by Adam Noar
Want to understand how to create a viral presentation?
If so, keep reading because this post is filled with actionable tips and tricks for doing just that.
You can find all sorts of resources on the web for creating viral blog posts, viral videos (we suspect that cute fuzzy animals are a crucial secret ingredient), GIFs, memes, and news articles.
But what about viral presentations like some of the top ones on SlideShare?
We didn’t get to where we are without crafting a few particularly memorable presentations, and that’s why we thought it was time to share some wisdom with you on how to design a viral presentation that SlideShare readers love.
With just 15 slide deck presentations uploaded to SlideShare, I’ve had almost 1M views of my content.
In fact, one of my presentations alone has had over 160k views:
Even if you don’t use SlideShare or have an interest in creating a viral presentation you should apply these essential design tips in order to make sure your next presentation truly stands out!
There are so many good examples of great presentations out there and this isn’t the only way to ensure that you create a viral presentation, but we find that these ten features usually stand out in the best SlideShare presentations we’ve seen.
Don’t forget, if you want to see these viral presentation tips in action, you should check out our SlideShare page to access all of the presentations we’ve done, not to mention lots of other top presentations too!
1. Start Off With a Bang! Your Cover Slide Must Be Awesome
Starting your presentation off with a bang can mean a lot of things.
What’s most important is that you have a memorable cover slide to your presentation, otherwise there is no way you will be able to make that presentation go viral.
Depending on your taste in design, getting people’s attention can take shape in a number of ways. What all of my viral presentation SlideShares have in common is that they have visually arresting compositions. For example, take a look at the first slide of the presentation “How to Design an Awesome Presentation Template.”
Over a simple green background you have the title. Notice that the word “Awesome” is capitalized and much larger than all the other display text. There’s nothing understated about grabbing people’s attention with an exciting word like that, especially when you make it stand out. And of course, because this presentation is all about presentation design, we include a cute flat design pencil graphic, which not only creates a bit of visual balance on the bottom of the slide, but also says in a nonverbal way that this is a great presentation for anyone looking to learn about design. If your first slide can grab people’s attention without necessarily saying a word, you’re well on your way to a viral presentation.
You really want all your slides to be awesome throughout your presentation, but the ones at the beginning are the most important. These are the images that will grab the reader’s attention. A inadequate or ill-advised image on your Title slide could hinder your presentation’s ability to be successful.
If your cover slide sucks many people will never bother to click.
2. Your Presentation Headline Needs to be Extra Catchy
While having a really catchy design on the title slide of your presentation is a surefire way to draw people in to what you are saying, you can’t just rely on looks to do the legwork for you. It’s crucial you come up with a really good headline to drum up interest in what you have to say. Writing a top quality headline for your presentation can be a bit of a headache, though – it’s funny when you think about it, because even though a headline is between six and ten words it’s without a doubt the most important text in your presentation. Good content isn’t worth much if people are too bored to continue clicking through your slides on the first go.
One popular SlideShare we’ve created, “5 Presentation Design Mistakes to Avoid,” checks off many of the boxes a good headline should have. It tells you clearly what the presentation is about, is emotionally powerful (“avoid” is a great word to get people to click), and as it’s a list, promises the audience a nice, neat series of actionable tips that they can use when they are designing their own PowerPoint or SlideShare presentations.
While we come up with blog titles and presentation titles on our own, we almost always run them through CoSchedule’s free Headline Analyzer tool, which gives instant feedback about whether or not the title will help create a viral presentation.
Here’s one of our all-time favorite SlideShare’s that has gone viral:
Immediately, this cover slide grabs your attention for many reasons. First, notice the bold title:
“You Suck at PowerPoint!” which is the first thing you see on the slide.
The language here is simple enough for any audience to understand. Also, note how the title of the slide speaks to the viewer in the second person by using the word “you” and the use of the slang word “suck” which makes the presentation sound more authentic. Note: The occasional slang words can be effective, but only use them in extremely rare cases and with the least offensive words possible. “Suck” is one of those safe words that nobody should get offended about.
Also, notices the language of the subtitle, “5 shocking design mistakes you need to avoid,” pulls you in and makes you want to learn more. No wonder this presentation has over 2 million views on SlideShare!
3. Use High Quality Images and Graphics. My #1 Tip for Creating a Viral Presentation
Once your audience is hooked and scrolling through your presentation, you owe it to them to deliver a beautiful viewing experience.
The last thing you should do if you are trying to create a viral presentation is give people sterilized stock images or ridiculous looking vectors.
C’mon, it’s not 2006 anymore!
There are plenty of resources to check out if you want to make sure your presentation looks as professional and sleek as possible.
These days it’s inexcusable to come up with a presentation that doesn’t have aesthetically pleasing images which compliment your content. It’s not that hard to find great looking photos that don’t cost anything, so if you expect to create a viral presentation, put in a couple minutes browsing through a high end image database and select excellent looking photos to use for your presentation.
Here’s an example of one of our ShareShares that features tons of high quality images:
Don’t cheat yourself and your audience: use high quality images for presentations, and you will surely reap the benefit.
4. Keep Your Slides Simple. Most People Like To Scan
We have said it again and again in our presentations, but it’s worth repeating once more: keep your presentation slides simple.
Don’t get clever and add a border to a photo slide that doesn’t need anything else. Don’t go crazy with animation tools, no matter how tempted you are to channel your inner 11-year old. Do not switch compositions or color palettes or fonts from one slide to the next, lest you confuse your audience and they begin to think you’ve gone a bit crazy.
On the other hand, if you want to create a viral presentation, take a look at this SlideShare we created called “10 Better Ways to Add Text to Images.”
Reference Slide #5, “let’s find a place to get lost.”
Here is a great example of this principle of simplicity in action. You will notice that there is never too much of everything on a single slide. The text is more than noticeable thanks to the strong contrast between the white font and the dark road in the background. At the same time, however, the long rows of trees on either side provide a strong counterbalance in the way that they create vertical thrust and also add a powerful splash of color into the mix.
If you have tons of useful content for the audience to learn from, don’t be swayed by the temptation to cram everything in. Instead, tastefully curate your content across many slides. It’s not like there is a shortage or limit on how many slides you can have in a presentation, so if you are in doubt about how much visual or written content you are trying to fit onto one section, go ahead and split the slide into multiple ones and give your presentation (and your audience) some much-needed visual breathing space.
5. Utilize Creative Graphics
While using clever words and beautiful images are a good start to ensuring your presentation looks its best, it’s worth mixing things up a bit whenever you can. Our “10 Clever Color Combos That Will Make Your Audience Happy,” gives the audience some pretty nifty advice on color palettes for top quality presentations with the help of curated images and color swatches.
Creative doesn’t have to mean “complicated” – look at how swatches of complimentary colors displayed side by side against an image utilizing them can look really good and add serious style to this presentation. On the other hand, sometimes it pays to spice things up a bit and use something a bit more sophisticated.
In that case, an infographic is a great tool at your disposal. The combination of compelling data, actionable tips, interesting illustrations and bright colors offers a scintillating narrative to your audience, something different instead of the usual arrangement of images, videos, or text. SlideShare makes it easy to upload and share infographics that you have created, and because of its connection to LinkedIn it’s a superb place to pick up a lot of viewers and push your presentation into viral territory.
6. If You Have to Write Certain Things Out, Keep Your Text Short & Friendly
We’ve been over this a few times before in the Presentation Panda blog, but if you are going to create text-based slide presentations – nothing wrong with that – you need to keep the writing short, simple, and as clear as possible. The mortal enemy of engaging content is boredom, and a sure way to turn your audience off of a potentially viral presentation is if you cram your slides with words.
When you are going to write content out, a smart method for keeping your writing short and friendly to audiences is to create brief lists of three, check-box style, for people to easily follow what you are saying. You don’t necessarily have to write in complete sentences either; just a few words will do, especially if you pair the words with suitable icons.
Here’s an example (from the above SlideShare) on how to make text more digestible:
Another thing to remember is to not overdo the jargon. Obviously there are going to be situations where you need to explain what something complicated and related to your niche. If it’s unavoidable for you to use complicated language, a good strategy to keep your presentation friendly to everyone is to write a single word down on a slide and have a brief definition or study related to it on the following slide. If you can pair it with an icon or other visual to help add meaning or clarification to it, don’t hesitate to do it.
7. Teach Your Audience Something With “How To” Tips
It’s important that your presentation give people easy to follow guidance on how to follow through with all the actionable content you’re giving them. We’re big fans of showing, not telling.
Our SlideShare presentation “How to Overlay Text Onto Image” went viral in large part thanks to the straightforward steps we outlined for helping presenters add text to their slides.
If you want to create a viral presentation, you should consider doing the same thing, no matter what your topic. Guide your audience every step of the way; people like to have someone holding their hand and explaining everything in a straightforward fashion.
By showing your audience the way and giving them tons of great examples of how to do what it is you want them to do in the course of your presentation, you are helping them. When people feel that the content you create is helpful, it won’t be long before your presentation goes viral.
8. Give Out Free Resources
How many times have you given out your email address or shared your social media account details with someone just because they were offering you something amazing for free? Giving out free stuff is a proven method for winning loyal followers, who are the backbone of just about every viral piece of content.
Here’s a great example of one of our SlideShare’s that is filled with free resources:
At Presentation Panda, we do our very best to include quality resources in our blog posts that we think you will enjoy and learn from. We take our recommendations seriously and as a result of that, we’ve been able to grow quite a bit just from linking to other excellent sites out there.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect everyone to return the favor like that – it’s more of an unintentional (but hoped for) side effect of our blog – but you should at least build an expectation in your audience that when you unveil a new presentation, they can expect you to share something new and exciting with them. Whether that’s a new awesome tool like Canva or maybe a free ebook you’ve just published on an important topic, giving out free resources will bring you one step closer to making your presentation go viral.
9. Close Your Presentation With a Good Call to Action
It wouldn’t be good marketing without a strong call to action. On one of our first viral SlideShare presentations, “2015 Font Trends for Presentations,” we got a ton of shares by incorporating a really great CTA asking people to tweet or share the presentation on Facebook in order to download it.
Here’s an example of the of the call to action slide we used in the above SlideShare:
Obviously this wouldn’t have been very successful if no one felt we were offering much value, but in the end the presentation was viewed well over 150,000 times. You can’t underestimate the importance of a good call to action in turning a presentation viral. But in order to get there, it’s worth following these eight steps to really make a positive impact on people and give them something that they like so much they are more than happy to share your work with others. If you can do that, your presentation, no matter what it’s about, will succeed.
10. Pick A Killer Topic by Doing Your Research and Staying Relevant
In order for a presentation to go viral, the content needs to be great AND it needs to be shareable.
There are two components to a viral campaign. First people need to want to read it (we have already talked about several tips to help with this).
The second component is that people need to want to share it with their followers. Without both components, your content has no chance of going viral.
So the topic you choose has to be interesting, so that your audience will want to read it and feel the need to share it with their friends.
The best way to pick a killer topic is to do your research. Pay attention to current events and what people are searching for.
Google Trends is a great tool for exploring key trends that are going on in the world.
An important note on picking a topic for your presentation:
Be careful about picking a topic that is relevant to your business. Having a bunch of random presentations that are not related to a common theme will generally confuse people.
The best way to come up with an exciting viral presentation is by getting inspiration from others. We hope that some of the SlideShare examples shown in this post have provided a bit of inspiration for you.
Now it’s your turn! Follow these steps and create your best presentation yet. Don’t forget to let us know how it goes!
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