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On presentations

April 12, 2011

Gemma posted recently about PowerPoint  and this got me thinking.

PowerPoint has been one of my bugbears over the last year or so.

Specifically bad PowerPoint.

Even more specifically bad PowerPoint pitch presentations.  

The ones where everyone puts their slides together separately and then it gets cobbled together at the last minute (because there isn’t any other kind of time in a pitch situation) and you end up with an unwieldy behemoth of a presentation – weighing into the hundreds of slides (/rant).

I think that when you put people down in front of a PowerPoint more often than not they expect to be bored.

Which is really not the most helpful mindset for them to be in before you start talking.

On my own I’ve been experimenting with different ways of presenting for a while now.

One of the best presentations I was ever part of was one where we had a wrapped present in front of each member of the audience.  

And we built up to the point where we got them to unwrap it in the presentation – because that sense of anticipation and excitement was what we were trying to get across.

The actual experience can get it over in a better way than 20 slides telling them about the experience ever will.

More recently I’ve been playing around with a programme called Prezi.  It’s a Flash based presentation programme – essentially a PowerPoint replacement.

However, the really exciting thing about it is the ability to create layers in what you are saying – to zoom into and explore the bits that people are interested in, and gloss over the bits that they aren’t.

It works really well for media presentations in particular – you can show all the working out without having to flick through twenty slides of tables and graphs.

But it isn’t perfect.  It makes it harder to include images, which are often the most emotive and important part of the presentation. And there is still a tendency to focus on bullet points (don’t get me started on bullet points) which is unhelpful.

The thing is though, PowerPoint isn’t the problem.  It’s just doing what people tell it to. 

Why do we assume that this is something people can just do? I have yet to come across an organisation that actually trains people how to put a presentation together.

So why are we surprised that good PowerPoint use is so rare?  And why do we put up with it?

So, on a related note I’m looking forward to Bettakulture  down at the Corn Exchange tonight, and hoping that it will prove that there is a better way to do PowerPoint!

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