Can PowerPoint Actually Become Cool Again?

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment


July 7, 2011. Over the last couple of months I have spent a lot of time working with one of Accenture’s innovation centers. It has been a great experience as we have really tried to dive deep into what concerns organizations today and in the future. In addition, we have worked hard to create a format that drives dialogue versus presentation of content.

However, we have not gone so far as to give up on content quite yet. Instead, we have spent some time to rethink what a PowerPoint presentation does and how it can be delivered. Here are some examples and some areas where I think PowerPoint will go in the future as a tool for presenting content:

  • 16:9 Format: PowerPoint is setup to deliver a 4:3 presentation. In other words the old standard that looks like a TV. With PowerPoint being used so much, the amount of content going on slides has become overwhelming. In the Innovation Center, we have tuned most of our projectors for a 16:9 format (i.e. HD) and therefore, have been able to increase the amount of real estate available for messages.  However, we have not used this increase in real estate to add more content, but to better place and position content. Since many screens are going the way of 16:9 these days it is logical that PowerPoint should do this as well.
  • Asynchronous Screens*: If you have ever been to a big conference, you will often take note of the screens on the left and right of the presenter. In all cases that I have seen, both screens carry the same message. In the work we have been doing, we have extended our template to double width so that we can have one message or graphic on one side and another graphic on the other side. Instead of building slides with images on top of each other, we generally use a left to right build similar to reading a book or banner.
  • Better Focus on Presenter and Slide Combination: As I mentioned above, the center is designed for conversation not presentation. It does not mean presentation has no role, but should be used to guide conversation, introduce ideas and concepts, and to present visual cues when needed. As we have built our slides we have really remembered this versus creating slides to be read and understood without a presenter. PowerPoint is not geared for the latter and if driving conversation is the goal that should really be recognized.

The first two bullets to me speak about where PowerPoint can go in the future and the last bullet is really just a best practice. In any case, I think Microsoft and other similar presentation tools should focus on these points and provide features, functions, and guidance that assist with the above.

Having the ability to work in an innovation center and depart from the standard PowerPoint practices has actually made PowerPoint interesting again.

*Setting Up Asynchronous Screens: Setting up the technology to run two screens off one computer can be a bit tricky. It involved an A/V system that allows different content to be sent to different screens (where two projectors are installed), a computer with two video outputs, and a special video card.
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