What are annotation tools and why do i care?

Mar 29 2012 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

One of the big complaints about doing webinars or web meetings is the amount of multitasking the presenter has to do. Sure, it's easier not to use them, but some of them have great value. One of my favorite set of tools is the "annotation tools". Highlighters, circlers and the like.

Why should you use these little devils, given how much trouble they are? Because using them can help clarify complicated visual information, add to your credibility and keep your attendees from answering email instead of paying attention.

So, directly from my book, 10 Steps to Successful Virtual Presentations, here are some of the common tools and how to use them:

Spontaneously highlight words and information. If your visuals are complicated, you're probably using PowerPoint to add visual interest or point things out.

The problem is that online animation seldom works like it should. Also, as you're presenting you suddenly realize there's a key word or phrase people should remember. Using the "highlighter" tool is a great way to visually reinforce your message.

Settle on a good colour for your highlighting and other annotations. Your web platform probably assigns the speaker a specific color for these tools. If you have a dark background, you probably want to choose a color that will stand out against your background.

Use the precision tools for precision work. Using the highlighter is fine, but what if you need to circle a specific place on a diagram, or a line item in a spread sheet? Most platforms have precision drawing tools that create circles or rectangles around the exact information you want to highlight. With a little practice you can look very slick while actually adding value to the presentation.

Arrows beat little red dots. You know those laser pointers with the little red dots that presenters use? You know how they drive you crazy? Well online most platforms give you a "laser pointer" option so that you have a bouncing red dot instead of an arrow to point things out. Don't use it. Just don't. You've been warned.

Point and then let go. Be warned that often your audience will see your cursor move every time you move the mouse. If you've pointed or marked something, take your hand off the mouse until you need it again. Otherwise you will give your audience seasickness as they follow your cursor aimlessly wander the screen.

Check off your points one by one. Far too often your visual contains a simple bulleted list, and you spend a lot of time on that screen. One good idea is to use a checkmark tool or other stamp to check off the topics as you get to them. That way, when your audience wanders off mentally (and if you're spending more than 5 minutes on a static screen, they will) when they come back they'll know where you are.

You don't want to overdo the flash, but using the tools appropriately will raise your credibility and increase the effectiveness of your presentation.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.