Pulling the PowerPoint Plug
Wait…No PowerPoint?!? That’s right. Believe it or not, there was a time when PowerPoint didn’t exist and the world gave presentations without it. If you and PowerPoint cannot come to terms with your irreconcilable differences, perhaps it’s time for you both to take a break and see other platforms…
“Powerpoint Alternatives” Are Not The Answer. How about using Google Presentation or Keynote? Sorry, this does not count as “cutting the cord” from PowerPoint.
In fact, I don’t believe a web-based presentation alternative is the answer either. Web-based platforms for presentations offer interactive chat, audio, group-work features that could be of value during a virtual meeting or webinar. However, everything is still in a slide-based format and capable of achieving the same levels of boredom and staleness as a good-old PPT. That said, go ahead and scratch Zoho Show, 280 Slides, SlideRocket, and ThinkFree Show off the list as well.
Prezi — Rethinking the Computer-Assisted Presentation
Prezi allows you to take the audience on a fly-through journey of your presentation. Zoom out to a birds-eye view of the topic to be discussed, then twist, turn, and zoom-in to highlight details and subtopics.
My opinion of Prezi is very positive. The interface takes a little getting use to, but with 10 minutes of practice, you’ll be able to start creating.
The real skill, however, is mapping out a presentation that is cohesive. It’s tempting to abuse the exciting animation capabilities of Prezi much like we abuse the transitions and spinning entrances/exits of PowerPoint. I found it crucial to outline the entire presentation before beginning work on the Prezi–it was important to see the big picture so that the presentation could be constructed with the big picture and “little picture” in mind throughout.
Your audience will inevitably pay closer attention to a Prezi than a PPT simply due to the flash animation. Also, the ability to communicate knowledge using spacial relationships between items is an exciting ability that linear slide-by-slide presentations lack. Furthermore, viewers will remember your presentation–the Prezi itself, and the content. All the visual learners out there will benefit.
Prezi has a free version and a student/educator free version with a few additional features unlocked. Prezis you create can be given from the web browser, or downloaded as a flash presentation and given from your computer without an internet connection.
Going Cordless (and Projectorless)
How about ditching the laptop and projector altogether? I can guarantee you’ll peak your audience’s interest right away, simply because…*gasp*… you’re not using PowerPoint! Now that you have everyone’s attention, here are few ideas for how to deliver a killer presentation, sans technology.
The Envelope, Please…
Here’s a great way to make your presentation interactive and fun! Plant your six, or seven, or eight key points, quotes, etc. in the audience!
Put each of your major points into a sealed envelope, number the envelopes before the presentation, and distribute to a few members around the room before the presentation begins. It’s more fun if the whole audience doesn’t see you do this–that way, they’ll be more curious when you start calling out audience members.
Ask the audience member to stand, open the envelope, and read the quote, reveal the number, or display the picture inside. Now it’s time for you to explain the significance to the audience before calling on the next envelope to be opened.
Perhaps you want to send your audience home with slides, an outline, or other links/resources? If so, make use of all of those old CD cases! Print a “track list” for your presentation, highlighting the most important points you want everyone to remember. Consider adding a case insert to display pictures, longer quotes or statistics. Enclose a data CD with your speech summary, images, links, etc. This is a memorable and useful take-home item for your group, but should be used only for smaller groups to cost of and time for production.
If you have a lot of prep and practice time and a scripted speech…and really want to entertain an audience…try delivering your presentation with a dynamic duo. Videotape yourself giving half the speech, with appropriately-timed pauses and acting in between. The video can be played in tandem with the live presentation. The effect is the presentation given by the team of you…and you. This can lend itself to great comedy and quality entertainment, depending on creative you’re feeling and the nature of the audience.
One popular format for giving a presentation is P-E-P or E-P-E. This stands for Point-Example-Point, or Example-Point-Example. Pick a standard amount of time that each P-E-P grouping is allocated, and for each grouping, pick one related physical item.
In show-and-tell fashion, start with your first item, deliver the first P-E-P, and explain how the item in hand relates to the topic being discussed. Slides are easily forgotten, but visuals will effectively trigger memory of the presentation’s important points.
Whenever possible, use display items that are, in and of themselves, intriguing and unique.
In conclusion, PowerPoint is not the Devil. There is nothing inherently wrong with PPTs, but sadly, they are misused too frequently. Presenters must make a conscious effort to deliver high-quality presentations that engage the audience, and explore new options when PowerPoint is ineffective or inappropriate.
PowerPoint or no PowerPoint…it’s really not about the presentation, it’s about the presenter.
Read this full series, beginning with PowerPointless: An Introduction.