If You’re Dying by Powerpoint Don’t Try Prezi

I’m happy that many educators outside of the blogosphere are beginning to recognize that sitting power points that are chock full of bullet points are not the way they want to engage and be engaged.  However, I believe if they think the answer is to switch from Powerpoint to Prezi, Haiku, or any other brand of slide deck they might need to ask themselves what the problem with powerpoint is.

1.  Powerpoint is presentation software, that is to say it is intended to support a speaker when delivering a speech.  If you are using powerpoint as a substitute for a web site, a movie, or a student portfolio  or anything that does not require a speaker you are likely using it wrong.  Words come from the speaker, images when they support what the speaker is saying, can be used in the powerpoint.

2.  If Powerpoints are ineffective in supporting a speaker’s presentation, we need to teach some presentation basics, not necessarily pick up a new tool (though I prefer Keynote).

If we don’t teach students to be effective communicators, they will communicate ineffectively no matter what tool they’re using.

Further reading/watching:
Don McMillan’s “Death by Powerpoint“, Scott Elias’s Taking Your Slidedeck to the Next Level, and Dan Meyer’s “Powerpoint: Do No Harm.

6 Responses to If You’re Dying by Powerpoint Don’t Try Prezi

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  2. Well, I agree that people need to learn how to present and engage an audience with no visual aids. Nothing. I always thought whiteboard presentations which are drawn as you speak were the best. I’ve seen some good youtuve video’s of this technique which is a great way to transmit a ton of information – quickly. What’s curious also are hand motions when people present. Those hand movements are essentially drawing images in the air – or in the mind of the audience to help “illustrate” the issues being addressed. Watch any great presenter and you’ll see them fairly animated with their hands – drawing circles – making connections – pulling things apart – going back and forth – giving you hand-signs clues that reference to core idea they are speaking about. I would then argue that ifPrezi is better than PowerPoint, it is better because it makes it easier to mind-map these things as you would with your hands, or if you were drawing in the sand 10,000 years ago, planning for the hunt – for example. But people often present via desktopshare where there is no visual sign of their hands – so it’s helpful in these cases to have some visual aids.
    But in fairness, PowerPoint can be used well if you stay away from bullets and stick to provocative images and diagrams that can’t be deciphered without an explanation, and a few taglines. In the end, I believe both to be visual aids – and if you’re unable to ask questions and engage your audience prior to transmitting your pitch – it doesn’t matter what you use as a visual aid – you’re gonna put everyone to sleep.

    I’ve written some blogs about this – check em out if you like.

  3. I show my students this SlideShare presentation before they make presentations in my classes. Most of us have had to sit through crappy presentations and this show looks at why (spoiler alert: it’s not PowerPoint’s fault).


  4. Great post, Matthew. When it comes to presentations, I generally agree with the adage, “it’s the fool, not the tool,” however certain tools make it easier than others to stray from best presentation practices. Would love for you to take a close(r?) look at Haiku Deck as we designed the app specifically to give users a framework for focusing their message and sharing it in a way that’s impactful and memorable (in a good way). We’re always looking for feedback from experts in the field, so please do drop me an email if you’d like to chat more.

  5. Mr. Needleman, I could not agree with you more. Powerpoint is a tool used to support someone whether or not it’s for a presentation at a convention or for a lecture in the classroom. People who put everything they wish to say all on a Powerpoint slide are not exactly using it to support their prepared speech. They are using it as away to avoid engaging with the audience.

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