Creative commentary plus crafty composition

PowerPoint Presents…

If there’s been a development displaying tech prowess in making presentations, a pillar for years now has been PowerPoint.

From my years in the financial services industry, in which those conducting seminars and training sessions had this tool as almost de rigueur, I noted two main scales of adoption: based on adeptness in using the technology, and based on adeptness in visual presentation. Some of us were more comfortable than others with the projection process. Some were better than others in visual effectiveness.

It’s the latter aspect which serves as subject of an article in the current issue of Toastmaster magazine.

Unbeknownst to many of us, but perhaps inevitably predictable, there is an annual show where “purveyors of presentation technology” meet to display and explain. It’s known as the Presentation Summit, last held in New Orleans this past fall. (One wonders if the infamous humidity in this city is good for the hardware.)

Here are some of the highlights of presentation design and trends:

  • ‘Scrolling’ presentations, in which speakers provide links to their websites for attendees to view the slides, are replacing printed handouts
  • Under the auspice of ‘what is old is new again’, the flat design approach is in vogue; here, “the approach is minimalist and clean slide design features simple images and visual messages”; de-emphasized are flashy, 3-D designs, and included are larger headlines with less text; KISS is king
  • A debatable development is the acquiescence of speakers, on request increasingly by executive attendees, in limiting slides to between five and ten; managers are concerned about being able to focus on the big picture takeaway, minimizing tangential detail; however, there is some pushback, based on the position that “Anyone who asks you to limit your number of slides is actually asking you to limit and focus your content”; suggested options involve clarifying objectives with whoever is objecting, and working out a compromise, or providing information outside presentation scope via handouts or website links
  • The use of spatial stories, illustrating relationships between grand scales and fine details; based on space and motion, such structures “help people create mental maps and better organize information”; the approach relies “less on audience memorization and more on audience engagement”, reducing the one-sidedness of typical presentations
  • Changing images by cropping, stretching, or bending them; these can be made full-screen size; other tips include inserting pictures into full images, and ‘creating a background’ oneself
  • To “create new visual experiences” might mean transitioning with a ‘zoomable canvas’, incorporating ‘descriptive videos’ to add complexity, or controlling PowerPoint with gestures
  • A little known feature of PowerPoint is that provides the option of “syncing animations with video and sound”; this offers closed captioning or other highlighting elements; videos which can be ‘bookmarked’, and having animation added to text or shapes which can be segued

These revelations suggest that, if PowerPoint is a mousetrap, technology applied with imagination can add a lot of pizzazz to the structure.

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