It didn’t seem like it at the time but one massive advantage of these labour-intensive processes was that we had to be very discerning. The fact that creating presentation slides required a lot of time, effort and cost meant that serious thought went into each one. And then of course there was the heavy projector (and screen) that you had to drag round to play the presentation through!
You didn’t produce more than you needed and they were only worth the effort if they genuinely helped reinforce or explain a point. They supported the presentation without becoming the presentation.
And then along came PowerPoint
This isn’t going to be a fashionable ‘let’s all bash PowerPoint’ article, by the way. PowerPoint was and is a boon to a good presenter, in my opinion, and here's why.
Thanks to PowerPoint, anyone can now create high quality, attractive slides on any PC and surf a collection of millions of high quality images to find exactly what they want. You can incorporate different media and use transitions and effects to create a thoroughly professional presentation. Nobody is going to convince me that this isn’t a good thing when used wisely.
But time and technology marches on. We now have Prezi, video, animations and so on. So is a ‘straight’ PowerPoint presentation still relevant, and still the most effective way to ‘wow’ your audience?
Clearly we are well past the stage when anyone is going to be impressed just by the fact that you can use PowerPoint. Possibly a newer tool like Prezi or creating animations to illustrate your arguments could project a more ‘leading edge’ and innovative image for your business. Could Prezi make you stand out from the crowd?
Or why not just create a video specifically for your clients? Video equipment and production costs are falling all the time so the barriers to using it are getting lower. So could the fact that you still use PowerPoint make you look old fashioned?
The medium or the message?
All of these arguments miss the single most important point. Your presentation is about getting your message across and establishing a rapport between you and your client. Different presentation tools or techniques might help you do that – or they might not.
One thing I would never do is make a point of telling a client that you are using Prezi. I’ve seen several presentations that start this way - presumably because the presenter wanted to impress the client by showing them that they are ‘ahead of the curve’ and above using the PowerPoint package that ordinary presenters use.
It rarely works. What I found myself doing in that situation was looking to see how they were using Prezi rather than listening to the points they were making.
And there’s the issue: using technology effectively is just a small part of effective presenting. It’s a bit part player rather than the lead role. And if you’re expecting the technology you use to be a decisive factor, you are not much better off than somebody who uses PowerPoint slides full of bullet points as a script.
PowerPoint will never be the answer to everything; but it is so familiar as to never be a distraction. It’s also easily transportable, reliable and adaptable. So while it’s no longer the latest thing, I would be reluctant to give it up just yet. Just use it appropriately to support your business case, not as a crutch for you to lean on.
Call Hugh Graham on (01963) 240555
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