For decades I’ve used PowerPoint as I suspect many of you have. It has provided the business world with a superb presentation mode for making a point.And over its decades-long tenure, many tools have risen and attempted to challenge Microsoft’s steadfast grip on the presentation segment, and none have demonstrated significant progress despite some clever innovations.

Tools such as Prezi are certainly gaining attention, but I suspect, like me, presenters often find they need both tools because each fits nicely into specific roles to satisfy business objectives. A client recently shared with me the true cost of switching from PowerPoint to Prezi – tens of thousands of dollars in retrofitting existing slide content, not to mention the training, education, and impact on the help desk. Transitioning away from PowerPoint is an idea that should be considered carefully.

While the notion of non-linear presentations is likely to provide excellent agility in how you make a point with a sales prospect or group of colleagues, we must also consider that most presentations require sequential introduction of ideas to make a clear case for your position. We must resist the urge to get drunk on non-linear capabilities because with that notion, we basically adopt a free-for-all model, and that’s not wise when listeners need to climb your mountain a few steps at a time. Certainly, the ability to move freely through content is a key selling advantage in certain situations, especially when it comes to Q&A sessions following a scripted presentation.

The iPad Factor

With the advent of iPad plus AirPlay, the business presentation topography was altered forever. These tools conspire to transform the presentation segment into a whole new arena of opportunities to create and present compelling business stories.

Recently, FINS Sales & Marketing covered this topic (Goodbye PowerPoint, Hello iPad). Unfortunately, my comments about this piece were unapproved for public display with the article, so I thought I would visit the topics of contention here at iPadCTO.

According to experts quoted in the article,

… the technology around wirelessly connecting iPad to projectors wasn’t fully developed enough yet for this to be a widely used benefit

image In my view, the interview subjects missed a critical capability and trend that specifically applies to small companies, startups, and presentations that address requirements for intimate settings involving two or more attendees. iPad, and all iOS devices for that matter, support a new but proven broadcast protocol known as AirPlay. This makes it possible to display iPad output [wirelessly] on any television including HD and non-HD displays using Apple TV. The device costs about $99 and is available in any Apple retail store or online.

The trend is clear, iPad + Apple TV is rapidly becoming the go-to choice for intimate presentations where the iPad screen is inadequate. An increasing number of conference rooms, both in startups and established businesses, are using HD flat panel television technology instead of projectors and screens. The solution is far more effective than the well-known technologies of the 90’s. This approach also offers greater video display agility for a variety of use cases.

And even if a small company hasn’t made the leap to HD television, Apple TV works with existing VGA and HD projectors, effectively wirelessly-enabling all existing projectors and thus, giving the presenter freedom to present from iPad (or any iOS device) fully untethered.

And given the financial constraints of small businesses and startups, the Apple TV/AirPlay approach fits nicely into the budget. Consider that a decent projector with high lumens and good resolution starts at $1700 and requires frequent bulb replacements in the neighborhood of 25% of the original purchase price, this is not a trivial budget item nor is this approach extremely mobile. And clearly, projectors perform poorly in uncontrolled lighting conditions. The screen is also no small expense either; typically in the $500 to $1,000 range. In contrast, a 60″ flat panel 1080p TV is about $1250 and the price is falling every month. Coupled with Apple TV ($99), and you have a 40-60% savings over traditional display options.

StoryDesk vs PowerPoint

According to the author of the FINS article, she highlighted Storydesk because it allows presenters to not just quickly scroll across without clicking deeper, but also click into sub-sections of the presentation. This is an accurate assessment of StoryDesk which I have covered in past articles. It is a fantastic solution that can help you create powerful product and business presentations for iPad – utilizing both linear and non-linear pathways for presentation effect. And my assessment of StoryDesk in 2011 still resonates.

When you think of content publishing for iPad, the possibilities are endless. However, StoryDesk, which could be used for dozens – possibly hundreds – of content-related solutions, is focusing on a simple premise – to use its publishing framework to deliver product and services information direct to potential buyers. Jordan Stopler (and team) have their priorities in the right place – helping companies create content solutions that actually move the sales needle in the right direction.

I like StoryDesk a lot. I think it was a good choice for inclusion in the FINS article and it has some very useful features to improve presentations and create compelling stories. However, the premise that PowerPoint is hamstrung because it is unable to [naturally] exhibit similar navigation agility, is flawed. At the very least, it should be recognized that linking opportunities in PowerPoint make it possible to create non-linear pathways through slide decks. Furthermore, with a tool such as SlideShark, it is possible to effortlessly bounce through content to achieve ad-hoc presentation requirements.

Linear vs Non-linear

And we must also consider that most presentations require sequential introduction of ideas to make a point. We must resist the urge to get drunk on non-linear capabilities just because we can. Certainly, the ability to move freely through content is a key selling advantage in certain situations, especially. When it comes to Q&A sessions following a scripted presentation. However, some attendees need stair steps to understand your most important points.

On balance, it is possible to transform PowerPoint slides into other iPad apps capable of creating flexible methods to conduct ad-hoc use of the slides in any order with polish and ease. Apps such as PictureLink, Prezi, and Conference provide simple techniques to leverage PowerPoint content in magical ways. The mistake most people make concerning such agility is that they assume iOS apps must be designed specifically for presentation use in order to be used for presentations. This was true with iOS versions up to and including iOS 3.1. This is not the case at all today because of AirPlay. It makes it possible to utilize any app that can be beneficial for making a compelling point.

image PowerPoint Investments

While few startups and small firms have significant investments in PowerPoint desks and skills, we must also consider that a startup team who simply knows how to create polished PowerPoint decks, already has an investment in PowerPoint. Often, leveraging existing skills, can mean the difference between startup success and failure. And it’s just as likely that taking a new approach with Prezi or StoryDesk can also be a significant factor that will create traction for a new or small company seeking a unique competitive edge. As such, choices like this are contextual and require careful evaluation. But on balance, teams shouldn’t be encouraged to ditch PowerPoint based simply on the assumption that these assets and skills cannot be leveraged in an iPad and app-centric world.

Presentation Composition

The tools cited in the article, for the most part, are unable to create and edit presentation assets on the iPad. This is not the case with PowerPoint. QuickOffice, CloudOn, and many other apps support fully featured PowerPoint editing capabilities. This is often critical where business intelligence suggests the need to make quick changes in the field. Even Microsoft will soon enter the iPad app space with the long awaited Office for iPad.

PowerPoint Conversion to iPad

Last week I used SlideShark to demonstrate to Keystone Symposia how its largely Office-savvy customer segment could continue to leverage all their PowerPoint assets and skills while transitioning to iPad and Apple TV as a lightweight presentation solution. SlideShark performed extremely  well.

More importantly, SlideShark invalidates the asertion in your article concerning the constraints of a linear conversion of PPTs to iPad (presumably via PDF). With SlideShark, you can easily navigate a large collection of slides to zero in on specific elements in an ad-hoc sales conversation. Furthermore, SlideShark brings forth additional features to help salespeople and presenters leverage legacy enterprise investments in slide decks.

A key feature, which none of the tools mentioned in your article support, is the ability to broadcast the presentation via Apple TV to a large screen while controlling the presentation from the SlideShark iPad app. But most important – when broadcasting to a larger screen, the SlideShark app shows the presenter a dashboard of important data such as the next slide in the deck, the presenters notes, and other visual cues that help to create strong presentations and compelling business stories.

While I agree that StoryDesk and other unique iOS-specific presentation solutions provide compelling opportunities for business use of iPad, enterprises have invested significant human capital in PowerPoint assets including content development, training, and software licenses for long term sustained use. This cannot be so easily dismissed in the manner that your interview subjects have intimated.

>>> … you cant give it [PowerPoint] to someone and let them look at it themselves <<<

This is true, but this is not a compelling reason for companies to toss out PowerPoint and jump on a different platform. There are many ways to leverage PowerPoint content across a wide variety of iOS apps that provide easily-distributed run-time sales and marketing content that can be given to sales prospects.