audience

PowerPoint is a great tool. In addition to its many excellent graphics features, it has some super capabilities that can help you engage your audience and make your whole presentation a lot more interactive.

As good as it is, PowerPoint won’t get you out of hole. You - and you alone - are in charge of engagement and interaction. You can’t devolve this responsibility to a software program - no matter how good it is.

The first step in creating an interactive PowerPoint presentation has nothing to do with PowerPoint and everything to do with engaging the audience - and you’d best do that right from the get-go. Here’re some ideas for how you go about creating a opening that’ll go a long way to engaging the audience:

1. Quote a news headline, or comment on something highly topical

This is a great way of demonstrating that your material is ‘of the moment’ and up to date. Of course, it takes time to research and has to be kept up to date. You need to make a strong link to your core material and the audience’s needs, otherwise you run the risk of it looking like you’ve just bolted today’s news onto your standard presentation.

2. Ask a question

Although I see many presenters do this, I have to say that it’s not a favourite of mine. I believe a presentation is a form of performance - and if I’m in the audience, I want to see some of the performance first, prior to deciding whether I’ll engage with the performer. Ask yourself: “What would a rock band do?” Would they open by spending time trying to get the audience to engage in a sing-along number? Unlikely. Odds on, they’ll kick off with their strongest material to warm up the audience, and then encourage them to join in later on.

If you want to open with questions, make them rhetorical, for example: “I wonder how many of you here today, blah, blah…” This can work out quite well. You can answer the question as your presentation progresses, bringing a pleasing shape and sense of completeness to your whole performance.

3. Quote some surprising statistics, or make a dramatic claim

This can be a very powerful way to start, and a terrific way to ‘level the audience’ if you use material with which nobody is familiar. The experts and the inexperienced will hang on your every word, so it’s great for establishing your credibility. The trick lies in coming up with material that even the experts don’t know. If you can back up your claim with solid information and illustrate this throughout your presentation, people will be engaged through their innate desire to learn.

4. Tell a personal story

My favourite way to start. A good story, well told is very powerful and can help you demonstrate credibility early on. There are a few points to consider:

1. Storytelling is a skill in its own right. You need to spend a lot of time getting your story ‘just right’, in the same way a comedian will invest enormous effort in telling a joke, so giving it every chance to succeed. Nothing is more boring (or less ‘awakening’) than a badly told story.

2. Your story has to relate to the audience’s needs and they need to be able to make the connection for themselves, otherwise you end up like a second-rate comedian having to explain a joke.

3. You need several stories to avoid becoming a ‘one- trick pony’, with the audience switching off because ‘they’ve already heard this one’.

Coming Next: PowerPoint Hyper-Links, Automations and Triggers

Parts Two and Three of this multi-part post will address specific PowerPoint features that will help you create interaction with your audience. As these posts are published, this post will be edited, providing the necessary cross-links. to the new posts