I attended a presentation recently where the speaker started off by telling the audience that they were not using PowerPoint, they were using the presentation software Prezi instead. I have heard good things about Prezi and have seen people use it well and people use it poorly. Personally I have just never spent the time to learn about Prezi and become proficient with it.
The speaker explained that they were using it because it was far more interactive and that they, like everyone else, were tired of Death By PowerPoint. When people talk about Death By PowerPoint they are generally referring to speaker issues, not presentation software issue. Slide after slide of bullet points, too much text on the slide, text in a size that is too small for people to read, poor color combinations, text flying in and out continually, sounds every time text flies in and out and reading word for word from the slides are all speaker issues. None of those are the fault of the presentation software. PowerPoint just happens to be the most commonly used presentation software so it gets the generic brand label when people refer to any presentation.
After the speaker did their short anti-PowerPoint talk they started into their presentation. There was great information in the presentation, but the speaker used Prezi in a Death by PowerPoint manner. The slides all had bullet points, all the bullet points showed at the same time and they read most of the bullet points off the slides. They often walked over to the screen to point at bullet points they wanted to highlight. The videos they used were not imbedded in the presentation. They had to exit their Prezi presentation and open the video from a separate location on their laptop. After the video they went into a discussion with the class and did not immediately reopen the Prezi presentation. As a result the projector was no longer connected to the presentation and it went to the default mode where the screen is that sky blue color, while the projector searches for a source. This is not a huge deal, but is distracting to the participants.
It does not matter whether you use PowerPoint, Keynote or Prezi. They are all just tools. They are visual aides to supplement your presentation. The tool is never the problem. If there is an issue with the presentation it is on you, the speaker, not on the tool. A lot of the critics of “PowerPoint” who are adamant that you do not need to use it at all are used to doing 30 to 60 minute keynote presentations, not the 4 to 40 hour classes that many trainers deliver on a regular basis. There are some that suggest you should keep the number of slides to a minimum as too many slides always leads to a boring presentation. Those people have obviously never seen Seth Godin do a presentation as he is extremely engaging and uses a ton of slides (almost all of them are just pictures). In reality the critics are blaming the presentation software for the speaker doing a poor job of presenting the information.
As speakers and trainers we need to accept full responsibility for our presentations. Use the software as an aide, not as the focal point of the presentation. If you are using presentation software, then create engaging presentations drawing on Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen philosophy. Let’s stop blaming software for a hardware issue.
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