When you’re giving a presentation, you want to impress your audience and make sure they see you as credible. Whether you want to win the next big contract or simply inform, a well-designed presentation can make all the difference. One way to make your presentation stand out is by making it interactive. Interactive presentations are a great way to present information while keeping your audience engaged.

Before we dive in, it’s important to define what we mean by ‘interactive presentation’. ‘Interactive’ is sometimes used to describe presentations that include quiz questions or audience participation – that’s not what we’re talking about here. When we say ‘interactive’ we’re talking about a clickable presentation that uses hyperlinks to help users navigate to different sections. A presentation with hyperlinks is ‘interactive’ because it allows the user to choose what information they view, and in what order. As a general rule of thumb, an interactive presentation works well when your audience needs to engage directly with what’s on the screen, putting them in control of how they digest the information. In this blog post, we’ll walk through how to make an interactive presentation in Google slides.

Technical aspects, step-by-step

Now that we’re on the same page, let’s delve into how to actually create an effective interactive presentation in Google Slides. It’s easier than you might think.

Step 1

Start by opening a new presentation! From the Google Slides homepage, look to the top left and click the Blank button to open a new presentation. This is your blank slate from which to create an outstanding interactive presentation!

Step 2

Google Slides automatically inserts a title slide when you open a new presentation, so all you need to do is click on the title text box and type in a title. Make the title something clear and catchy, that your audience can easily understand.

Step 3

Now, let’s move on to the all-important menu slide. We’re going to create something that looks like a button, so that your audience knows it’s clickable. Later on, we’ll add in hyperlinks. You can use any shape for your button, but rectangular shapes with rounded corners often look the most ‘button-like’. First, locate the Shape button on the toolbar in slides, and select a shape. Then, double click on the slide and that shape will appear. Click and drag using the nodes along the edges of the shape to change its size.

You can add labels either by typing directly on to the shape, or by clicking the text box button (also on the toolbar) and positioning a text box on top of the shape. You might also want to add a small arrow shape on top of your button, to help show that the button is clickable. 

If you’ve got a more artistic temperament, this is an opportunity to be creative! Your button doesn’t have to be made from shapes. The buttons on the menu slide in our example presentation are actually images. Feel free to get those artistic juices flowing, but keep in mind that your buttons need to look clickable. One way of doing this is by adding a drop shadow or border. To add a border, use the border color and border weight buttons, found on the toolbar.

To insert a drop shadow just right click, then select Format options, and check the box for Drop shadow.

You could also make your buttons a contrasting color from the background and other text – however, avoid colors that are too bright, as this can be distracting.

This first button you have created is the basis for your menu. When you’re happy with how it looks, replicate it so that the number of buttons corresponds to the number of sections in your presentation. You can do this by copying and pasting. Simply select the entire button – click with your mouse and drag over the button so all elements are highlighted – then copy and paste it by right clicking, selecting Copy and then Paste however many times you need. Edit the text of each button to correspond to the section of the presentation it will link to. Next, ensure that the buttons are aligned in some sort of order. You can select various buttons and then align or distribute them as you like using the alignment tools found under the Arrange tab.

Note: If you decide to use icons or imagery, it’s a good idea to make sure the meaning is clear. For example, we all know that the house symbol mean ‘go to the home page’. There’s no point using a zebra icon to return to the homepage, because people will get confused. Stick to what people find familiar, good navigation is about ease of use!

Tip: To use icons in your interactive presentation in Google Slides, click the Addons tab, select Get add-ons, and then select the Insert icons add-on.

Then, under the Addons tab, a new option will appear which is Insert icons for Slides. Hover over this, and select Open sidebar to select icons.

Then, once the sidebar appears, ensure that the icon set selected on the drop-down menu is ‘Material Design.’

Step 4

Create section header slides for each section in your presentation. Do this by navigating to the top of the page, and clicking New slide on the top left of the tool bar. Repeat this step as many times as necessary. Next, build as many buttons as you need for the subsection using the steps outlined above. You can also simply copy and paste the buttons you’ve already created, and just edit the text.

Step 5

Add the information you want to include in each section. If this is images, like in our example presentation, then insert images using the Insert tab.

 

If this is text, type on the slide using a text box. However, it’s best to use visuals instead of long paragraphs of text. Keep your message clear and succinct.

Step 6

Repeat steps 4 and 5 for each section. Make sure each section has a header slide, with buttons if necessary. Look through your presentation up to this point – make sure all the sections are ordered correctly, and that there is a header slide at the beginning of each.

Step 7

Return to your initial menu slide. Make transparent shapes to cover each ‘button’ you have created. We will turn these transparent shapes into hyperlinks that allow users to navigate through your deck. First, click the Shape button on the toolbar, and then create a shape that covers the button that you have created, but not any white space outside them. Then, select the shape and click the Fill color button on the toolbar, select Transparent from the dropdown menu.

Place these transparent shapes over the top of every button in your deck. Using transparent shapes in this way makes it much easier to edit the hyperlinks if needed, and also makes it less likely that a user will miss a clickable area!

Step 8

Now we are ready to hyperlink each button! Select the first transparent box on your menu slide, right click, then select Link and choose Slides in this presentation. From here, choose the slide you want your button to navigate to when clicked.

Tip: If your slide has a title, it will have the same title in the link section, making it easier to find. After you have linked these two slides the link will stay connected to the specific slide, not the slide number – so it doesn’t matter if you move things around.

Step 9

Repeat this process for all buttons, so that each one links to the correct slide.

Step 10

Create buttons to return to the main menu. To do this, follow the steps outlined previously and use a transparent box that links back to the main menu slide. If you have different subsections within a section, you can also create a button linking back to the section title slide from each subsection.

Interactive presentations in Google Slides: Beyond the basics

Following these steps will give you a fully interactive presentation in Google Slides. But if you want to go beyond the basics, here are some tips and tricks that will help your interactive deck be even more intuitive and user friendly.

An effective menu slide is key

The centerpiece of a good interactive presentation is an effective menu slide that is clearly navigable, has a deliberate spatial layout, and is visually appealing. For example, the buttons on this menu slide clearly indicate the separate sections in our presentation. The arrangement of your buttons helps the user understand your presentation’s structure, so make sure they are arranged logically.

Your presentation needs to be visually engaging

We at BrightCarbon are particularly passionate about this point – far too often slides look dull and drab – and we think it’s important to be the change you want to see in the presentation world! It would be impossible to cover all the ways you can make your deck visually appealing in a short blog post – the important point is to consider the overall aesthetics of each slide and the presentation as a whole. If you’re looking for some design inspiration, check out this article about making slides look great using images.

Make navigation as simple as possible

Your menu slide is the jumping-off point to the different sections of your presentation – but constantly exiting present mode to return to your menu slide can break the flow. In a normal presentation there isn’t an effective way of returning to the main slide without clicking back through all the content you’ve already shown. As you want to be able to go through your presentation in a non-linear fashion you need an easy way to return to your jumping-off point. Place a button at the end of each section that links to the original menu slide, so you don’t have to exit the presentation once you start.

Provide your audience with signposts 

You want your audience to understand where they are within the presentation, providing them with signposts is an easy way to achieve this. A signpost can be a header slide at the beginning of the section or small indicator icons throughout a given section. It can also be a slide or button at the end of each that clearly includes options to either return to the main menu or go straight into the next section. Make it easy for your audience to follow the flow of your deck.

Be strategic when positioning buttons

Consider the location of buttons on the slide. If a button is at the end of a section and returns the user to the main menu, it’s probably best to put it at the bottom right, as in the West we tend to read from left to right, top to bottom. Think about where best to position buttons so the placement is consistently, and so they don’t get in the way of your main content. Take a look at the above screenshot – we’ve positioned our section buttons so they are clearly visible, but don’t dominate the slide.

Make sure you keep the best practices in mind, as they will help you make a clear roadmap that runs throughout your slides. You’re well on your way to creating a great interactive presentation in Google Slides, just one last thing to do – get started!

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Ian Wicks

Communication consultant

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