Oral Presentations vs PowerPoint Presentations vs ZUI Presentations

This study compares oral presentations, PowerPoint presentations and ZUI’s (Zoomable User Interfaces, like Prezi). The key finding is in the way people commonly use PowerPoint which is no more effective than an oral presentation and in many cases it is worse.

Picture of A Carousel Slide Projector - A History of PowerPoint, Adam Napolitan Public Speaking and Presentation Development

Origins of Current PowerPoint Usage

Before PowerPoint, people used to pay good money to create slide decks (for carousels). PowerPoint emerged and people start building presentations without design or storytelling experience. At this point, the bullet point emerges as the standard for presentations. Presentations become more of a document than a true presentation and the PowerPoint pandemic begins.

Demystifying the Magic of Dynamic Presenters

Over the years, presentations became less visually stimulating and used less storytelling eventually evolving into more of a group read-a-long. Have you ever been to a conference and there were a couple really good presenters and a few more that were helpful but wouldn’t have been categorized as “dynamic”? There are some basic characteristics that divide these two categories of speakers. Visual storytelling is one of those characteristics. Through the journey of storytelling you can captivate an audience leading them to take action. As a result, you will boost your personal or institutional brand at the same time.

Harvard’s Research Study

Harvard’s research study tells us the same story of where we find ourselves today. A majority of users are using PowerPoint presentations ineffectively and it is hurting them in multiple ways. It is ultimately hurting their brand and resulting in a sedated audience. Harvard’s recommendations are to utilize ZUI’s like Prezi. The issues faced in presentations are much more systemic than the platform itself. Although, Prezi is a great platform, there are basic visual storytelling methods that are missing. I’ve had many moments in my career where I was asked to redesign someone’s presentation and the key factors that would turn a great opportunity to a missed opportunity was three-fold: an open mind, a willingness to adapt past behavior and the willingness to put in a little bit more work. When those three factors are absent, you end up with what a friend of mine would call “the act of polishing a turd”! The beautified bullet point presentation, still not a visual presentation, just a nicer looking document. Even with a platform like Prezi, you can still find yourself in a state of creating a document rather than a presentation. Users end up using Prezi in the same ways they use Powerpoint and Prezi becomes a band aid masking the underlying issues. Don’t get me wrong, Prezi can be a wonderful tool. However, a presentation platform such as PowerPoint, Keynote, Prezi, etc. is only a part of the puzzle.

Here’s a recap and the first 3 steps to address the misuse of presentation platforms:

  1. Understand how to utilize the tools at your disposal to tell your story.
  2. If using a presentation to aid you, develop a visual story with your slides.
  3. Separate the document from the presentation.

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