Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Are presentations a new type of media?

Think about it. Presentations are evolving into something that looks a lot like its own type of media experience. Neither speech nor document, they increasingly draw on multiple media skills:
  • Public speaking
  • Storytelling
  • Event planning 
  • Theater
  • Visual communication, 2D design
  • Document design
  • Web or online design 
  • Typography
  • Photography
  • Audio
  • Video
  • Animation
Thirty years ago, a speech was a speech. If you wanted to add additional elements (35mm slides, video, handouts, a survey beforehand, etc.), then you needed additional time and resources to get it done. It just wasn’t feasible for many ordinary people or organizations to create TED-like presentations with the skills and tools at their disposal.

(Yes, I know, you still needed the technical and creative skills, but you also needed access to the tools, and those tools all came with some non-trivial cost: either time, money, or both.)

Today the tools are ubiquitous. Not just Powerpoint, but almost everything necessary to create a great presentation (read: event) is widely available. And yet most presentations are so bad (bad to listen to, bad to watch, bad to look at).

It’s easy to blame Powerpoint, but maybe another explanation is because, as a new media form, presentations are still young. Early photography tried to copy painting (not so well), early movies copied theater (not so well), early television copied radio shows (really not well) – so maybe one reason that so many presentations stink is because the form is still trying to figure itself out.

Not an excuse to do a bad job, but if you do a great job, maybe you’re a pioneer in a brand new type of media experience.

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