Teachers and professors spend years on end teaching students how to give presentations via “Baptism by Fire,” that is, by practicing in front of their classmates and friends. From the engagement that their visuals draw to the body language of the presenters, the object of these presentations is for students to razzle-dazzle their friends with their tech savvy and gimmicks. As such, learning coaches are encouraged to help their students explore and push the envelope on how it can best wow an apathetic audience of peers.
Popular millennial presentation platform Prezi recently published how much better its presentations with all its animation and flexibility stack up against both Microsoft Powerpoint and oral presentations with no visual component. At first glance, the Harvard review looks very promising: the audience much preferred the dynamic nature of Prezi to Powerpoint and enjoyed walking through the story that Prezi created over the mundane list of bullet points that Powerpoint offers.
However, a deeper look into the study will reveal some weaknesses. Firstly, Prezi sponsored the study, so despite the sound best practices the paper promises, readers should already approach the study skeptically. Studies about sponsored studies indicate that the financial backer usually emerges from the tests the victor, and as such, the integrity of the work is often compromised. Prezi maintained with confidence that the study adhered to standard procedures, but
Dave Paradi wrote in a LinkedIn Pulse piece that there were some important elements omitted or miscalculated in the final version of the paper that Harvard released. Consider, for example, the intended audience in the business world. In the Harvard study, the audience was comprised primarily of college students, most of whom are likely technologically comfortable and require more visual stimulation for engagement. However, Paradi noted that, in all likelihood, the audience of a business presentation would be comprised of more older people, who, as noted in the study, by and large preferred the clarity and simplicity of Powerpoint.
All in all, even if Prezi is a “better” platform with all the bells and whistles a millennial could dream of, the point of giving a presentation isn’t to give a good presentation: it’s to inspire someone to action. You could have the most dynamic, modern, and trendy presentation imaginable, but if your audience doesn’t take the intended action, all that goodness is for nothing. Rather, know your audience, and do what it takes to inspire them. And if that audience is a bunch of old-school technophobes, a straight-forward boring old Powerpoint may be exactly what it will take for them to take action with confidence.