28 August 2009
Breaking away from the slideshow presentation
Paper- and print-based presentations remain a significant part of the presentation of architectural work. Printed boards have the obvious advantages of not requiring power, equipment or the control of ambient lighting. However, as the equipment to do screen-based presentations has become cheaper, brighter and more portable, the rise of the screen-based presentation has followed.
Microsoft’s PowerPoint is the ubiquitous business presentation software. Based on a linear progression through a succession of "slides", the concept is closely based on what previously could be achieved with a preloaded 35mm slide carousel. PowerPoint, however, adds the potential of animation to slides, as well as a bewildering choice of transitions between slides and the ability to add sound and movie media. The software is simple to use and can quickly build presentations combining text and imagery.
The problems you may encounter are that very large image-based PowerPoint presentations can be prone to crash and become corrupted while being worked on. In common with all computer-based presentations, fine line drawings do not work well as you are always limited by the resolution of your screen or projector. The bigger problem, however, can be that your individual design message can almost be lost in the overly familiar look and feel of a PowerPoint presentation.
Adobe Acrobat, used on its own or in combination with its page layout companion InDesign, provides an alternative way of producing and presenting a linear slideshow. The absence of sometimes-cheesy slide animations and transitions is not generally sorely missed but the access via InDesign to much more subtle slide design is welcome. In addition experience of image-rich PDF files have been that they are more stable than PowerPoint ones.
For Mac aficionados Apple's Keynote software provides another alternative. Similar to PowerPoint, it combines ease of use with Apple’s emphasis on design, resulting in an arguably more sophisticated — or at least less recognisable — look and feel, when using out-of-the-box templates.
Some software presentation tools seek to break away from the slideshow model and in doing so offer both challenges and opportunities for the presenter.
Vue is an open-source software tool that has been developed primarily for use in education. Rather than taking the linear slideshow as the starting point, it goes one stage further back and allows the user to create an organisational map of information that can then be linked together. Nodes in the diagram can be linked directly to document files, PDFs, image files or web pages. Multiple slideshows can then be generated directly from the diagram by selecting pathways through the chart. The potential of Vue is it that it is more media rich than specific mind-map software such as iMindMap.
Non-linear presentation techniques are further explored by Prezi, a cloud-based software. Cloud software is increasingly touted as the new model for the distribution of software. It amounts to software hire directly from the web rather than the workstation-based licence model.
To use Prezi you need to sign up to pay for its use on a quarterly, annual or triennial basis from €39 per three months for the pro version (which includes a "traditional" desktop editor and offline presentation player).
Similar to Vue, its concept is based on assembling information on a large virtual piece of paper and then creating a presentation pathway from it. But while Vue displays the pathway as a sequential slideshow, Prezi provides a dynamic presentation of the virtual chart, allowing the presentation to pan, zoom and rotate across the assembled information — reproducing the presentation style of an animated finger-pointing architect leaping around in front of a wall of drawings, rather than the dry boardroom presentation of the slideshow.
Non-linear presentation tools may require a high degree of familiarity and fluency with both the software and the material being presented, but if they help to engage the audience we might yet see screen-based presentations throw off their PowerPoint shackles. Microsoft won’t be left behind though. It already has a beta version of pptPlex, a Windows-only plug-in which brings non-linear navigation to a powerpoint presentation.
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