Tools for Creating a Visually Stunning Presentation

These user-friendly tools and trends can make the difference between winning and losing in your next high stakes presentation.
President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.
February 10, 2015

No matter how brilliant your ideas are, if you're not able to present them in a way that engages stakeholders—whether it's prospective customers, corporate decision-makers or investors—you probably won't get the response you're looking for. Using a fresh approach when delivering presentations is not only important, it's vital to success.

In our media-rich, fast-paced world, you can no longer afford to present with a stale approach that doesn't grab and maintain your listeners' attention. We're increasingly seeing presentations that include more visual, dynamic content to help maintain listeners' focus in an environment where attention spans are shrinking. According to the latest research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span has plunged to an all-time low of 8 seconds.

Just as you try to stay on top of new developments affecting your industry and business, it pays to stay up to date with the evolving world of presentations. Paying attention to the following tools and trends can make the difference between winning and losing in your next high-stakes presentation.

Haiku Deck

Haiku Deck is a free online presentation tool that makes it easier for you to create captivating presentations with just a few mouse clicks. What sets Haiku Deck apart is that it helps you focus on your key ideas by limiting the number of words you put on each slide. This makes Haiku an ideal tool to cure anyone who's used to presenting slides that are dense with text.

Haiku provides million of free images to choose from to liven up your presentation, or you can opt to import your own images. For additional sources of free images, Buffer offers a mega list of more than 53 sources.

Haiku also has a built-in chart and graph capability that allows you to create pie charts, bar graphs and stat charts. For example, bar charts have handles that can be dragged to tweak the numbers.  

If you're used to PowerPoint and feel more comfortable presenting with it, there's a feature that allows you to export your Haiku deck to PowerPoint.

Canva

Canva is a free online graphic design tool that will empower you to design presentations even if you have no experience in design whatsoever. In minutes, you can design a high-quality, professional presentation that would normally take hours or days to create.

The software is user-friendly and makes it easy to do a number of things. For example, you can choose from hundreds of presentation layouts to give your presentations a fresh look. The text you type on your canvas is automatically resized to fit your message. Canva also gives you the tools to easily and quickly replace boring slide titles with banners, and select elegant font pairings to make your message jump off the page.

You can import your own images or make use of Canva's 1 million-plus photographs and other graphics, many of which are free or cost $1. Images are sized to fit your presentation so you don't have to fiddle with them. There are many such features in Canva that not only save time but result in more elegant design that might not occur to a non-designer.

Your finished presentation can be downloaded as an image or high-quality PDF format. You then create a blank slide in your PowerPoint to insert your Canva creation.

The company has also launched a series of free, interactive video tutorials that make it easy to get up to speed in using this tool. 

Sway

In October 2014, Microsoft introduced Sway, an online tool that's a modern version of PowerPoint. Sway allows you to present your ideas in an interactive, Web-based manner from any of your devices or your browser. With Sway, you can create dynamic presentations by grabbing relevant content directly from sources such as Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo or Facebook. 

Since Sway is a cloud-hosted application, any images, videos or audio clips you add in your cloud storage can be inserted right within Sway by dragging or clicking on it. This also includes documents including PDF files, Excel charts, Word and PowerPoint files.

Instead of "slides," Sway provides cards or canvases for you to add your content. The presentation automatically adapts to fit whatever device it's viewed on, whether it's a large or small screen.

While Sway is still in its infancy, it's a presentation tool to watch as more multimedia features are added. Sign up is free.

Prezi

Prezi is also a cloud-hosted application. One thing that sets Prezi apart is its Zooming User Interface, which lets you zoom in and out of your presentation by moving from viewing an overview of your point to a detailed description and vice-versa. Another interesting feature in Prezi is the ability to easily add multiple 3D backgrounds to images.

One thing to keep in mind is that it's easy to overdo the in and out zooming of information and rotation of images and graphics. This may not appeal to everyone and can end up being a distraction. But using Prezi with some careful planning can result in creating a compelling visual presentation.

Prezi has been around since 2009 and is steadily gaining popularity, and there's a fee for making your presentations private.

Any of these solutions can help you create visually engaging presentations that will make your audience want to lean in to hear more of what you have to say. Today, it's easy to be memorable with these user-friendly apps that allow you to build such compelling presentations without having to spend all day working on your slide deck.

Bruna Martinuzzi is the founder of Clarion Enterprises Ltd., and the author of two books: Presenting with Credibility: Practical Tools and Techniques for Effective Presentations and The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to Follow.

Read more articles on presentations.

Photo: iStockphoto

President and Founder, Clarion Enterprises Ltd.