Are you one of the estimated 300 million PowerPoint users contributing to the 30 million plus bank of slideshows that try the patience of long toothed executives somewhere on the planet each day (bank holidays excepted)? Thought so!
It’s like Greggs the bakers at lunchtime, stopping off at Tesco’s on the way home or nipping into the pub after work on a Friday: We all know that we could probably be a little more adventurous with the presentations we deliver, put then PowerPoint is just there! It’s not that we don’t want to explore more exotic and exciting options, but in the real world of deadlines and timescales PowerPoint’s safe haven of GIF’s, cloud-bubbles, mind-maps and colour-coded organisational structures is always right there in front of us. That little pie-chart icon winks at us from the desktop and we succumb. One click is all it takes to win you over and less than 60 minutes later, there it is: another PowerPoint classic featuring the cartoon office block, the unsatisfied customer on the telephone and a big yellow question mark thrown in for good measure.
PowerPoint tells stories they way we used to tell stories: before the internet, VoD and the social web
To be fair to PowerPoint, if a presentation is sending its audience straight to dreamland then it’s almost certainly because it’s too long in content and too weak on audience interaction. No single software package has the power to engage today’s web savvy viewers constantly over a period of 40 minutes or more (or if it does, few casual users know the software well enough to really harness its power).
But perhaps the real problem with today’s most used presentation packages is that they still encourage us to tell stories the way we used to tell stories: before the internet, VoD and the social web. Whether it’s iWorks’ Keynote at the premium end or workhorses like OpenOffice’s Impress, the most popular presentation software forces us to tell business tales that have a beginning, a middle and an end to an audience that’s become used to changing the agenda, personalising the experience and seeing a different view with one click of a hyperlink.
Since January this year we’ve pretty much banned all “classic” presentation software at Now towers: No iWorks “Keynote” for the chic geeks, no “PowerPoint” for the Hoi polloi, no “Impress” for the open source democrats (Let us take this opportunity now, to apologise to any of you who sat through some of the presentations we gave in Jan and early Feb. We’re truly sorry).
From necessity, creativity is often born, and in the space of just a few months, we’ve noticed a real change in dynamics. Today, our “presentations” are less structured but actually engage more. Their opening gambit remains well framed, but where they go during any session can be pretty unpredictable. They have a start, several middles and any number of endings depending on the group they’re presented to. They blend content we settle on the day before with content we may even discover in real time on Youtube, Flickr or LinkedIn.
All of this is quite exciting we think, but we’ve had to pull together several tools to make this more modular approach work. Here’s some of the best we’ve found so far:
Laslo: Super glossy and capable of productions that even Spielberg would be proud of, the animation effects and the ability to import video with Flash are stunning. The biggest problem however, is that Flash production is rarely fast production so unless time and budget is on your side, content needs to be short and pithy and lasts just a few minutes. What’s more, since the popular Macromedia software packages that usually produce this content are often reserved for the design department, Flash presentations often mean outsourcing the job either to another department or to a third party. Laslo overcomes many of these issues simply because it’s open source – so free – and takes just a short time to learn.
Photoshop, or the open source alternative Gimp open up the kind of versatility required to produce highly striking images while Perspector will do the same job for graphs or tables.
But doesn’t all of this byte hungry content actually end up slowing things down on the big presentation day? Well this is where NXPowerLite comes in. NXPowerLite can compress files by as much as 75%, making them easier to use, store and share. It reduces file sizes more significantly than zip compression and removes the need for clunky to watch unzipping .
Finally, the glue that holds all of this together. Rather than line all of this really cool content up in our old friend PowerPoint (or Keynotes or Impress), Cooliris provides a 3D navigation option that allows presenters to browse their entire presentation’s content at once, in one stunningly flexible visual hub that’s really easy on the eye. Zoom in on images videos of graphs as you need them and let the audience decide where the presentation goes next.
The PowerPoint divorce might not come without a degree of pain, but gauging from the reactions in the audiences we’re presenting to these days, we can tell you it’s well worth it. From Mac to open source and back again, we’ve gone through the full gamut of presentation packages out there to ultimately decide that the presentation itself- as defined by PowerPoint et al – has really had its day.
Know any other cool presentation software that we should all be using? Leave a comment on this article.