Do we need more PowerPoint tools?


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

Wayne Turmel has been writing about how to communicate effectively in remote and virtual environments for more than 20 years. In 2016, he merged with The Kevin Eikenberry Group, to create The Remote Leadership Institute, and now serves as Master Trainer and Coach to the Kevin Eikenberry Group. Wayne is also is the author of more than 15 books, including The Long-Distance Teammate and The Long-Distance Team.

Older Comments

Disappointing. Based on the title, I was not expecting a column which was basically an infomercial for one product which is what I got.

Tim Rethlake United States

I agree with Tim Rethlake that the post looks like an infomercial - one of those 'we will write a blog post for you if you include a link to us' kind of deals. (Sorry, Wayne if that was not the case - it just looks like it!)

HOWEVER, it does look like a very useful tool for presenters and I will probably try it. It is a great pity, though, that there is no pricing information on the site - just a 'Fully-functional 60-days trial version' to download. Perhaps that's because it is still in beta, but it does put people off when companies are not upfront about their pricing.

Steve Hards Encyclopedia of Best Free Resources for PowerPoint Users (It's free, BTW, Google it)

Steve Hards UK

Gentlemen, thanks for posting. I appreciate your contributions and your feedback. This is probably as good a time as any to address a couple of points. 1) doesn't particularly endorse any product, and there is no quid pro quo. What does happen, is that I am constantly seeking content for the site, and from the many, many (seriously, many) companies that approach me, sometimes a product sparks a larger question. The point of this article is whether we need more PowerPoint tools, and this is one example that may or may not work for you. Check it out and judge for yourself. 2) Usually, I try to offer several examples of a tool, and I fell down on this one by only mentioning the one. When you crank out as much content as we do, these things will happen 3) I don't apologize for using the people in the industry as subject matter experts. People create technology solutions to solve problems they know something about and their perspective is important.

Again, I value your input, take it seriously and encourage others to join the discussion.

Wayne Turmel Chicago, IL