5 Presentation Tools To Captivate Every Student

The founder of Fractus Learning, Nick Grantham is an Australian educator living and working in Dublin, Ireland. With a background in education, engineering and digital product development, Nick launched Fractus Learning to connect people with a shared passion for technology and how it can bring education to life.

Creating a presentation that keeps a captive audience engaged is tough. Creating a presentation that keeps distracted students engaged is a much harder task again.

Whether your are demonstrating to a class or presenting at a conference, keeping an audience focused on your content is more challenging than it used to be. Children and adult audience members alike, now have glowing distractions in their pockets and are expecting the instant gratification that comes from the Internet generation. Text on slides no longer has the appeal and will easily lose the attention battle to a Facebook update or a new cow on FarmVille.

Here are a few tools that will help you enthrall your audience and keep your presentations on the entertaining side of educational:


1. Keynote (iOS)

For a long time I was always ‘aware’ of Keynote, but never thought much more of it than Apple’s PowerPoint alternative. Since downloading the Keynote app last year, I have to say I am a complete convert. Apple is renowned for it’s design prowess and this style and simplicity is engrained in the app itself.

With all the features you would expect in a presentation tool (images, video, data, etc.) it is surprising how well Keynote works as an app. I actually never realised just how much media I now keep on the tablet, but as I create new presentations I have found it is all there ready to go. I have also found myself doing more mini-presentations (ie presenting on the iPad itself) as it’s a whole lot easier to whip out a tablet there and then, than it is to set up a projector and deal with the ‘challenges’ that come with ‘technology’.


The other real benefit (especially if you are an Apple person) is that iCloud lets you create and edit your presentations on any device you want. It updates your files on all your Apple devices, no matter which one you used to create a file or make a change. And since Keynote automatically saves your work as you go, everything you do is automatically saved everywhere. This is a very secure feeling.


2. Prezi (Site & App)

Most people would now be familiar with Prezi, but it is uncanny to see the response you still get when launching one of these versus a conventional presentation. Prezi applies a whole new approach to presenting by taking a perspective view rather than the linear slide view we are more familiar with.

Similar to cloud presentation services such as Google Docs and SlideRocket, Prezi is a hosted web app and boasts all the benefits of storing your work in the cloud. Where Prezi defines itself from the competition is it’s large free-form canvas for guiding your audience through your content. You can see in the below example just how different a Prezi presentation is to what most people are familiar with. The experience has been described as the digital equivalent to taking your audience through your content in a helicopter versus holding up sheets of printed paper.

You will find that the zooming and panning of a Prezi is particularly good for young audiences that see it as more of a journey than a lesson. The limitless canvas also lends itself to large interesting imagery which will further capture the attention of children.


3. YouTube

The Internet phenomenon that is YouTube still reigns as one of the most useful resources on the web, particularly for creating engaging presentations. Both tools mentioned above allow the embedding of YouTube content and you would be hard pressed to find a platform that does not incorporate the sites video.

As well as being just plain entertaining, YouTube let’s you re-use material from respected individuals and thought-leaders in whatever field you happen to be presenting. It is important to put your own individual flare into your work, but there are instance where we can use fantastic ready made content to help get the message across. You will also find that a short video in a presentation helps your audience re-focus and will give you a short break to gather yourself for the remaining talk. From personal experience it is always good to start a presentation with a short, funny video to put your audience in the right frame of mind.

As well as being a stand out content resource, YouTube is also a great way to edit, store and share your own video content. This means you can create the video once and re-use easily many times over, not to mention the fact that others may like to use your video in their own presentations. You would be surprised where your video may just pop up.


4. Tiki-Toki

A presentation does not necessarily need to be slides or strictly use presentation software. In fact presenting your content in new and interesting ways is one of the best methods to maintain your audiences attention.

Tiki-Toki is a relatively new web app for creating beautiful interactive timelines. A timeline is a great way to present data visually and will help students understand perspective and put information into chronological sequence. Tiki-Toki really does look stunning and the smooth easy to use interface makes it ideal for presenting to both small classes or large conferences.


The timeline format is also a great tool to involve the whole class in the creation of a presentation. Each student or group can focus on creating content for a certain time period or event. The timeline can then be consolidated and the final timeline presented to the class.


5. visual.ly

Infographics are popping up everywhere. They are a great way to get a message across by visualizing data rather than bombarding a reader with vast amounts of text. The same principles apply to presenting and this makes Infographics a fantastic way to convey your data without putting the room to sleep.

Visual.ly is a site dedicated to Infographics and data visualizations. They host a huge amount of quality Infographics on a wide variety of topics. You can choose to embed or re-use pre-made graphics in your own presentations or in the not too distant future the site will be offering  tools to help you create your own.

A hot tip is to embed an Infographic into your Prezi presentation. The canvas nature of the application allows you to pan and zoom to areas of interest when necessary, but still retain the full impact of the overall graphic.


What tools do use for presenting to students and what tips do you have to keep your audience involved?


Image courtesy of Flickr, Cristiano Betta