Unless you’re into surprises, you probably don’t like to be led down a blind alley. So why do that to the viewers for your online presentations?
That’s where chapters, topic lists, tables of contents, and/or section titles come in. They’re an essential part of making online presentations a valuable experience. They are, in short, a best practice for online presentations.
Take a look at this topic list (to the right), which is part of an online presentation about Agile Marketing captured at the 2013 Marketo Summit on the KnowledgeVision online presentation platform. This scrolling list divides a 48-minute presentation into 17 sections, each about 3 minutes in length. In addition, this is a “time-stamped” list, showing the elapsed time in the presentation at which each topic starts.
Chapter lists are a viewer-friendly practice for two key reasons:
- They give a clear idea of where the presenter is taking the viewer, where you’ve been, and how long it will take to get there; and
- They give the viewer more control of the experience, in that they can click on chapter headings to go directly to the material that interests them most, or click back to review material that is worth examining again.
How many times have you returned to a video — especially a long one — and hunted with the scroll bar for the exact point you wanted to review? Wouldn’t you have appreciated a navigable outline of the video so you could jump directly to the topic you sought?
If your online presentation platform allows the creation of a chapter list, by all means use it! And when you do, keep these best practices in mind:
- Start with the titles on the slides for your presentation, but don’t slavishly repeat those slide titles: sometimes they’re too long or don’t adequately summarize a section of the presentation.
- Plan to create no fewer than five and no more than twenty chapter sections. Be thoughtful about the logical way the presentation material groups together, and especially about sections that a viewer might want to access directly. These are the chapter headings that are most important. In any event, sections should never be shorter than 30 seconds in length.
- The titles themselves should, in aggregate, tell a story. In fact, they are a constantly-visible agenda for the presentation. Think about whether you want to tease the viewer with intriguing-sounding chapter titles, or whether you want to be more clinical in approach. This should be consistent with the tenor of the entire presentation.
- In some cases, such as compliance presentations (that must be viewed in their entirety), chapters are still useful to show the sequence of material. Just disable the clickable navigation feature of your chapter function so your viewers can’t skip forward.
At the end of the day, a chapter list is an invitation — to click around and to stick around. Don’t skip it. And don’t take it lightly. You’re viewers will appreciate the care you take in thoughtfully dividing your presentation material and inviting them to higher levels of engagement.
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