presentation Blog

Learn communication tips and persuasion techniques that will transform your presentations

Presentations are not easy to do, we get that. They’re time-consuming, stressful, and more often than not, boring. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the help of the right tools and tricks, you can create an interesting speech in a short period of time without much effort.

Here are 10 creative presentation ideas that you can incorporate into your next talk to give it that extra punch.

Presentation Idea #1.Share a Story – Make it Personal

In general, we recall life’s experiences through moments, not days. Similarly, it is human nature to remember intricate stories, not facts.

In a study conducted by two Stanford professors, they found that the students tested were able to recall words that played a part in constructed stories about six to seven times better than a random set of unrelated words.

This is why presentation storytelling and using narratives is so powerful – it drives that important message home, and inspires action from your key stakeholders or audience.

To make a statement, and leave an impactful message in the minds of your audience, weave a story of a personal situation into your presentation. Share an anecdote, a short story, or a memorable incident related to your talk.

One good example to learn from would be fellow Singaporean Darren Tay’s speech during the World Championship of Public Speaking.

In his speech, Darren narrates an intriguing story of a school bully, and linked it to his message of getting the audience to face their own inner bully, acknowledging its presence, and overcoming it. If he had simply made a point, it would have been forgotten in minutes. However, Darren’s personal story made the audience empathise, driving the key message deeper into their minds.

Presentation Idea #2.Use the Hero’s Journey to Create Your Narrative

We’ve all heard of Star Wars, it’s one of the most successful movie franchises around. But how did it retain an enthusiastic cult even 40 years after its debut?

Well, fans have the monomyth (also known as the hero’s journey) to thank, as the application of this evergreen narrative pattern has allowed us to experience an individual’s journey from start to end. With a strategic sequence of actions, we witnessed a beloved character (Luke Skywalker) leave his world of comfort to face an awakening (The Sith), before returning stronger to conquer the ordeal at hand (as a Jedi Master).

In the original monomyth popularized by Joseph Campbell, there are quite a few steps which may not always be obvious in a story. Justin Roiland – the creator of the well-known series ‘Rick & Morty’ uses Dan Harmon’s simplified edition of the monomyth also called the ‘story circle’.

Justin has credited this deceptively simple circle for the riveting yet seemingly nonsensical plot of the series’ episodes that has drawn a cult following of millions of fans worldwide.

This can be applied to your presentations as well. When you bring the audience on a journey, placing them in the shoes of the hero, you can influence them to see the outcome you’re seeking, and the steps needed to get there. Think of your slide narrative as a story, where you show them the beginning (the problem they face), the middle (the actions they need to take) and the end (the ultimate goal of your speech).

We sometimes also see occurences of this in investor pitch decks.

Presentation Idea #3.Break Your Presentation into 3 Big ‘Acts’

From literary classics like Three Little Pigs and A Christmas Carol, to slogans like the Olympics’ Citius, Altius, Fortius, it has been proven that characters or events grow on us when they are grouped in threes to emphasize an idea.

In the presentation sphere, this writing principle – the rule of three as we call it – has allowed contemporary speakers like Steve Jobs and Barack Obama to convey high-level information in a simple and catchy manner.

For example, when he shared with the world a decade ago that Apple would launch the revolutionary iPhone, Steve Jobs said:

“Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class.

The first one: is a widescreen iPod with touch controls.

The second: is a revolutionary mobile phone.

And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device.

These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone.

Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone, and here it is.”

Similarly, Obama struck a chord with the American people during his first inaugural speech with his frank 3-part statement:

“Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered.”

The rule of three helps to keep your content simple, yet memorable enough to help your audience remember the key messages you’re bringing across.

Presentation Idea #4.Ask Provocative Questions

It takes zero effort to ask easy questions. But what happens if we ask mediocre questions? The listener grows bored and begins to tune out from the conversation.

Posing provocative questions gives your presentation an edge over others, and allows them to think about your speech from a different perspective. Take Martin Luther King Jr.’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech for example. He boldly addressed the marginalized Negro population, asking them, “When will you be satisfied?” Imagine the reaction that followed, and the rest, as we say, is history.

It seems challenging, but a question of such nature should not be underestimated as it can serve as a springboard for your audience to crystalize the problem which they have been facing.

Once you’ve asked the question during your presentation, seize the moment! Paint the less-than-ideal scenario that your audience faces, before steering them towards the aspired narrative that you can promise as a solutions provider. Don’t worry about the dozens of other questions they may have – leave them to the Q&A.

Presentation Idea #5.Use Evocative Imagery in Your Presentation

Did you know? Research has shown that our brains process images 60,000 times faster than text. That’s like information transfer on steroids!

Not only are images processed more efficiently, but they also increase our recall of the information as well. For example, one of the proven ways to ensure that learners store memories for the long-term is by pairing ideological concepts with meaningful imagery. A study found that this effect increases over time, and users recalled three times more visual information than textual ones.

In another study from the 1970s, a Canadian psychologist, Lionel Standing, conducted an experiment where subjects were shown 10,000 general, boring images over a few days and tested on their recall after two days. The result was a 66% recall rate.

A smaller set of 1,000 more vivid images were tested as well and the result was an astounding 88% recall rate for pictures such as a dog with a pipe in its mouth. Takeaway: We tend to remember things that are easy for us to visualize.

Other studies have also found that some visuals can cause an emotional, almost visceral reaction. Images can influence us to take action or become more cautious, take a liking to something or shy away from it. That is why some of the best ads of our time have used impactful images. In fact, presentation slides are not that different from a great ad. Both need to be brief, attention-grabbing, and influence audiences to perform an action.

A recent presentation that has used large, full-bleed images to great effect is Elon Musk’s PowerWall showcase. During his talk, he used a variety of different images to depict the scale of pollution and the potential of Tesla’s products.

Imagine if Elon had merely used text to communicate those grandiose ideas, the presentation would have inevitably tanked quickly (think something reminiscent of an early Bill Gates presentation).

When you’re designing your next slide deck, try to incorporate a couple of evocative images for a more memorable, persuasive and captivating presentation.

Presentation Idea #6.Use Visual Metaphors

Many of us retain information well through visuals, and sometimes, it is the best way to bring a concept or message across, ensuring that it stays in the audience’s mind.

Take this image for example, which has been used frequently in dozens of presentations, and which you’d have most likely come across at least once. The hidden iceberg beneath shows a depth that’s not seen by people, and is commonly used by speakers to demonstrate or relate to something unseen, or an underlying issue.  

When you’re choosing an image, a video, or any other visual, make sure that the link to your message is clear enough for the audience to see the relation, while still remaining a little mysterious for them to figure it out themselves.

Presentation Idea #7.Use Live, Physical Props

There are times where you wish to explain or emphasize a concept or an idea. Unfortunately, not everyone can visualize the same way you do, or know exactly what you’re thinking. In these cases where you’re sharing something abstract, physical props can make a huge difference in supporting your talk, and even add a level of novelty and intimacy when used appropriately.

One good example you can learn from would be Bill Gates’ TED talk. In his speech, he discussed about the issue of malaria, while releasing a jar of live mosquitoes into the audience to highlight or ‘shock’ the audience into realizing the importance of malaria prevention.

The move was dramatic and definitely impactful, but most importantly, it pushed the listeners to think from a different perspective.

When you choose your props, think of the main message you’re trying to bring across. Using too many can backfire and bore your audience, so use this technique sparingly.

Presentation Idea #8. Have Obvious Presentation Transitions

How many times have you delivered a presentation halfway, only to notice your audience members looking incredibly lost?

If you lack the time to work on your narrative, try to include transitions, which act as ‘visual signposts’ that guide your audience and you through the presentation.

These do not need to be complex; in fact, it can be extremely simple. In your presentation deck, instead of using the same background throughout, decide on an alternative color or style to differentiate your transition slides from every other slide. These will act as your ‘markers’ to visually indicate to your audience that you’re moving on to your next point. If they got lost anywhere during your presentation, you’ll be able to jolt them back on track.

Once you’ve decided on what these would look like, insert these at specific junctures of your presentation such that they stands out clearly from the rest of the slides.

Presentation Idea #9. Use Quotes to Make Your Point

As you’re about to conclude your presentation, you’ll probably see heads twitching, bodies fidgeting, and cellphones appearing. It’s not an uncommon sight – We generally have short attention spans, and knowing that a presentation is about to end tempts us to begin checking our phones and getting ready to leave.

In fact, it’s a well known fact that humans have a shorter attention span than a goldfish, thanks to smartphones.

To maximize your audience’s remaining attention, a good way to sum up your points and leave an impression would be through a quote.

You may wonder, “If I’m just going to echo what others have said, won’t that reduce my credibility as a speaker?”

Absolutely not! As long as you reference a line that is brief and contextualized to your speech, your chosen quote could serve as a springboard to bring your audience back to the ‘big picture’.

For example, the 2003 World Champion of Public Speaking, Jim Key, quoted Martin Luther King, saying, “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., one of the greatest dreamers of our age, said, “The time is always right to do what is right”.”

He then followed it up with his own interpretation: “That means if it’s right for us to dream as children, then it’s just as right for us to dream as adults.”, before highlighting his message – “The question is: do we have the courage to dream?”

Sharing a quote can also highlight your domain knowledge and preparation, especially if you are, or would like to gain stead as a market leader. You can craft a quote based on your own words, or modify a popular one to match your situation.

The power of quotes and their ability to add credibility to a story should not be underestimated. They can also serve as guides or ‘reminders’ to keep the audience and the story on track. With a simple quote, you now have a good springboard to launch your next talking point. Of course, do remember that you will need practice to pull it off smoothly!

Presentation Idea #10. Try Having One Headline Per Slide

Many people have frequently debated on the ‘right amount’ of words each slide should contain. If you’re daring, here’s a radical idea which you can try – having only one word or headline per slide. There have been two popular proponents of this method, Masayoshi Takahashi and Lawrence Lessig.

Masayoshi Takashi is a programmer who gained notoriety through his unusual presentation style at RubyConf. When he dabbled in PowerPoint for the first time, he found that having one word or phrase per slide worked well for Japanese text, and brought his audiences through the presentation effectively.

The second popular originator of a similar method is Lawrence Lessig, a professor at Harvard who began presenting in an unusual way: Having only one word, phrase and/or image in each slide moving in rapid succession as he spoke. His presentation decks usually contain hundreds of slides, which goes to show that your presentation should not be limited by a number of slides. Interestingly enough, the method was proven to be pretty effective in his lectures and he soon had a chance to show it off on the TED stage:

The Takashi method and Lessig method forces your audience to listen to you in order to understand the presentation, ensuring that you have their full attention. However, do be cautious as this should not be applied in every situation. If used in a more serious setting, it may backfire as it can be jarring.

If you’re unsure whether you will be able to pull this off, try to start off by incorporating this method in a couple of slides. The variety and change of pace can prove to be a refreshing one for your audience, keeping them engaged in your presentation.

So the next time you’re doing a talk, keep in mind these 10 creative presentation ideas:

  1. Share a personal story during your presentation to get your message across effectively
  2. Bring your audiences on a ‘Hero’s Journey’ using a monomythic narrative
  3. Break your presentation down into three parts to keep your content memorable and bite-sized
  4. Ask provocative questions to help your audience view things from a different perspective
  5. Add meaningful images to create an impact and increase recall
  6. Use visual metaphors to explain a complex concept or message so that it sticks
  7. Support your presentation with live and physical props to stimulate the senses
  8. Insert transitions to guide your audience through a lengthy presentation
  9. Reference quotes to add credibility to your assertions
  10. Experiment with using one headline per slide to keep things fresh and punchy

Phew! We’ve finally reached the end of this behemoth of a post. These should give you enough fodder to spice up your next presentation. If you think we’ve missed anything, leave us a comment below!

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Eugene Cheng

Eugene Cheng is the co-founder and creative lead of HighSpark (formerly Slide Comet, a strategic presentation consultancy serving Fortune 500 companies like: Panasonic, Dentsu, Nike. A self-confessed presentation obsessive, he relishes in building compelling visual content for his agency’s channel and his personal channel on SlideShare and is also a Keynote Author ( top 1% of SlideShare)

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