Have you ever endured a presentation while your mind wandered, eyelids drooped, and backside ached? Of course you have. Dull training sessions, sermons, and briefings are an unavoidable part of life. Prezi CEO Peter Arvai would disagree with that sentiment, however. Not only does his platform provide a unique, non-linear alternative to PowerPoint; he says 75 million people now use the visual storytelling tool, collectively publishing 260 million public presentations that have been viewed more than 1.6 billion times.
1. Stop using bullet points.
While it may smack as blasphemy to seasoned presenters, research has shown that individuals exposed to a graphic representation of a message pay more attention to it, agree more with it, and better recall it compared with people shown a bulleted list of text. Arvai says it's because digesting lists demands mental processing that distracts audiences from listening.
2. Use vivid metaphors.
In case you don't recall this literary tool, it basically involves associating something with something else to paint a vivid picture. Is there an image you can use that would serve this purpose? Can you find a graphic representation that helps communicate your messages?
3. Use the memory palace.
Also known as the "method of loci," it's a trick that has been helping speakers remember long orations for thousands of years. It involves bringing to mind a space you can easily recall, such as your home. You then imagine yourself walking through this space and finding symbolic objects that help you remember what you need to say. For example, you might picture yourself walking through the front door and seeing one shoe with a broken heel under the entryway bench. This helps you to remember to begin your presentation with an ice-breaking and hilarious story about a fiasco running through the airport to catch a flight, and breaking a heel along the way.
But Arvai suggests turning the memory palace strategy around and using it to help audiences better remember whatever it is you're trying to communicate. "Because Prezi has a spatial element to it, instead of separating out things on slides, you actually place things in a spatial relativity, and because of that people understand and retain the information better."
4. Tell stories.
You can give an audience statistics, but stories are what will get people engaged. The key elements of any good story include a protagonist, some kind of tension that needs to be resolved, and resolution. How long should you go? Arvai says there's a reason TED Talks are 18 minutes--people start to drift much beyond that point.
5. Have a conversation.
The best sales people know asking questions to ascertain how someone feels is the best way to connect with him or her. It's the same thing with your audience. When you can get them talking you're much more likely to persuade them because they'll feel as if their perspective actually matters to you. As your presentation goes, find a way to drill into the content your audience is asking for or seems most engaged with. A linear lineup of bulleted slides can't do this. "Zoom out, see the big picture and then drill into different parts of the presentation in a much more dynamic way," he says.