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One of the greatest challenges for webinar presenters is maintaining attention of viewers that we can’t see. One great way to keep the eyes of all viewers onscreen is to create movement.

Viewers quickly tire of static images, and soon stop looking at a webinar screen until the slide changes. Presenters who stay on a single slide for more than a minute typically lose effectiveness. Attendees mentally tune out.

One good solution to this problem is to limit the screen time of any slide to 30 seconds or less. However, presenters may need more time to communicate their messages. The best tools then are onscreen animations.

The array pictured above for example, demonstrates how a single animated slide progresses onscreen. As the presenter speaks, animations advance to emphasize the next point in the slide’s overall message. The presenter controls them, ensuring that animations are timed to each point being made.

PowerPoint and other presentation graphics programs offer a rich array of animation features that can be used in many different ways. They can make photos, graphics or text appear or disappear, whenever appropriate. New items can fade in or fly in using a myriad of visual styles. Or items can morph into new forms.

Though animations can serve multiple purposes, their greatest value in webinars is to keep every viewer’s eyes on the screen, thereby keeping their attention. When they are used in pre-recorded on-demand webinars, animations can be perfectly timed to support a fast-paced narration. If accompanied by fast slide transitions, timed animations often create an effect similar to a tightly scripted video.

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PowerPoint Professionals use the term “Death by PowerPoint” to describe presentations that are so boring and tedious that audiences stop listening.

Death by PowerPoint can damage any presentation—face-to-face or online. But it’s especially destructive to online Webinars. Face-to-face presenters may revive audiences through eye contact, body language or personal charm. But webinar presenters have only their voices, and any slides that create Death by PowerPoint.

The Death by PowerPoint syndrome can have many different faces, including confusing tables, undecipherable spreadsheets, unreadable text, and complex charts. However, the worst and most common symptom is a slide comprised of text bullets.

Psychologists and educators have proven that most people can’t listen to a speaker and read text simultaneously without confusion. If presenters speak words that differ from the slide, most people stop reading or listening. Of course some presenters read their text bullets word-for-word. Audiences then become quickly bored and stop viewing the screen.

The antidote of course is to eliminate ALL text bullets. Presenters however, often push back saying that they can’t deliver their messages without text bullets. In that case, webinar planners must turn to Plan B.

In Plan B, each slide can have only one message. A statement that might have been a text bullet can become a slide headline. The remainder of the slide then needs one or more photos, graphics, or diagrams—sometimes with text labels or titles, to support the headline.

Webinar presenters must always remember the difference between silent reading (e.g. a book, or report) and viewing a presentation onscreen.  Silent readers absorb material at their own speed, frequently speed-up or slow-down, skip-ahead or backtrack. Online viewers must accept the speed of the webinar. That usually means that the program must move ahead quickly. Viewers can absorb top-notch material rapidly. They don’t have time or any inclination however,  to read a screen full of text.

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