It’s important to ‘run through’ your presentation after you create it to make sure everything is the way you want. If you notice that something doesn’t quite draw the attention it should, there are simple ways that you can adjust or add to your design so that it becomes the most obvious thing on the slide.

Advice we’ve all received before

A wise man once said that if something isn’t working ‘just turn it off and back on again’. These hallowed words apply to so many situations, one of which can be your slide design. If you think that the entrance animation you have selected for a particular object just isn’t noticeable enough, an easy way to make it stand out is to have the object enter, disappear and enter again. Rise and repeat until you see the desired effect. It may sound simple, but repeating the entrance animation of your given object so that it effectively ‘flashes’ a few times on appearing on the slide really draws the eye and ensures the audience don’t miss a trick. This can easily be done. Open the Animation Pane, right click on the animation you want to repeat, select Timing and then set the number of times you want the animation to repeat.

Can’t see the wood for the trees?

Like a forest full of trees, if there is too much information on a slide your audience might not know whether they’re supposed to check out the oak or the sycamore. However, you can make it easy for your audience to pick out the specific information they are supposed to be focusing on. A neat technique for doing this, without just erasing everything else from the slide, is to fade or blur out the surrounding information. This is a subtle but effective way to switch people’s attention to what you as a presenter are talking about.  This is a little trickier to do, and involves adding an extra layer into your slide design to act as a semi-transparent ‘mask’ between your focus object and the background information. Think of it as a sieve that catches all that important info but lets the water that isn’t needed anymore drain away.

Room to breathe

You know that feeling when there’s so much going on around you that you can’t think straight? Well what about when there are so many other objects right next to something that you’re trying to focus on that you can’t see it clearly? Give your audience a better chance at understanding your message clearly – Similarly to fading out the background, white space surrounding an object, as well as its positioning on the slide can affect how high up it is in the hierarchy of capturing peoples’ attention. This is probably a no brainer, but it’s worth remembering; if you want people to concentrate on xyz, take away t,u,v and w and give it some breathing space. It’s much easier to observe something that isn’t cramped and crowed by surrounding images.

Big is beautiful

Good things may come in small packages but it was the great big giant present that captured my attention under the Christmas tree this year. There it sat for three whole weeks taking up a whole quarter of the little blanket laid under the tree, commanding my attention whenever I stepped into the living room and leaving all the other little packages cowering it its magnificent wake.

Okay so maybe that is a little over the top description of my pre-present opening experience but the idea is pretty simple. We notice the things that stand out because they are bigger, brighter, more colourful or more crazy than everything else happening around them. Whilst this is something that may seem fairly obvious, its an easy thing to forget when you are designing slides. When you’re putting together a visual sequence, it might look ‘neatest’ when everything is uniform; fits a template for size and spacing. Whilst this might be appealing to the eye it doesn’t necessarily make it easy for the audience to understand your message. A series of small, equally spaced items on a slide politely ask you to take a glance. A bigger item stood apart from the rest shouts and screams for attention.

Put a ring on it

Finally, as I previously mentioned a wise man’s words perhaps I should finish by levelling the playing field with words from a wise woman. If you don’t want to make your important information any bigger, or can’t space it out any more, or if all else fails and you don’t think you can get the emphasis you need with your slide design, there is nothing wrong with making like Beyoncé and ‘putting a ring on it’. Or a bow, or an arrow, or whatever seems appropriate. Emphasise that you are talking about -> THIS <- part of your slide right now by pointing it out. Of course, as a presenter you can do this with your hand as well, but if you’re presenting online (or if your arm is too short) you may need a little help, and a simple arrow could be the trick you were missing.

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  1. Image of Steve Hards Steve Hards says:

    Very good points, Ellen!

    Given that at any one time in a presentation the chances are that at least one in ten people are letting themselves be distracted by their phone (or whatever!), it’s up to the presentation designer to give them the best chance possible of getting the message. And that means not burying the important points away.

    This is one of the reasons why – if I may mention one of my own PowerPoint add-ins here – I developed Opazity. It makes it really easy for people to create attention-focusing effects using a blurring technique. Not only that, but an advanced user can also set up a slide on which she or he can click on different parts to highlight them at random. The User Guide that can be downloaded from my site explains how. It’s quite a neat trick, even if I say it myself!


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