How to create engaging presentations

by Monica Mihai

AUA Digital Marketing Manager


PowerPoint presentations: a double edged sword...

PowerPoint presentations are a staple in the workplace: they can be a fantastic way of showcasing your ideas, getting your message across, helping your audience understand what you’re trying to say and cementing your status as a great speaker. Of course, what I’ve just described here is the best case scenario.

During my University years, we had a common way of describing certain professors’ lectures: death by PowerPoint. This essentially summarises a presentation that is boring and lacks engagement and enthusiasm. Of course, it can be difficult to turn topics such as Fundamentals of Management Accounting into riveting PowerPoint masterpieces…

This is why a structured set of rules can help give you clarity and turn your presentation into an engaging exercise that can leave your audience feeling energised, knowledgeable and motivated to learn more about your topic.


What is your ultimate goal?

Why are you making this presentation in the first place? What do you hope your audience will feel after listening to your talk?

Keeping in mind the end result will help you construct your slides much more easily. A helpful and easy to remember tool is the S.M.A.R.T template:


Let’s say you have just been accepted as a speaker at the AUA 2018 Conference. Congrats! Now what?

Think about your topic in specific terms rather than as a broad subject. This will help the audience focus more easily on what you are trying to say. In order to keep it relatable, introduce an anecdote or an example of a first-hand experience you might have had in connection with the subject.

Keep it simple by setting measurable and achievable goals: you might aim for 70% positive feedback and can introduce a short survey or poll at the end of the presentation, asking your audience whether they now feel more confident in their knowledge of the topic.

Lastly, time your presentation in such a way that every 15 to 20 minutes, you will introduce an element that will re-engage your audience. This could be a short video or an image, or anything you believe might attract extra attention from your audience.


Quality over quantity

Most speakers, especially those that are specialised in a particular topic, might become so immersed in their subject that they will find it hard to trim their content further. Remember, your audience is not the specialist, you are. Taking particular care in crafting your message will ensure your success.

Begin with a simple outline:

Introduction: What is it all about and why should your audience care?

Main body: Your core message and any key sub-messages to get your point across, along with relevant research and information to back it up. A good rule of thumb in terms of designing your slides is one sub-message = one slide.

End: Finish with a call-to-action and be specific of what you want your audience to do.

After establishing your outline, think about how you want to design your message: what will you bring to your audience that answers their needs?

  • Keep it simple: strip down your message to its core content.
  • Be concrete: people tend to forget vague information, so make sure you are specific.
  • Add credibility: back up your message with research and evidence.
  • Outline the benefits: communicate the key features of your topic that will help people accomplish something they wish to do.


Tell a visual story

According to research, 55% of the information we take in is visual, whilst only 38% is vocal (Albert Mehrabian, UCLA, 2009). While what you say and the tone of your voice are important, the visual way you present is critical.

Introduce images that highlight your subject, and use graphs and pie charts to convey any measurable information.

Stay engaging by designing your slides in an interesting way. Use a clean layout to convey your message and to minimise the comprehension time of your audience.

Utilise contrast to highlight the most important parts of your topic:  size, shapes and colours are effective tools in doing so. is an excellent online design website that can make your presentations stand out. It is easy to use, intuitive, with a wide range of materials at your disposal.

Another option, if you wish to ditch PowerPoint and are ready to try something new is It has a variety of templates to choose from, or, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even design it from scratch yourself!

Ultimately, what makes your presentation stand out from the crowd is the time and thought you put into it. Being strategic and developing a singular style will make your audience interested in the topic and help you cement your reputation as an excellent speaker.

Monica Mihai is the Digital Marketing Manager of the AUA. Aside from comms, social media and all things digital, Monica is also passionate about professional development and transferable skills, and loves sharing the knowledge she’s picked up over the years. You can find Monica on LinkedIn and Twitter, in Krispy Kreme, staring lovingly at some donuts, or in Selfridges, looking guiltily at some shoes.