Improving communication skills, or the end of PowerPoint as we know it?

June 6, 2018

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Being able to make a presentation which looks amazing, taking it out there and presenting it has become an increasingly important skill for any employee. We’ve decided to look at PowerPoint, still popular after several decades, as well as newer and more effective presentation tools.    

When PowerPoint first appeared almost 30 years ago (imagine!), it was truly revolutionary. It allowed for the combining of text, graphics and numerical data in one presentation. When purchased for $14 million from Forethought Inc., it was Microsoft’s first acquisition. It has been installed by users more than one billion times and is so influential that it has become the de facto term for any type of presentation, especially within the corporate world.

Yet PowerPoint has been widely criticised for its impact on presentation styles, the ways in which companies conduct meetings and make decisions, as well as declining literacy levels among students, as it has also become popular in colleges and universities all over the world. As online comments tend to split in two schools of opinion about PowerPoint — devoted fans and angry haters — we analyse how trends in presentation have changed, and how to get the best out of the available alternatives.

Compared to 1990, there are many PowerPoint alternatives to choose from today. They’re worth trying, not just to amuse yourself and impress your audience, but also because the tools we use influence the way we think and structure our material and messages.

Google Slides, for example, offers a familiar PPT look, and adds valuable online accessibility and collaboration possibilities. Haiku Deck is an option for iPad users, who don’t want to completely ditch slides but are bored with seeing the same backgrounds, fonts and word art.

If you’re ready to go one step further from the traditional PowerPoint style, try Prezi, one of the most popular alternatives on the market. It is loved by users for its non-linear approach to storytelling — it starts with a huge blank space, and a zoom to navigate through the presentation. However, unlike Google Slides, Prezi is free only in its basic version, and the upgrade for commercial users is quite expensive. Looking for more? Bloggers and presentation freaks have created long lists of interesting apps and tools to experiment with.

However, foregoing PowerPoint is not the only way to improve the quality and persuasiveness of your presentations, nor does using another software guarantee success. Regardless of your preferred tools, notable improvements or changes can be achieved by carefully designing your actual talk, which, as many argue, should be seen as the main mode of communicating your message and more importantly than the visuals. Clear messages, vivid examples, interaction with the audience and good humour have always been the bulwarks of getting your point across — with or without PowerPoint.

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