In terms of visual storytelling, presentations are by far one of the most powerful weapons you have. According to a study conducted by Chip & Dan Heath, 63% of people who view a presentation remember stories afterwards. Only 5% of those same people remember statistics.
They’re a great way to raise awareness, build your brand, convey ideas and nurture leads – all at the same time.
As with other types of digital marketing, however, the presentation format alone is NOT enough to get the job done.
Not every presentation is compelling, just like not everything that is compelling is a presentation. If you really want to strike a chord with your target audience, you should work hard to avoid these core mistakes.
1) Your Presentation Has Too Much Text
One of the major mistakes that far too many people make when it comes to crafting compelling presentations has to do with an over-reliance on text in general.
It’s important that you start thinking of presentations as something of a missing link in between heavily visual collateral like an Infographic and something that is expected to be quite text heavy and dense, like a white paper.
Nobody is saying that your presentation needs to be exclusively graphs and illustrations. But at the same time, it shouldn’t just be a white paper or blog post broken down into a series of smaller chunks that you then transpose onto individual slides, either.
For the best results, your presentations should be a mixture of both worlds. You can and should rely on visuals, but use text whenever it’s appropriate to build in the type of much needed context that other formats might not allow for.
2) Your Presentation Is Too Long
Another common mistake that people make when crafting presentations has to do with length. Very few people are going to want to view a 200 slide presentation, regardless of how much they love visual content.
Creating a presentation that is just far too long ultimately fails to use one of the core strengths of the format to your advantage: pace. Presentations are unique because you can control the rate at which someone experiences the ideas you’re trying to put forth.
If there’s a particularly fascinating point that you’re trying to hit or a statistic you want to highlight, give it a slide all to itself.
Not only does this draw attention to its importance and allow it to speak for itself, but it also forces the reader to really stop and think about what it means and how it relates to them. If your presentation is too long, this type of benefit will be lost. Someone will see that they still have 190 slides to go and will invariably start to get through them all as quickly as possible so that they can get on with their day.
The impact that you’re generating through pace is shattered and your success goes right along with it.
3) Your Presentation Shouldn’t Be a Presentation in the First Place
Though every presentation that you make will ultimately be unique in and of itself, a quality presentation will always share a few core properties – some of which we’ve already talked about. It won’t be too long, but it also won’t be too short. It won’t be completely text, but it won’t be 100% visuals. It’ll be a mixture of all of these things.
If you find that your presentation is too long and you just can’t edit it down, or no matter how hard you try you just can’t remove those massive walls of text, the problem likely has to do with the fact that you shouldn’t be creating a presentation in the first place.
Not everything NEEDS to be a presentation. Some ideas work better as an Infographic, while others might be more effective as a longer, text-based piece. Think about it like the difference between film and television.
Have you ever watched a movie that felt far too long, or that just had a relentless pace that really kept you from enjoying individual moments on their own terms? That idea probably would have worked better as a TV show and would have benefited from a longer total running time, but shorter episodes that really helped convey larger ideas in a much more complex way.
4) You Created Your Presentation Without Thinking About Your Audience
This particular mistake is something that you would do well to keep in mind when creating ANY type of visual content.
You can use an online presentation tool like Visme (which I’m the founder of) to craft a stunning presentation. It was created to allow you to create with the right blend of visuals and it eloquently communicates everything you wanted it to.
You can do all this and STILL wind up with something that doesn’t resonate with your audience if you forget what that audience is looking for in the first place.
A solution like Visme, Prezi, Haiku Deck and others can be the perfect opportunity to access to the assets you need to bring your presentation (or Infographic, or other type of visual collateral) to life, but none of it will matter in the slightest if you’ve lost sight of your ultimate target.
Remember that what one person finds “compelling” the next might find “unforgiving and boring.” Always begin by asking yourself “what is an average member of my target audience actually looking for?” and then build your presentations outward from there.
Don’t craft a presentation in search of an audience – make something for an audience in search of a presentation.
5) The Power of Presentations
Presentations are unique both in terms of visual storytelling and digital marketing in general because they allow you to use a lot of different tools that other mediums don’t.
Think about it this way: when executed properly, presentations should be a perfect opportunity to really unlock your full potential when it comes to visual thinking.
To that end, words aren’t the only weapon in your arsenal or even the most important. Any technique that you can use to not only simplify a complex idea but also present it in a rich, compelling and attractive way is one that the presentation format allows you to play with.
Failure to do so is doing yourself, the ideas you’re presenting and ultimately your audience a disservice.
Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award winning Digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.