If you’ve ever presented to an audience using PowerPoint, you know how difficult it can be to engage and keep the crowd focused. Aside from worrying about staying on time, remembering talking points and not fainting at the front of the room, presenters often worry about how to get the audience involved in the presentation. Sure, it can be considered a success if everyone stays awake, but at the end of the day you want the crowd to walk away and remember what was discussed. So how can you make sure this happens?

In our experience with presenting and training nonprofits to present, the key to engagement through PowerPoint is to know your audience. Research who will be in the crowd so you know how to tailor your message. It’s important for them to know that you understand who they are and to relate your topic to their knowledge, beliefs and goals.

Once you complete your audience research, use those in your audience as examples in your presentation. Tell them in the beginning that you will be highlighting some of their projects/organizations and you will call on them to elaborate or share their experiences. This ensures that everyone will stay focused in anticipation that they may be on the next slide. Most people will enjoy seeing the time you have put into the presentation with research and appreciate the free publicity. And having candy or small rewards to pass out for participation never hurts!

An engaging PowerPoint presentation shines in 3 areas:


-Make sure your content is relevant to the topic and audience.
-Be concise enough to allow the audience asks questions (don’t give everything away at first).
-Keep your main points clear so there is no confusion.
-Provide examples and quotes so the audience can relate and remember.
-Incorporate a group activity or a handout so the audience has a takeaway (make sure they will have something to take notes on).
-Include your contact information somewhere in the presentation.

Smoke – the Convenient Truth does a great job of breaking up the statistics into a few slides to keep you engaged and curious as to what the next slide will say.


-The design of each slide needs to fit your message (colorful, somber, innovative, etc.).
-Compelling images (real photos preferred over stock or clip art).
-Incorporate videos (best to have the video automatically play in PPT rather than a link).
-Make sure the text is easy to read on your background (dark font on a light background and not vice versa).
-Use fonts that are legible and colors that complement each other.
-Keep the amount of text on each slide to a minimum. PowerPoint is more engaging with visuals.

THIRST does a great job of using images and highlighting the statistics to make an impact without too many words.


-Practice your presentation in front of a mirror.
-Time yourself and allow a few minutes of “wiggle room” for questions and/or technical difficulties.
-Ask the presentation/event coordinator questions about the venue and technology before you arrive to present (internet connection, layout of room, wireless remote, etc.).
-If you can tell the audience is not engaged, walk around or ask questions.
-Always bring alternate copies of the presentation (email, Drop Box, flash drive, disc, etc.).

Watch these videos to learn physical delivery for good presentations.

After your presentation, remind the audience of how to contact you, hand out a survey about the topic and overall presentation, and ask the coordinator for audience members’ contact information or a platform they use to send/upload your presentation. In a nutshell, a great presentation sells a concept, doing so in a way that grips and holds your audience’s attention.