Visual strategies: engaging your audience for virtual events

April 30, 2020

Last week, we covered off on common visual strategies for designing engaging presentations. We discussed templates, colors, fonts, animation, and accessibility. Let’s shift the design focus this week to digital events.

Now, of course, there are many other essential things to take into consideration aside from design regarding virtual communication. Things like technology, voice, body, and audience. How does one command the room when not in the room? Even empathy can be a challenge without the ability to read the room. But how do the common visual strategies look and relate to digital events? Do they have to shift for you to engage an audience you cannot necessarily see? With studies from remote job websites showing a 91% growth in remote work over the last ten years, the answer is yes. Here are how the experts at Silver Fox shift their thinking around design for virtual events.

Just like any event, when designing, one must consider the screen on which one will be presenting. However, unlike in-person, onsite events, the screen sizes are less predictable. Audiences will be viewing on their laptop screens or desktop monitors. Some may even be viewing on their portable devices, like phones or tablets. This is the challenge and what informs the solutions.


As we all know, templates help in bundling up all the necessary design pieces to ensure consistency —colors, fonts, animations, etc. However, when designing a template for a digital event, we must consider simplifying layouts and adhering to a grid structure to direct the viewer’s eye to the exact spot they need to be focusing on. Without that direct connection to the audience, keeping attention is a challenge. A messy slide without a ruled layout and grid only exacerbates this problem.


Another significant way to keep the attention of one’s audience is with color. In most, in-person cases, a simplified color palette is critical, given the size of most screens onsite. A menagerie of colors on a large screen can be tiring and confusing to the eye. Though, when it comes to the smaller screens of a virtual space, there should be a bit more visual interest to engage the eye of your audience. We are not advocating a clown car of colors but replacing a gray or two with bolder colors is not a bad idea.


Screen size plays a massive role in the decision-making process when it comes to font. The screen on which your audience will be viewing the content is varied. Which means it is best to assume and design for a small screen. It is not necessarily the size of the font that is the issue. You should still use font size to create hierarchy, but we must consider two things above all. The type of font and the amount of content on the screen.

Because the textual content on slides will be resized and minimized for viewing on a smaller screen, it is best to use a san serif font. In your template, you may have a title that is 36 points in size, but instead of sizing up to a 50-foot screen, it is being sized down to a tablet screen. Using a serif font can hinder your audience in reading the content efficiently.

Secondly, we must think about the amount of content on the screen. We always advise against busy slides because of the potential to detract from the speaker. However, large pieces of textual content on a small display creates a different problem. Once again, the inability to read the content. Use your voice to present most of your content and use the slide for high-level bits of information to support your story.

Animation: When it comes to animation and transitions, the rule from our perspective is simple. Do not utilize them. Fade transitions are just fine, but complicated animations pose a problem when it comes to presenting online. Consider how many people will be signing on to an online meeting. If there are thousands of attendees adding the extra strain of complicated animations to the system has the potential to ruin the meeting. Most online meeting tools are pretty good at showing content. However, slide movement can be jumpy or can even freeze if too complicated. Our best advice is just to keep it simple. This will ensure your message gets out to your attendees easily. Even embedding videos can prove to be problematic.

As a side note, if you are pre-recording your presentation in a studio and releasing it as a video only and not presenting live. Presenters and designers will have a bit more flexibility when it comes to animating and transitioning.

Accessibility: We should always think about accessibility in our design. Rules around color contrast, font size and coloring, alt-text for imagery, and reading order must be followed. Inclusivity is vital in this world, and we as designers hold tight to these standards. However, do we think enough about the people that may be unable to attend onsite events? We are finding that most events already have a virtual component. Whether it be a physical or geographical impossibility of attendance, it is best to be mindful of this as designers and presenters.

This brings us to the other role accessibility has in this arena. It means ensuring all audience members can access your actual content during and after the event. Considering a presentation as a leave behind for your audience is key. Do your slides hold up without being spoken to? If not, what can you leave behind to ensure a consistent message? Consider other ancillary documents like email newsletters, whitepapers, etc. With this, we must consider design as well. Just like we look at an onsite event as a branded cohesive experience, we must do the same in digital events. A coherent brand across all your content will elevate your story and message.

For more information about Silver Fox and our great design skills, continue exploring our website and check our our Work. We are here to create fully branded experiences for your digital events. In our next blog, we will ask Hilary from Evia some follow up questions to build on our previous interview around virtual events. We will read how they are embracing this landscape change and how they are facing the challenges. Also, what do they think our designers and presenters should be mindful of when creating content for a digital event?

Mitchell Derrey
Director of Creative Services, Silver Fox Productions
Mitchell Derrey
Director of Creative Services, Silver Fox Productions

Mitchell joined Silver Fox in 2008 as a freelance Presentation Specialist where he was able to merge his passion for design and mentorship, as well as rise to a leadership position in the company. His proudest achievements have been in training new designers and providing coaching as they grow into their careers. He has traveled all over the world to support executives for some of the most well-known brands of our time. His 14+ years at Silver Fox has enriched his life both personally and professionally.

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