Discussion Thread

Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

  • 1.  Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-21-2021 10:48 PM
    Like most engineers, I have listened and presented a fair share of presentations. Some of which have been captivating and engaging, while others not so much.

    I mentioned in a previous post that I like to use some of my video editing skills to fine tune and polish presentations whether it be for work or school.

    What are some ways you keep presentations interesting or engaging?

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 2.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-22-2021 12:05 PM
    A quick note until I think of more to add later - there is an app called Prezi worth exploring as an alternative to traditional PowerPoints. While it will never make up for a good presentation or cover for a lack of content, we had students in class who occasionally used this app instead of MS PowerPoint.


    Christopher Seigel P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer

  • 3.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-22-2021 05:07 PM
    I have had to present at conferences before and run a lot of agency stakeholder meetings in past roles, which can be very intimidating to an introverted engineer. I quickly learned that "being professional and efficiently going through the agenda" will put people right to sleep. So I had to find some ways to keep people engaged. Here are some things I have tried (with varying degrees of success)
    • Ask the audience questions - Most of the time the audience knows a lot about the subject your are talking about, so I started asking the audience questions about the material being presented. This at least allows you to know the audience has the ability to speak.
    • Throw in a funny slide or GIF - If you are having to present from a slide show, its always nice to throw in a funny slide or 2. I had to do some presentations on bridges in the past, so I would throw in a slide from Dukes of Hazard of the General Lee jumping off some bridges and tie it in to the presentation. I also have used GIFs of someone getting hit in the face with a pie, and that generally does pretty well, regardless of what the situation or presentation material is. 
      • If I am presenting right before lunch, I will throw in "subliminal" slides of tasty food in between my actual slides
    • The best thing I have found to really engage the audience is to start of the meeting or presentation talking to the audience about something unrelated to the presentation or meeting. I would talk about sports (Did you see that game last night?), or a TV show or movie (I just watched Inception last night for the first time. Have any of you ever seen that?). That usually will get people talking about a subject they like and can snowball from there. 
    But in all honesty, I am pretty sure even with these tips, I am still a pretty awful presenter, so take these tips with a grain of salt.

    Doug Cantrell P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Durham NC

  • 4.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-25-2021 09:21 AM
    I have seen famous memes before in university presentations too. I have screenshoted some of the most classic and found videos containing several more from different mediums if you want to find more to include.


    Alexander Granato A.M.ASCE
    Bexley OH

  • 5.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 07-05-2021 12:45 PM
    Agree 100% with what Doug said. One thing that I would add:
    Keep text in slides to a minimum. Honestly, the best presentations that I have seen are almost all pictures with no text. Think of an educational documentary you may have seen on TV. They don't put up a slide with text then read it. They show pictures in the background to supplement the narrator. The presentation should be the speaker, not the slides. Thus, I'd argue keeping the audience engaged is more about the speaker than the presentation (if that makes sense). The best presenters that I have seen are almost like standup comics. They tell stories and jokes while feeding off the audience.

    Robert Schiermeyer P.E., M.ASCE
    Senior Project Manager
    Keller North America, Inc.
    Commerce City CO

  • 6.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-23-2021 09:19 AM
    I had a client presentation recently and one of my colleagues that was also presenting did a good job as we were creating the presentation of pulling us back to the point we were trying to get across to the client. This might sound obvious, but I think sometimes we end up presenting what we want to say rather than thinking very clearly and realistically about what our audience is looking to gain from the presentation. 

    I agree with Doug that I tend to put myself at ease if I have an opportunity to joke or small talk a bit before a presentation/meeting, though I'm sure in some context this is not available or appropriate so I would say learning to read the room is also incredibly important. If you can present off of bullet points rather than a specific script this may help you pivot more easily if you feel the interest from those in the room start to dwindle. 

    In general I've found trying to focus on it being more of a conversation than talking at people very helpful (when I get it right). Tends to change the tone of my voice and lower any nerves. And the more you do it the better/easier it tends to get. 

    Taygra Longstaff
    Ipswich MA

  • 7.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-24-2021 09:36 AM
    There is an amazing TED you can find on YouTube called "Death by Power Point". It's funny but very enlightening. I go back and rewatch it from time to time because they make great points and it's a quick refresher if you haven't given a presentation in a while.

    Christopher Dzidek P.E., M.ASCE
    Project Engineer II
    Boston MA

  • 8.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 06-27-2021 02:00 PM
    @Christopher Dzidek Thank you for the recommendation! This video was really insightful and I will definitely keep these tips in mind in the future.
    I implore everyone to watch this presentation! Here is the direct link for those that are interested:
    How to avoid death By PowerPoint | David JP Phillips

    Daniel Bressler EIT, A.M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Brooklyn NY

  • 9.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 07-11-2021 10:32 AM
    Another good one to check out is this TED talk about "nothing" which shows you ways of speaking and setting up a presentation to make people feel drawn to what you're presenting. 


    Heidi C. Wallace, P.E., M.ASCE
    Tulsa, OK

  • 10.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 07-06-2021 08:17 AM
    I find that setting a take-home message for your presentation helps. Making all other slides support that take-home message will keep the audience engaged. Also do not use too much text and do not put anything on the slides that you are not going to talk about.

    Tung Nguyen, PhD
    Water Resources Engineer
    Sacramento, CA

  • 11.  RE: Keeping Presentations Interesting and Engaging

    Posted 07-06-2021 08:18 AM

    Hey Daniel!

    Keeping presentations interesting and engaging is so important, in my opinion, regardless of your role. 

    Personally, I get engaged with presentations when the presenter is well prepared and enthusiastically deliver the pitch. Having well organized slides is also key I believe. Trying not to crowd them with too much information is one way to achieve that, or if you necessarily need to show a lot of information, at least show them in parts. The time length of the presentation should also be according to the type of event, crowd and topic. I like to look for the audience body language for signs of interest or boredom and adjust the delivery based on that. 

    Interesting input from anyone else and feel free to comment or add anything else!


    Salvador Bentolila P.E., ENV SP, M.ASCE
    New York NY