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Perceptions · 2 July '18

Is PowerPoint’s time finally up?

In 1951 the London Science Museum opened its ‘Agriculture’ exhibition which was ground-breaking for its time, featuring superb scale models within dioramas of farming scenes, protected behind glass windows.

Fast-forward forty years and think about newspaper websites back in the 90s. You got to read the articles and look at images rendered digitally at the touch of the button, just like you would have in print form. It was convenient and free, plus the newspapers could count ‘unique visitors’ and sell banner ads online.

Now back to 2018. The agriculture exhibition is still there, but it’s the emptiest room in the museum.

Visitors are instead drawn by the newer exhibits with buttons you can press, textured objects you can grab, immersive VR headsets you can wear, or even disgusting smells you can sniff. These sections of the museum are packed.

And, these days, newspaper websites are highly sophisticated combinations of social-sharing and ‘like’ buttons, lively comments sections, data-driven related articles, and interactive infographics, with every user action generating analytics by which audiences are ranked and adverts highly targeted.

So what does this have to do with PowerPoint?

Museum curators and digital publishers have recognised that people want to participate: it makes them feel engaged and more positive about what they are doing. We are no longer passive learners, but sophisticated participants in (and creators of) our own unique experiences.

Yet too many corporate events (and dare I say it, start-up pitch days) are still following a model where the audience is, to all intents and purposes, ‘passive’.

This is partly driven by the use of PowerPoint (or Keynote, or Slides, etc.) as the default media around which to form an agenda and structure content, which tends to encourage a very one-directional conversation. But it is also a product of session design that places the people on stage on a pedestal and relegates 99% of the brains in the room to a handful of questions at the end. We can’t blame PowerPoint, because it happens just the same during speaker panels, without a slide in sight.

Where do we go from here?

As a B2B marketer running 200 plus events a year, this is something I wanted to address. I’m pleased to say that nearly four years into #mystartupjourney change is happening. At Glisser we have enabled hundreds of companies and thousands of presenters to make presentation (and speaker panel) sessions far more engaging, interactive and memorable.

By applying the same tools of participation as the museum curators and digital publishers to PowerPoint (Glisser beams presentation slides instantly to audience smartphones, and integrates digital Q&A, audience comments, ‘like’ and ‘share’ buttons, and social media feeds) we’re able to bring ‘The 99 Per Cent’ into the conversation.

Not only is this visibly raising engagement levels across all sorts of events – from employee townhalls to graduate recruitment fairs – but it’s also generating better (more democratic) conversations and measurable results.

This last point is important. The newspaper websites recognised that they’re not just measuring visitors, but levels of engagement as a proof of value to audiences (and sponsors). Each click means more engagement, more time spent on the site, and more valuable data from which to understand their audience.

The same logic applies to live events and meetings. Audience engagement, underpinned by technology, is something that can be activated and measured. Expensive events no longer need to be assessed simply by attendee numbers, but with real insightful measures around participation. For marketers (and finance directors) keen to understand whether their events are actually delivering a return on investment, this may be the most Powerful Point.