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5 Useful Tips for Designing a Killer Virtual Presentation

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Whether you’re a student or a working professional, being able to develop and deliver a virtual presentation is a valuable skill, especially for those organizations who now have to train their employees online. With COVID-19 forcing many schools and businesses to move online, basic tech skills are now more in demand than ever.

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Nothing is worse than giving a mediocre, hard-to-follow presentation. You’ve probably sat through some snoozers yourself. But every so often, someone gives a really captivating virtual presentation that you commit to memory.

So what’s the difference between a virtual presentation that makes you zone out and one that grabs your attention? It’s all about design, and here are five useful tips to get you started.

#1: Create an Outline of Your Content

Before jumping into the fun part, you’ll need to create an outline of your content so you know who you’re talking to, what you want to say and how you want your presentation to flow. It may take a couple of tries at first, but an outline for your virtual presentation will help you stay focused on your main points so you don’t become overwhelmed by trying to throw everything into a slideshow.

As you write your outline, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What does your audience need to know? What are the main takeaways?
  • What content is appealing to your audience?
  • Is there any information that will be new to them? How can you showcase this information in a way that will help them absorb it?
  • Which information is most relevant to your audience?

Answering these questions will give you a clear direction and help you brainstorm how to grab your audience’s attention. Once you answer most of these questions, your outline will start to fall in place, and you’ll have the main content for your virtual presentation. Next comes the fun part—designing it!

#2: Choose Your Platform 

Before designing your virtual presentation, you’ll need to choose a platform. A few of the most user-friendly platforms out there include Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi and Canva. Each of these platforms comes with a list of positives and negatives, so you’ll need to choose the one that meets your — and your audience’s — needs.

Microsoft PowerPoint has come a long way since it initially set the stage for slideshow presentations. While this program is more widely known and has offline capabilities, it offers a limited selection of design options and animated features. Microsoft PowerPoint is great for creating basic digital presentations and is best suited for students or professionals who don’t present often.

If you need to use or create digital presentations often, you might prefer a tool with more modern design features. For these users, Prezi and Canva are more suitable.

Prezi requires a small monthly subscription, but it is well worth the price if you have to regularly create captivating, visual-storytelling presentations. Prezi features a variety of pre-made templates and includes motion effects, co-edit abilities, and a work offline option. It’s a great tool if you’re looking for creativity on the fly and don’t mind paying the monthly subscription.

Canva, on the other hand, offers both free and paid versions, though the free version has limited access to templates and elements. It is a powerful design tool with a comprehensive selection of presentation templates, including a wide range of templates covering anything from analytics to education. These presentations can be converted to PowerPoint, co-edited, and animated, making Canva a great option for those seeking control over their design and a more modern, engaging presentation.  

#3: Organize Your Content onto Slides

If you’re new to presentation design — or just find it daunting in general — starting with a blank canvas can be the most intimidating part. The trick is to take baby steps and not to worry about perfecting the presentation until the end; otherwise, you may feel overwhelmed.

To begin, copy and paste the content from your outline onto slides. You’ll organize the slides based on how you want the content to flow. Don’t worry about the size of the text or what the slides look like at this point.

Once you have all of your content on your slides and they’re in order, consider what each slide really says. This line of thinking will give you an idea of how to visually present your content.

For instance, if you’re presenting the history of something, a timeline might best showcase that kind of information. For a comparison of two things, try splitting them between the page and highlighting the differences with color or bold font. If you’re presenting updated information, recap previous information in smaller text and focus your main points on the new information in larger or bold text.

#4: Use Visuals to Support Your Content

Ensuring your content is easily digestible will help viewers stay focused on your virtual presentation. To accomplish this goal, pinpoint the keywords in your text that suggest action or capture the main point of the sentence.

Represent these keywords with visuals like clip art, icons, videos or GIF images. These visuals will not only bring your presentation to life, but they will also help your audience grasp essential information more quickly.

In this infographic, you can see that the visual elements support the content by representing keywords. They also help break down each point to make it easily digestible.

Visuals not only help readers digest and understand information, but they also give your audience’s eyes a break. This strategy is key in keeping your audience from zoning out. You can even step up your virtual presentation a notch by including engaging transitions between slides, videos and GIF images to really wow your audience.

#5: Settle on a Color Scheme and Font to Top Off the Design  

Once you’ve organized your slides, finalized your content, and selected your visuals, the final step is to determine your color scheme and settle on a font or two. For the sake of consistency, try to use two to three different colors, or stick to one color with different shades from the color palette.

This type of palette will ensure your virtual presentation is visually coordinated and lets you create a variety of slide designs. To maintain visual interest, use at least two different colors or backgrounds for your slides.

When selecting your font, stick with more professional options, such as Garamond, Arial, Times New Roman or Calibri. Enhance keywords by bolding or italicizing the text. You can even enhance headers and numbers by making them a different color or increasing their size.

Make sure the font size and font type are consistent for all headers, as well for all body text. Consistency is key in design.

Be Prepared if Your Virtual Presentation Is via Zoom

Zoom burnout is real. But virtual presentations do have their advantages over in-person presentations. With Zoom, you can “hide” your audience if you’re afraid of public speaking, record your virtual presentation for others to reference later and keep notes readily available without anyone knowing.

However, on the technical side of things, be prepared to have some backup plans if your internet goes haywire, Zoom decides to boot you out of the room or if the program you’re using doesn’t cooperate with Zoom.

If you need to make a virtual presentation via Zoom, work out these potential issues through good preparation:

  • Practice beforehand with a test audience.
  • Know exactly how you want your virtual presentation to appear in the Zoom room, as well as if you need to switch to another window during the presentation.
  • Have a backup plan in case your presentation is unexpectedly interrupted.
  • Be conscious of what window you’re sharing in Zoom and what your audience may see throughout your virtual presentation.
  • If your desktop will be on screen at any point, make sure it’s cleaned up, and tuck away any files/backgrounds you don’t want to share.
  • If you are going to be on camera yourself, make sure you’re in a distraction-free environment and that your background is also decluttered.

Designing a visually appealing virtual presentation can take some time and practice, but it’s well worth it to ensure your information is memorable. If you’re looking to take your design level up a notch, check out your chosen program’s tutorials and always ask for feedback before finalizing your virtual presentation.

Anna joined Career Services in 2020 as a Career and Educational Resource Specialist. Using her skills in digital media production and project management, Anna assists in developing strategies for projects, social media marketing, and resource development. In addition to this, she also assists in Virtual Career Fairs. Anna holds a B.F.A. from Shepherd University.

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