Introduction to Electronic Presentation
Electronic presentations, created with software such as PowerPoint, Freelance, Corel Presentations, and Astound, are a common method of presenting information for a variety of audiences in business, government, and education. Their use is becoming commonplace in the school classroom for both teachers and students.
Presentation software is a powerful tool for creating and showing professional electronic presentations, which often include a variety of effects such as animation, sound, and clip art. Electronic presentations are most effective with the use of an LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) projector and screen to provide appropriate visibility for the entire class.
A presentation program is a software package used to display information in the form of a slide show. It has three major functions: an editor that allows text to be inserted and formatted, a method for inserting and manipulating graphic images, and a slide-show system to display the content. Presentation software can be viewed as enabling a functionally-specific category of electronic media, with its own distinct culture and practices as compared to traditional presentation media.
Presentations in this mode of delivery are pervasive in all aspects of business communications, especially in business planning, as well as in academic conference and professional conference settings, and in the knowledge economy generally, where ideas are a primary work output. Presentations may also feature prominently in political settings, especially workplace politics, where persuasion is a central determinant of group outcomes.
Most modern meeting rooms and conference halls are configured to include presentation electronics, such as overhead projectors suitable for displaying presentation slides, often driven by the presenter’s own laptop, under direct control of the presentation program used to develop the presentation. Often the presenter will present a lecture using the slides as a visual aid for both the presenter (to track the lecture’s coverage) and the audience (especially when an audience member mishears or misunderstands the verbal component).
Generally in presentations, the visual material is considered supplemental to a strong aural presentation that accompanies the slide show, but in many cases, such as statistical graphics, it’s difficult to convey essential information other than by visual means; additionally, a well-designed infographic can be extremely effective in a way that words aren’t. Endemic over-reliance on slides with low information density and with a poor accompanying lecture has given presentation software a negative reputation as sometimes functioning as a crutch for the poorly informed or the poorly prepared.
Early presentation graphics software ran on computer workstations, such as those manufactured by Trollman, Genigraphics, Autographix, and Dicomed. It became quite easy to make last-minute changes compared to traditional typesetting and pasteup. It was also a lot easier to produce a large number of slides in a small amount of time. However, these workstations also required skilled operators, and a single workstation represented an investment of $50,000 to $200,000 (in 1979 dollars).
In the mid-1980s developments in the world of computers changed the way presentations were created. Inexpensive, specialized applications now made it possible for anyone with a PC to create professional-looking presentation graphics.
Originally these programs were used to generate 35 mm slides, to be presented using a slide projector. As these programs became more common in the late 1980s several companies set up services that would accept the shows on diskette and create slides using a recorder or print transparencies. In the 1990s dedicated LCD-based screens that could be placed on the projectors started to replace the transparencies, and by the late 1990s they had almost all been replaced by video projectors.
The first commercial computer software specifically intended for creating WYSIWYG presentations was developed at Hewlett Packard in 1979 and called BRUNO and later HP-Draw. The first microcomputer-based presentation software was Cromemco’s Slidemaster, developed by John F. Dunn and released by Cromemco in 1981. The first software displaying a presentation on a personal computer screen was VCN ExecuVision, developed in 1982. This program allowed users to choose from a library of images to accompany the text of their presentation. PowerPoint was introduced for the Macintosh computer in 1987.
A presentation program is supposed to help both the speaker with an easier access to his ideas and the participants with visual information which complements the talk. There are many different types of presentations including professional (work-related), education, entertainment, and for general communication.
Presentation programs can either supplement or replace the use of older visual-aid technology, such as pamphlets, handouts, chalkboards, flip charts, posters, slides and overhead transparencies. Text, graphics, movies, and other objects are positioned on individual pages or “slides” or “foils”. The “slide” analogy is a reference to the slide projector, a device that has become somewhat obsolete due to the use of presentation software. Slides can be printed, or (more usually) displayed on-screen and navigated through at the command of the presenter. An entire presentation can be saved in video format.
The slides can also be saved as images of any image file formats for any future reference. Transitions between slides can be animated in a variety of ways, as can the emergence of elements on a slide itself. Typically a presentation has many constraints and the most important being the limited time to present consistent information.
Many presentation programs come with pre-designed images (clip art) and/or have the ability to import graphic images, such as Visio and Edraw Max. Some tools also have the ability to search and import images from Flickr or Google directly from the tool. Custom graphics can also be created in other programs such as Adobe Photoshop or GIMP and then exported. The concept of clip art originated with the image library that came as a complement with VCN ExecuVision, beginning in 1983.
With the growth of digital photography and video, many programs that handle these types of media also include presentation functions for displaying them in a similar “slide show” format, for example iPhoto. These programs allow groups of digital photos to be displayed in a slide show with options such as selecting transitions, choosing whether or not the show stops at the end or continues to loop, and including music to accompany the photos.
Similar to programming extensions for an operating system or web browser, “add ons” or plugins for presentation programs can be used to enhance their capabilities. For example, it would be useful to export a PowerPoint presentation as a Flash animation or PDF document. This would make delivery through removable media or sharing over the Internet easier. Since PDF files are designed to be shared regardless of platform and most web browsers already have the plugin to view Flash files, these formats would allow presentations to be more widely accessible.
Certain presentation programs also offer an interactive integrated hardware element designed to engage an audience (e.g. audience response systems, second screen applications) or facilitate presentations across different geographical locations through the internet (e.g. web conferencing). Other integrated hardware devices ease the job of a live presenter such as laser pointers and interactive whiteboards.
A VIDEO EXPLAINING INTRODUCTION TO ELECTRONIC PRESENTATION
Working with Presentation Software
The presentation software you choose will mostly depend on the device you prefer to use and the facilities available where you are presenting.
Most students use PowerPoint as it is the most widely available, works on any device and is the most likely software to be available at all venues. This does not mean you cannot use something else though if there is the facility to plug in laptops, iPads etc. This page showcases some of the leading programs and apps.
PowerPoint is the industry standard presentation software. It has been around for decades (since the early 1990s) and during the 2000s developed a poor reputation which led to the phrase ‘Death by PowerPoint’. This reputation is unjust however as PowerPoint is simply a tool and if you use good presentation structure, presentation design and slide design you can produce highly effective and engaging presentations.
Keynote is presentation software only available on Apple products (Mac, iPad etc). It is extremely popular with its users and is the leading market contender to PowerPoint.
To see a Keynote presentation about Keynote click here: Keynote about Keynote (Links to an external site.) Links to an external site.. Please note some features such as transitions will only show if you download and open it in KeyNote on Apple devices.
Prezi is web-based presentation software that uses a zooming user interface (ZUI) to connect images, creating a dynamic (if occasionally nauseating) display. It is free to use as long as you do not mind all your presentations being publicly accessible. You can pay to keep them private (less than £40 a year).
Haiku Deck is mainly an iOS app but there is also a Web App. Its main aim is to simplify presentation design. It is extremely easy to use but can be frustrating if you are used to the high levels of edit-ability of other presentation software. The justification for this is that by reducing the amount of text it allows on a slide, and limiting where you can put images, it forces you to create better slides.
SlideDog is not a piece of software to use to create presentations per se, but it does allow you to seamlessly mix PowerPoint presentations, video, images etc to create a combined presentation.
Developing a Presentation
Planning Your Presentation
Preparing a presentation can be an overwhelming experience if you allow it to be one. The strategies and steps below are provided to help you break down what you might view as a large job into smaller, more manageable tasks.
Step 1: Analyze your audience
The first step in preparing a presentation is to learn more about the audience to whom you’ll be speaking. It’s a good idea to obtain some information on the backgrounds, values, and interests of your audience so that you understand what the audience members might expect from your presentation.
Step 2: Select a topic
Next, if possible select a topic that is of interest to the audience and to you. It will be much easier to deliver a presentation that the audience finds relevant, and more enjoyable to research a topic that is of interest to you.
Step 3: Define the objective of the presentation
Once you have selected a topic, write the objective of the presentation in a single concise statement. The objective needs to specify exactly what you want your audience to learn from your presentation. Base the objective and the level of the content on the amount of time you have for the presentation and the background knowledge of the audience. Use this statement to help keep you focused as you research and develop the presentation.
Preparing the Content of Your Presentation
Step 4: Prepare the body of the presentation
After defining the objective of your presentation, determine how much information you can present in the amount of time allowed. Also, use your knowledge about the audience to prepare a presentation with the right level of detail. You don’t want to plan a presentation that is too basic or too advanced.
The body of the presentation is where you present your ideas. To present your ideas convincingly, you will need to illustrate and support them. Strategies to help you do this include the following:
- Present data and facts
- Read quotes from experts
- Relate personal experiences
- Provide vivid descriptions
And remember, as you plan the body of your presentation it’s important to provide variety. Listeners may quickly become bored by lots of facts or they may tire of hearing story after story.
Step 5: Prepare the introduction and conclusion
Once you’ve prepared the body of the presentation, decide how you will begin and end the talk. Make sure the introduction captures the attention of your audience and the conclusion summarizes and reiterates your important points. In other words, “Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then, tell them what you told them.”
During the opening of your presentation, it’s important to attract the audience’s attention and build their interest. If you don’t, listeners will turn their attention elsewhere and you’ll have a difficult time getting it back. Strategies that you can use include the following:
- Make the introduction relevant to the listeners’ goals, values, and needs
- Ask questions to stimulate thinking
- Share a personal experience
- Begin with a joke or humorous story
- Project a cartoon or colorful visual
- Make a stimulating or inspirational statement
- Give a unique demonstration
During the opening you want to clearly present your topic and the purpose of your presentation. Clearly articulating the topic and purpose will help the listeners focus on and easily follow your main ideas.
During the conclusion of your presentation, reinforce the main ideas you communicated. Remember that listeners won’t remember your entire presentation, only the main ideas. By reinforcing and reviewing the main ideas, you help the audience remember them.
Practicing and Delivering
Step 6: Practice delivering the presentation
Most people spend hours preparing a presentation but very little time practicing it. When you practice your presentation, you can reduce the number of times you utter words and phrases like, “um,” “well,” and “you know.” These habits can easily diminish a speaker’s credibility. You can also fine-tune your content to be sure you make your most important points in the time allocated.
In addition to planning the content of your presentation, you need to give advanced thought to how you want to deliver it. Do you want to commit your presentation to memory, use cards to guide you, or read from a script? Or, you might want to use a combination of methods. To help you decide, read the advantages and disadvantages of the four delivery methods described below.
Speaking from Memory
A distinct advantage of speaking from memory is your ability to speak to the audience without relying on notes or a script. This allows you the flexibility to move away from the podium and to maintain eye contact with the audience. However, speaking from memory has disadvantages, too. Presentations from memory often sound rehearsed and the possibility exists that you’ll forget an important point, present information that’s inaccurate, or completely lose your train of thought. If you decide to deliver your presentation from memory, have notes handy to jog your memory just in case!
Speaking from Notes
Many people like to speak from notes. Typically these notes are either on cards or paper in outline form and contain key ideas and information. If you are using an electronic presentation tool, you may be able to include your notes in the presentation itself. The benefit of delivering a presentation from notes is that you sound natural rather than rehearsed and you can still maintain relatively good eye contact with the audience. The down side is that you might not express your key ideas and thoughts as well as you may have liked had you planned your exact words in advance.
Speaking from Text
Speaking from text involves writing your speech out, word for word, then basically reading from the text. As with speaking from memory, an advantage of this method is that you plan, in advance, exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. A disadvantage is that you might appear to the audience to be stiff or rehearsed. You will need to make frequent eye contact and speak with expression to maintain the audience’s interest.
Using a Combination of Methods
You may find the best method to be a combination of all three. For instance, experts suggest you memorize the first and last ten minutes of your talk so that you can speak flawlessly and without notes. Notes may be suitable for segments of your presentation that you know very well, for example, relating a personal story. Finally, speaking from a text might be appropriate when you have quotes or other important points that you want to make sure you communicate accurately and completely. You can make a smooth segue to written text by saying something like: “I want to read this quote to you verbatim, to ensure that I don’t distort the original intent.”
A VIDEO EXPLAINING HOW A GOOD PRESENTATION CAN BE DEVELOPED