June 15, 2024


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How To Create Compelling Content For Online Presentations

When it comes to learning webinars (I call them Live Online Learning—LOL Programs—to clear the boring baggage of the term webinar), content truly is king or queen. That means getting your slides right and choosing a style and format that supports the learning objective and is appropriate for the audience. Before creating your learning materials, remind yourself of the learning objective.

Complete this statement from the perspective of the audience:

After participating in this _______________ Learning Experience, I will know ­­­­­­­­­_____________; I will be able to _____________, ­­­­______________, and ­­­______________; and I will feel _______________.

For example, here’s one from a webinar I deliver as part of a larger personal branding experience:

After participating in this Superpowers Learning Experience, I will know why strengths are important to career success; I will be able to describe my strengths, integrate my strengths into my daily work and become known by my strengths throughout the organization; and I will feel empowered.

Refer to this statement often as you move through the content prep process. There are many different formats for LOL programs: Presentation, Q&A, Interactive Discussion, Interview, Panel Discussion, etc. For this article, I focus on the presentation format.

With a clear learning objective, it’s time to create your content. Identify the 3 key elements of the presentation. For this example, those elements are:

1.    Know Your Strengths

2.    Integrate Your Strengths

3.    Become Known by Your Strengths

Create the outline.

Use Greek philosopher Aristotle’s famous triptych: Tell them what you’re going to say. Say it. Tell them what you said. This formula may be thousands of years old, but it is just as powerful today. When you use this format, you’re adding repetition to the content, which helps with memory. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus learned that repetition is one of the keys to memorability.

Then, make further use of the psychological power of three in the way you convey your content in a brain-friendly way. Marketers know that the power of three is a way to magnetize potential customers, and it’s a tool that’s just as valuable to learning.

Make your presentation stand out.

As much as possible, you want to make your learning materials look as different from the standard PowerPoint presentations your people are using in meetings. You need to break the habits associated with attending banal meetings and differentiate the learning experience from standard work sessions that fill most people’s calendars. The purpose of the slide presentation is to create visual interest, reinforce the key messages and amp up the stickiness factor of the live online learning program.

First, use the right presentation software. As a public speaker, I’m a big fan of Apple’s Keynote. It was designed for delivering keynotes on big stages—and it’s just as valuable for LOL Programs. It has a lot of features you won’t find in PowerPoint. And the animations and transitions are different from PowerPoint’s so it will make your materials distinct from what learners are used to seeing in meetings, creating a less expected, more innovative experience, which acts as a forcefield to keep participants engaged.

If you’re competent at crafting PowerPoint slides, it will be easy to learn Keynote. Note that Keynote is an Apple product and Keynote presentations can only be created and presented from Apple products. The output, though, can be shared on virtually any webinar platform. Use a template that’s branded for your organization or create a template that helps you convey the learning. If you don’t want to create your own template, you can choose from many of the splashy ones available from Envato. There are other tools, like Prezi, that can also help your training stand out.

Ditch the distraction.

A presentation delivered online has to do a lot more work than when you’re standing on a stage or at the front of a classroom. Distraction is one of the biggest challenges for webinars. It’s very easy to multi-task, and most of us think we are good at juggling; yet only 2% of people actually possess the skill to effectively multitask. When building webinars, making them sticky is essential if you want your teaching to be effective. “Keep participants glued” needs to be your mantra. One way to do this is to vary the content. Choose the items that will help you best achieve the learning objective, including:

  • Information
  • Stories
  • Data/stats
  • Quotes
  • Formulas/models
  • Questions
  • Interaction

Then, mix them up to keep participants’ attention. Fluctuate among the items you choose every two to three minutes.

Make it visual.

The purpose of your slides is to create visual interest, reinforce your message and keep participants focused. It’s hard to do that with bulleted lists. Instead, go heavy on pictures. There are many no- or low-cost, royalty-free resources for images that will help your presentation come alive. Pexels, Unsplash, iStockphoto, Shutterstock are a few of my favorites. The words come from the subject matter expert (SME) who does most of the talking, so the word limit on most slides should be 12 or fewer (try for fewer). And because so many learners are participating on mobile devices, make the font at least 32pt. It will feel a little exaggerated when you create it, but I promise, it will be perfect when delivered via Zoom, Microsoft Meet or Google Hangout. This will also help you limit the number of words you can fit on a slide!

Make it move.

We all know the old adage: A picture is worth a thousand words. And we know from research done by James McQuivey at Forrester, one minute of video is worth 1.8 million words. Embedded video helps you vary the content, which helps with engagement. Consider video without sound as well for visual interest and glue.

Another way to add movement is through the dynamic builds and transitions of Keynote. Again, with things moving on the screen, you can reduce the temptation to multitask. Although sometimes because of internet speed and some webinar technology there is a delay with the way the slides build and advance, it’s important to keep your slides dynamic. When presenting, take into account that there may be a delay in the change or build on participants’ screen—this gives you a moment to pause between thoughts.

Another way I make my slides more dynamic is with backgrounds that change over time. I call it moving wallpaper. You can do this with an animated gif or video moving texture that sits behind the messages you include on the slides. Here’s an example of blue background texture videos from iStockphoto.

Increase interaction.

A powerful way to make your presentation sticky is to maximize participant interaction and social connection. Use polls, whiteboards, quizzes, dynamic word clouds, breakout rooms, in the moment feedback, handraising, Q&A (though chat and audio), etc. You can experiment with built-in polling tools in your webinar software or use other tools like Poll Everywhere and Kahoot. And hang onto the results until all participants have contributed so the responses from some don’t influence their peers’ responses.

Exude emotion.

Stories are the most powerful way to add a dose of emotion to your presentation. And they’ll make what you share memorable. Every time I meet someone who attended one of my keynotes—even if it was years ago—the thing they remember is the stories. I was sitting in the BA lounge at Heathrow waiting for a flight to New York and a woman came up to me who had been at a presentation ten years earlier. The first thing she said was, “I tell everyone the story you told about the woman whose dog ate the heel of her never-worn shoe.” She didn’t remember my full name, but she knew the story virtually word for word.

Don’t forget to have fun.

Think edutainment. Neuroscience tells us that you learn more (and are more interested in learning) when you’re having fun. One way to amp up the fun is to add an element of surprise, such as a special guest, clever video clip, bonus, a contest, etc. Fun is so important to learning, I will give it its own article in this column.

I follow this process for every LOL Program I create for my clients. In addition to making the programs more engaging and stickier, this system makes it a lot easier to design and deliver them.

Speaking of delivering the webinar, I’ll cover that in an upcoming article, too. So stay tuned!

William Arruda is a founder of CareerBlast and co-creator of BrandBoost – a video-based personal branding talent development experience.