Before you know it, the virtual Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’ 2021 National Conference on Ending Homelessness will be here. With the Call for Presentations now open for our COH Research and Policy and Prevention streams, presenters will have to think about how to keep their audience captive in a virtual setting. We’ve compiled 5 tips for creating an engaging and memorable virtual presentation:

1. Get to the point. Why is this important to me?” is the question every audience member will have. In the first few minutes of your presentation, clearly state your conclusions, desired actions and, most importantly, how findings will help address the challenges faced by the homeless-serving sector. Conferences are jam-packed with information and lessons learned, so being upfront and succinct is key. Background information should only include the details necessary to provide context for new research. Remember: attendees are there to learn new, actionable solutions they can use in their day-to-day work.

2. Break up the flow of your presentation. At appropriate spots, incorporate one or more of the following interactive elements to keep the audience’s attention. Here are some tools you can use: 

  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Images such as cartoons, memes or screenshots of relevant news items
  • A thought-provoking quote relevant to the topic 


3. Keep the word count and scientific detail and jargon to a minimum. When it comes to your presentation, learn to live by the “Rule of Five”. This rule prevents wordiness by keeping you to a limit of five bullet points per presentation slide, with each point having no more than five words. A five-word limit allows you to concisely summarize key ideas in plain language. You’ll be presenting to a broad audience, from funders and policy makers to frontline workers and community leaders. Keeping your slides short and jargon-free ensures your research is digestible.

4. Don’t read your presentation. Before you hit record, rehearse beforehand to get the right tone variation down. Start a new slide if it takes longer than thirty seconds to read. The less writing, the better! While white space on a slide can seem daunting, it’s been proven to keep the audience’s attention and increase readability. 

5. Use simple, consistent formattingHighly readable slides have good contrast between the words and background. Choose a sans-serif font like Arial or Calibri for both your title and body text. This type of font allows the audience to quickly read the points and then return their attention to the speaker. 

Powerpoint’s built-in animations can also enhance your presentation, but too many animations can distract audiences from the story you’re trying to tell. When considering the use of animation, it’s always important to assess the value being added.

We hope you find these tips and tools helpful when preparing your own presentations. 

The CAEH21 Call for Presentations portal is now open. The COH’s streams provide an opportunity for academics, researchers, policy makers and practitioners to present their most promising and innovative research. If your work makes a positive impact on those experiencing or working to prevent and end homelessness, submit a proposal for either our Research and Policy or Prevention streams by August 6th, 2021. We look forward to seeing all your highly engaging virtual presentations at CAEH21!