This is the fourth post in the series guiding you through the 40 contributions to “PowerPoint Design in 2009?  The first three posts are:

PowerPoint Design in 2009: Does Design Matter?
PowerPoint Design in 2009: Develop visual thinking skills
PowerPoint Design in 2009: Six most recommended tips

Here are the links to all the contributions to the PowerPoint Design in 2009 project:

  1. A list of all the blogposts  with a one or two sentence summary of each post.
  2. A list of all the blogposts with quotes from each post.
  3. The e-mail contributions that I received quoted in full. These are from Cliff Atkinson, Guy Kawasaki, Julie Terberg, Michael Alley, Nancy Duarte, Richard Mayer and Seth Godin.

In this post I introduce you to what I think is the most promising new technology for presenting with visuals.

Ditching the slides

Both Robert Lane and Jan Schultink talked of moving away from the linear “click-slide-click-slide” mentality of PowerPoint.

Robert Lane of Aspire Communications has been talking for many years of releasing presenters from the linearity of PowerPoint. His vision is of creating visually interactive PowerPoint shows so that presenters can listen and respond to their audiences and create a presentation tailored to that audience on the fly.

A speaker must move beyond a single-slide-show-mentality and begin delivering many slide shows during performances. That is, he or she divides content into numerous small shows and links those shows together, to facilitate finding individual topics on demand.

Robert has implemented this vision by using existing PowerPoint functionality of custom shows and hyperlinks. His PowerPoint slides look more like a website. Notice the links down the left- hand side – these allow you to click through to different slideshows:


Zooming technology

The technology is finally starting to catch up with him. Jan Schultink commented:

[S]lides will become more fluid as they transition into each other. New technologies enabling zooming in and out of areas will be leveraged.

There are now two technologies available which enable you to do that – but both with limitations.


Microsoft have an add-in to PowerPoint 2007 that was released in August 2008. it’s called pptPlex. It lays out all your slides on one “canvas” and then allows you to zoom in on specific slides.

Techcrunch said:

It turns PowerPoint into a more dynamic presentation tool that breaks away from the slide mentality to allow the presenter to zoom in and out of areas. No more worrying about whether or not a bit of text will be large enough to read when projected on a wall. You can simply zoom in on it.

A number of commenters on that post warn that it will enable presenters to have more bullets and more dense charts with the excuse that you can now zoom in on it so that it is readable! The demonstration video below (if you’re reading this in your RSS reader you may need to click through to my website) rather reinforces these concerns.

pptPlex is a start – but it’s only a research prototype and they seem not to be working to develop it further. Video, audio, animation and hyperlinks don’t work with it.  Also most presentation remotes won’t operate the zooming functions, so you’re  tethered to the keyboard. Although I love the idea of pptPlex I don’t think I’ll even invest time to play with it – it’s too limiting.


Whatever TechCrunch may say, pptPlex is still based on the paradigm of individual slides. Prezi is different. You no longer have slides –  you have a huge canvas to play with.


Here’s a link to the demonstration presentation of Prezi.  Be patient while the presentation loads (even go make a cup of tea) and then be patient while you learn how to navigate round the interface. But I think you’ll see the potential. This is truly non-linear presenting. I can see it being most effective when you want to present the big picture – for example a model, a timeline or a map – that becomes your canvas. Using Prezi you can zoom in on details and then zoom back out to the big picture. That will transform the audience experience.

Here’s a video of Prezi being used in different presentation venues by Nick of BedroomPublishing:

Prezi is currently in private beta phase and you have to apply to get access. Update: I’ve just applied so hope to get access soon and then be able to show you what it can do.

Zooming by the end of the year?

Neither of these tools is yet ready for fully-functional use.

But I’m excited about the possibilities they offer. Here’s my wish. I’d like a combination of Prezi and pptPlex without losing any of the functionality of PowerPoint. Who will deliver?

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