Do we need more PowerPoint tools?

Jan 03 2013 by Wayne Turmel Print This Article

We've all heard of "Death By PowerPoint". It's when people overcrowd PowerPoint visuals, or use it to bludgeon us with data, making it almost impossible to separate the important stuff from the extraneous.

This is particularly hazardous to your (and your audiences') mental health when presenting via webinar or webmeeting. So it begs the question, do we really need even MORE PowerPoint tools and widgets? Yeah, kind of.

The fact is, if we used the tools in PowerPoint the way they were intended, we would probably be just fine. Bust most people don't (and it's largely because too many of them are useless and they hide the valuable ones - so much for my week of being nice to Microsoft). So maybe we do need some help.

You know I don't recommend products specifically on this blog, but I came across a tool the other day which is kind of cool. It's especially helpful for those who present highly technical presentations with lots of charts and graphs. MagPointer allows presenters to enhance, enlarge, focus or highlight specific slide elements, on-the-fly and without any preparations in advance.

Truth is, most people do an abysmal job of helping the audience pick out the important information, so I asked Yossi Pinkas, the co-founder of Magpointer a couple of questions about presenting virtually and helping people retain the vital information.

Yossi, in a world of PowerPoint overload, do we really need another widget or add-on? What's the point?

"PowerPoint is lacking in tools to highlight and focus on items in slides, especially on-the-fly. While there are ways to highlight objects and focus on them using various animation effects, they require a rather tedious and time-consuming preparation in advance and once they are set, they cannot be changed during a presentation. With MagPointer, one can highlight, zoom and focus on slide objects or areas, in real time, interactively and with no preparations in advance.

"Death by PowerPoint" basically means PowerPoint presentations tend to be boring and difficult to follow. One of the ironic causes for this is the richness of PowerPoint in terms of functionality and options. People tend use what is offered and to stuff their presentations with various design and formatting options, bullets, clip arts, transitions etc., making PowerPoint presentations relatively difficult to design and difficult to digest.

"I believe the strength of most new tools is in their simplicity, nearly automating the design of professionally looking presentations while restricting the users by implementing design rules that prevent slides from becoming "over-crowded". In addition, most of those tools offer easy uploads of presentations or even online creation of presentations, and adapting them for proper display on various platforms (PCs, tablets, mobile phones).

"Yet, one tool which is often used in face-to-face presentations is hand gestures, stepping up to the screen and pointing on certain objects, and this tool is often missed in online presentations. MagPointer is a rather effective tool to replace this, providing sort of "virtual hand gestures". This is especially true online and in webinars."

Honestly, now. When do you want to use a tool like this and when doesn't it add any value at all?
Tools such as MagPointer should be used for content or data-rich presentations, when one is presenting graphs, diagrams, tables etc. It is ideal for classes, training sessions and business meetings as it helps the audience focus on critical information and key data. On the other hand, for presentations which are more "emotional", highly visual and quick-paced, MagPointer will not add value and may even limit the presenter. Just because you have a tool is no reason to use it thoughtlessly.

It should be noted that tools like this often only work when you're sharing the application, rather than uploading your presentation, so test the heck out of it before inflicting it on an innocent audience.

As with so much, think about what you'd like to accomplish with your presentation and for your audience, then find ways to help you all achieve those goals. Learn what tools are out there, and how to use them. Then, you know, use them.

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About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

For almost 30 years, Wayne Turmel has been obsessed with how people communicate - or don't - at work. He has spent the last 20 years focused on remote and virtual work, recognized as one of the top 40 Remote Work Experts in the world. Besides writing for Management Issues, he has authored or co-authored 15 books, including The Long-Distance Leader and The Long-Distance Teammate. He is the lead Remote and Hybrid Work subject matter expert for the The Kevin Eikenberry Group. Originally from Canada, he now makes his home in Las Vegas, US.