Presentations potential

M. Röll reflects on the interesting interview “The Dynabook revisited” with A. Kay. He says (in German)

“We use our PC’s as typewriters (text processing, Word), as arithmetic menial (spread sheets, Excel), and as colored-slides-production-unit (“presentations”, Powerpoint). Whereas so much more would do well.”

We don’t yet leverage the full potential of computers but use them to imitate legacy patterns, often focussed around linear, continuous text. Especially powerpoint “presentation” sessions are dissatisfying, which is what also T. Green this week complains about. Nobody likes them, everybody uses them – why?

I think this is because they are a compromise, or a smallest common denominator, which is bridging two opposite styles: literal vs. oral. And thus they are a first step in deploying the new potentials.

  • Many people don’t feel comfortable delivering oral speeches, and are happy to grab hold on their sildes. Without them, they would probably not at all communicate their thoughts to the orally minded audience (often the executive, as explained in the great article quoted earlier) who don’t have the patience to read a written paper which is too linear and allows no interactive feedback. pptoral
  • On the other hand, there are always people asking for the .ppt file of a presentation, which is often annoying for the presenter who regards his/her well-done oral presentation as kind-of abused when reduced to its poor artefact shape. But literacy-oriented recipients can use this file as time-lapse replay to skim through and decide where to stop and dive more deeply into the matter.

So, the typical, boring, 7-bullet-per-slide, presentations keep prevailing although nobody likes them. However, because nobody likes them, the potential of modern presentation programs is vastly unused/unknown, although it takes only a few deviations from the bulleted layout to unleash this potential:

Just choose “empty” layout instead of the “title and text” wizard, fill the text boxes on your own, link some concepts using connector arrows, and move them around until the visual message is most clearly understandable. Then, the nonlinear minded audience will be happy.

For the sequentially oriented, the presentation can be turned into a narration using animation that gradually unfolds such a concept map, e. g. with arrows rolling themselves out by means of the “wipe” animation. If, in addition, annotational quick-tips pop up, the presentation can even auto-narrate itself.

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