So this year PowerPoint turns 30; a significant milestone in the life of the world’s first event technology innovation. It still pervades as the de facto standard for delivery of presentations and communicating to a group of people. In this article we celebrate the world’s most popular presentation tool, as well as understanding the alternatives and looking forward to the future of presentations.
Over the years many competitors have been developed, some with more success than others but all with the same basic goal in mind: The delivery of visual media to assist alongside the spoken word. However, none of these alternatives have ever quite toppled PowerPoint from the position as class leader and probably the key reason for this is one of compatibility and collaboration. Within the Enterprise software market, Microsoft still holds the crown for the provision of productivity software: The Office suite, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook form the backbone of nearly all businesses word-wide. Much of this is to do with the history of Microsoft Windows as a business tool while Apple Macs were considered more of a design tool for so long. This meant that billions of business workstations have been sold as PCs running the Office suite. Right now, in the “Bring Your Own Device” world we inhabit, we are much less tied to a platform and, with web-based email, we are often free to work in the eco system which works best for us. However, Microsoft has worked hard in recent years to ensure that the Office platform works on all versions of Windows, Mac OS, and even mobile operating systems including iOS and Android, and this means that the Office suite remains the file-type standard for productivity in the work place.
From our position as event professionals, we can see how often PowerPoint is misused, with presenters assembling a presentation only to “read” the bullet points to the assembled audience, or the dogged inclusion of particular branding on every slide without realising that the design must work within the context of the stage set backdrop for the event. We are so often approached at the brief stage to assist with engineering the event to avoid “Death by PowerPoint” so it is clear that people recognise there is a an issue, however this is unfairly placed at the feet of the software platform rather than the people who use it.
Part of the problem comes from the planning stage for a presentation: Step 1: Open PowerPoint and stare at a blank slide. The software almost teases you into starting there – “Go on, type in the name of your presentation, then click New Slide” and before you know it you are 45 slides in and what you have actually created is a set of speaker notes.
A more successful route might be to initially sit down with a pen and paper (old school – I know!) and sketch out what you are going to say first. This might seem counter-intuitive but the result could be that you realise what you need to say more clearly and therefore understand what visual media could reinforce your message. If any!
Keynote right? Actually the reality is that there are many alternatives to those who seek them. Below is a table which compares and contrasts the main players:
|PowerPoint||The most compatible, across time as well as device
No reliance on a web connection
|Less creative options and tools by comparison with Keynote
Relatively expensive – Office 365 charges a monthly subscription
|Keynote||Transitions and animations are more visually impressive
Cheap – only £19.99 from the Apple store
Able to export to a .PPTX file
|Restricted to those using Macs|
|Google Slides||Reasonably compatible with existing PowerPoint files
Able to export to a .PPTX file
Cross platform compatibility thanks to web-based nature – will work on Windows, Mac OS, Linux as well as mobile devices
|More or less reliant on a web connection to run
Very restricted animations and transitions feature set
While good for working, reality is that to give a presentation you are likely to export to PowerPoint for playout
|Libre Office||Open source alternative to PowerPoint. Freely downloadable for all Linux distributions as well as Windows and Mac OS
Reasonably compatible with .PPTX files
|As with Google Slides the animations and transitions feature set is simple.|
|Prezi||Hugely impressive paradigm shift in the story telling of your presentation
Exports to a single file wrapping everything together – ensures consistent look on any machine.
|Very reliant on a web connection.
Requires a monthly subscription to their service
Once exported you cannot change your presentation without returning to the online editor.
Of course, this selection is quite partisan – there are many, many players out there, each with their own unique slant on the same basic principle. To stand out they have all focused on some particular aspect of presentation whether it be collaboration, video media, publishing or interaction. The biggest issue they all face is “Is it compatible with my PowerPoint file?” And the reality is that if you come to an event production company like us, either as a client or as a presenter at an event we are producing, we must select which platforms we are able to support for your event. The reality of this is that for reliability we will always opt for either PowerPoint or Keynote, sometimes both, but to ensure that everybody’s presentation looks as they would expect it to, we cannot entertain any of the online or open source alternatives.
As event producers we are privileged to sit at the back of the room and watch some great presentations, as well as some that aren’t quite so good. The most memorable presenters are those who use their presentation software to reinforce their message, speaking from the heart, without notes, and with the onscreen media advancing naturally. Many of these presenters will often speak without referring to the screen at all and their message is remembered because the audience were engaged with what they were saying rather than what was on the screen. Bottom line? It doesn’t matter which piece of software you use, it’s what you say that counts.
Given our privileged position as audience members to hundreds of presentations each year, we are well placed to assist you with your next presentation. We welcome a conversation to help you make an impact and can offer you a range of services including presentation template design through to a full presentation build and management facility. Why not give our team a call?