We’ve seen it before—the speaker standing behind a podium, droning on and on in a monotone voice, with a boring bullet-point slide behind them. It’s all well and good to scoff at them, but then we think about our own projects, and wonder if they might fall into the same trap.
Not to worry–we’ve compiled a list of 20 creative presentation ideas to spice up your next talk, with examples to help get you on the right track.
What’s one of the best ways to make your presentations more interesting? Make the audience a part of them.
Take this speech by Donovan Livingston. He delivers a commencement speech in spoken word poetry, and specifically encourages the audience to take part, saying they should clap, throw their hands in the air, or otherwise participate if they feel so moved. While not seen, several people are heard cheering and clapping throughout the video.
Participation can also be accomplished through things such as games, posing questions or something as simple as asking participants to raise their hands.
Sometimes, when listening to someone talk for long periods of time, it helps to have something else to draw your attention. While images are great, including music can really help stimulate an audience and set the mood.
Dean Burnett talks about why this happens: “[Music] provides non-invasive noise and pleasurable feelings, to effectively neutralize the unconscious attention system’s ability to distract us.” Essentially, music is entertaining enough that, when in the background, can keep us focused on otherwise un-entertaining things.
Take, for example, this valedictorian’s speech. While peppered with humor and stories of his time through high school, he uses background music to help keep people’s attention—in fact, this is specifically stated to be his reason for including music, humorously quipping about giving the audience something to listen to while they “zone out” of his speech.
Whether incorporated into individual slides, in a video, done live, or with a music-playing device nearby, this creative presentation idea can be a great way to enhance the quality of your speech or talk.
You’ve seen them everywhere by this point. You might be pretty sick of them. However, that doesn’t mean memes can’t be useful—in fact, using a couple strategically can surprise the audience and make them laugh.
The presentation Memes, Memes Everywhere focuses on, unsurprisingly, memes, and explains their purpose while using examples on every slide, which help support their points and add some humor to a very text-heavy presentation.
Choosing relevant memes and using them sparingly can really help add some personality to your presentation, without distracting from the work.
Staring at a large amount of numbers on screen can be overwhelming for most people, even if the realities of those numbers enforce your point. What’s the best way to avoid scaring your crowd? Put the data into easily-understandable visualizations.
The Complete Guide to the Best Times to Post on Social Media (And More!) has this in spades. Nearly every slide in this presentation includes a graph that illustrates the information they want to show—from the days most brands tweet, to what times most brands blog.
If you want to take this a step further, you can use illustrations or create infographics to make these data visualizations even more engaging.
Perhaps this one may seem rather obvious, but it’s easy to forget when you’re nervously standing in front of a crowd.
Nayomi Chibana points out why it’s important to make eye contact–if you don’t, you convey a sense of dishonesty and an unwillingness to connect with your audience.
Make sure to make eye contact with someone in the conversation and alter between individuals during a presentation.
“Know your audience” is a rather oft-repeated phrase, for good reason. You want to be able to address them at their level—if you’re speaking to high school students, you probably wouldn’t give an in-depth dissertation on Moby Dick. Naturally, tailoring your content to your audience—even if the slides are the same—can make your information more accessible.
Adam Savage does this in a TED talk. He speaks about cosplay, a subject that many members of his audience may not be familiar with or may look down upon. He carefully leads up to discussing cosplay by giving a framework—through making costumes—and then explaining what it is and showing what it means to him, which makes his words that much more accessible.
We can sometimes be afraid of expressing how we feel, even to those we’re close to, much less in front of a crowd. However, showing them makes your words more authentic and can generate compassion or excitement in your audience.
Take this TED talk by Thordis Elva and Tom Stranger, for example. While the two talk about their experiences, their voices break and crack. The emotional turmoil they went through is clearly heard, and viewers can clearly understand their pain.
This can take some getting used to, and some courage. However, the results are well worth the effort.
Want a great way to connect with your audience and make a memorable, more engaging presentation? Be funny. When used strategically, this is a great way to capture attention.
Morgan Spurlock makes wonderful use of this in his TED talk. For example, in one of his earliest statements, he offered individuals the opportunity to buy the rights to name his TED talk—which he refers to again at the end, where he reveals the title. He peppers the entire presentation with humorous commentary that nonetheless supports his point.
Create relevant jokes or find a way to bring out the humor in your subject, and your audience will be much more engaged and more likely to remember your words.
It’s important to have well-designed slides, but sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it when it comes to holding your audience’s attention. A good way to help with this is to include an informative video or add animated parts.
Tim Cook does this in a 2013 presentation. During the presentation he showcases a video of Apple products around the world, which furthers his point and draws the audience in.
Create your own video, or find one that can help illustrate your point, and you’re on your way to a much more engaging presentation.
Generally speaking, people will pay more attention to moving objects. They cause people to stop and look. Naturally, this also applies to speaking. Getting out from behind the podium, moving around, and gesturing can help keep an audience’s attention.
Steve Jobs does this quite a bit. In this case, he moves around constantly, gesturing to help emphasize his points, while his presentation plays in the background.
You can step down into the audience, walk with them, talk with them, or stay near your presentation; just make sure you have a microphone handy.
Using props can quickly turn a run-of-the-mill presentation into a unique, interactive experience. Kenny Nguyen demonstrates this well. In his talk he often refers to the “sword of yes” and “shield of no.” Naturally he picks up a sword and shield from the table to help demonstrate his points.
Choosing similar props can help you really illustrate your points—and make it that much more entertaining, too.
A picture can speak a thousand words. Naturally, they can be used to communicate concepts that, for the sake of space or time, you might not be able to include in the presentation itself. Go Viral on the Social Web: The Definitive How-To Guide! uses this strategy to its advantage.
The presentation includes many images as backgrounds and minimal text. The images used always either enhance what’s being said or, in some cases, provide the answer for viewers. For example, the second slide states “The Landscape Today,” and includes a bleak background with a broken, tilted picture frame, emphasizing the idea that the following slides (which describe the landscape) offer some pretty disheartening information.
Using images in a related fashion can help express your views and emphasize your message.
Visual metaphors can be useful in a similar manner; they can spice up your presentation, illustrate your point, and make your work far more entertaining. James Geary speaks about just how important metaphors are.
His presentation provides several examples of metaphors–such as the phrase “some jobs are jails”–and explains just how hard it is to ignore the lasting power of a well-used metaphor. Because of the connotations a metaphor can bring to the table, their use is an excellent way to imbue added meaning to your words.
“People don’t care about your brand.” Reading that, you’d probably be compelled to see how the speaker justifies their points, right?
Well, the presentation of the same name does just that—it begins with that unexpected statement, explains why, and then shows you how to overcome that hurdle. Leading with something thought-provoking and surprising entices people, and more than likely they’ll follow along just to see what you have to say.
A presentation is, in a way, like a story—you’re talking about your chosen subject and leading viewers on a journey to discover what that subject means. Moreover, stories hold an intrinsic interest for us. Therefore, you can easily use several storytelling techniques to help improve your presentation.
Alex Blinkoff goes into this in great detail, examining things such as “The Hero’s Journey” and provides several examples of ways to use storytelling techniques in your presentations. Check them out, and decide what might work best for your subject.
How many people would typically relate typography and dating? Probably very few people. Naturally, that’s why Fontshop—Typography is so entertaining.
This presentation fully commits to the comparison, too; the words are all specifically chosen to make it sound like an individual going through puberty or looking for a significant other, rather than looking for the right font to use in a given situation. All the while it teaches what it actually wants to get across—the importance of knowing which font to use, and when, for what kind of emotions you want to evoke.
Sometimes, in order to help prime an audience to listen to your words, it’s good to start with something more casual—a game, a joke, or just some friendly conversation. Alex Hunter does this in his presentation; while setting up, he converses casually with the audience, asking who “went to the party last night” and joking with them before shifting into his talk. This gives a more personal, relatable feel to the work.
Your tone of voice, your volume, and other vocal aspects can do a number on how people listen to (and receive) your message.
Julian Treasure’s TED talk is all about this, and at the end offers several tips for how to master the use of voice, from changing your speaking pace to speaking in a different pitch.
Try experimenting, and see what you find works best in different situations.
Telling stories from your own life—whether those stories are deeply moving, humorous tales, or just little snippets that allow someone to look into your history—can be a great way to make a presentation more meaningful.
Colin Stokes uses this to his advantage in his TED talk. He begins by talking about the movies he watches with his daughter and what she likes, and then moving into watching a movie with his son, and wondering how it has affected him, allowing him to move seamlessly into his actual points.
Choose a relevant story from your past, and tell it with all the honesty that you can. Your audience will feel that, sympathize, and therefore connect more with your message.
Sometimes, what people really want to know about—more than your product and what it can do—are your reasons for creating the product or presentation in the first place.
Simon Sinek explains quite well why this is so important—the greatest leaders, the ones who inspire the most people, understand why they do the things they do, rather than just what or how.
Explain why your work is important to you, and you’re likely to reach a lot more individuals.
You’ve probably seen plenty of other creative presentation ideas yourself—there are certainly many not on this list. Go searching, and see what other amazing skills you can learn and apply yourself.
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