When you’re presenting your slide content, the last thing you want to do is overwhelm your audience with too much information on any one slide. If you find that you have too much content on one slide, you can divide it up and spread it over several slides. However, sometimes it’s not about simply breaking the content apart across multiple slides but about displaying the information more effectively in bit-size, digestible chunks in one slide. In these latter cases, I leverage a PowerPoint Ninja technique called content staging.
PowerPoint content staging is an approach that strives to sustain the audience’s attention by revealing content in stages. Using custom animations, you can control how the content is displayed to the audience so as to not overwhelm them and help them to follow your train of thought.
Staging Bullet Points
If you display several bullet points all at once, you will lose some of your audience members as they “read ahead” of what you are actually covering. Essentially, upcoming content that is visible can become a distraction. Whatever you’re explaining while your audience is distracted will fall on deaf ears. It’s a simple fact that most people cannot read and listen at the same time (just ask my wife). As they skip ahead, your audience can miss the connections you’re trying to make, ruining the efficacy of your slide.
By applying custom animations to your bullet points (preferably with a subtle animation such as a fade), you can introduce them one at a time as you’re ready to proceed. Your audience will be able to focus on what you’re saying and not be distracted by upcoming content. Optionally, you can even dim the bullet point after you move on to the next bullet point so that previous points don’t become a distraction either. Typically, upcoming content is more of a distraction than content that has already been covered.
A diagram may be the linchpin of your presentation, but if the diagram isn’t staged it can end up being less impactful than you anticipated. Depending on how elaborate the diagram is, it could lead to information overload for your audience. As you explain the diagram, your audience may not know where to focus their attention or they may be distracted by a particular part of the diagram.
Using custom animations, you can introduce parts of the diagram in a manner that focuses your audience’s attention and increases comprehension. Through content staging, you can ensure you’re in synch with your audience – they’re looking at what you’re talking about. For example, you might introduce the steps in a new process flow, pausing to explain each step in detail. Content staging also enables you to emphasize a key part of a diagram. For instance, you may introduce the axes of a graph, show some of the general data, and then highlight a key outlier.
Content Staging Considerations
Before you decide to use the content staging technique, there are a couple of things to ponder. First, content staging increases the number of “clicks” you’ll make during your presentation. If that could be a problem for any reason (e.g., someone else will be progressing the slides), it’s better to recognize that upfront when you’re building your slides rather than midway through your presentation. You might decide against using this technique in certain circumstances.
Second, when you use content staging, ensure the first segment of your diagram or first bullet point appears without a “click” (either using no animation or starting automatically with a “Start With Previous” effect). Nothing is more embarrassing than launching into your slide and then realizing that your audience has been staring at a blank slide for the past minute because you failed to advance the first animation.
Content staging requires more effort from presenters, but it can significantly enhance the comprehension and retention of your message. Take your PowerPoint presentations to new levels with this useful animation technique.