PowerPoint decks have been the go-to media for presenting information to colleagues for a long time. Many would say too long. Ever since PowerPoint’s creation in 1990, salespeople, staff members, managers and executives (and that guy who wants to sell you a timeshare) have leaned on it to deliver their stories. Often, it works just fine. Alarmingly, PowerPoint has become an all-too-common media for customer-facing marketing materials.
Given the advent of modern web technologies, there are more inspiring and cost-effective approaches which offer greater flexibility and, quite frankly, are a lot more interesting. We call them digital presentation tools, and we think more companies need to consider this alternative for customer-facing storytelling.
What’s the Difference?
We’ve all seen them. PowerPoint decks are a series of slides that usually include bulleted copy on the left and images on the right. Maybe a video here and there. Presenters click through the slides and talk about what the audience is seeing, adding in some additional details when needed. These presentations often feel like Ben Stein lecturing in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Anyone? Anyone?
I realize PowerPoint is convenient and easy for internal presentations at staff meetings and the like. Everyone has the software and seems to know how to use its basic functions. So, it has its place. But when it comes to customer-facing communication, do you really want to settle for a linear presentation loop at your trade show kiosk or a downloadable PDF version from your website? We hope not.
Digital presentation tools are a viable option. Just like PowerPoint, they can feature copy, images and video. But importantly, they can be designed to create a much more compelling and highly interactive experience.
Slide presentation software like PowerPoint offers a framework for presenters to create decks based on software-provided templates. You can also create custom templates within the software and even include custom graphics, color schemes and fonts. But let’s face it: there are a lot of limitations. Digital presentation tools offer infinitely more design freedom. Just like a website, you have the ability to start with a blank slate with consideration for the desired user experience, graphic look and feel, content organization, and layout and media options (videos, downloads, etc.). By designing a digital presentation with the user experience in mind, you can eliminate the need to include a presenter altogether. These presentations can create a unique, highly interactive experience at a B2B trade show or on the web. A well-constructed digital presentation can set you apart by allowing potential customers to navigate your content in a way they prefer. Using modern web technologies, you can incorporate numerous design and user experience elements, including animations, custom transitions and other techniques commonly found on the web and thus, comfortably navigated by a potential user.
Think Conversation, Not Lecture
A to B to C to D. While it’s possible to build in navigation, PowerPoint decks are typically structured linearly with presenters driving through the slides in a straight fashion, i.e., a lecture. Buehler? Buehler?
Conversations aren’t linear. They wind naturally based on participants’ interactions and how one piece of content might spark a new area of interest. It’s an exchange, and presenters need the ability to easily change direction. Digital presentations are specifically built upon the concept of a non-linear format. You can go from A to B to D and circle back to C or any other path required. This free-flowing form allows presenters to adapt and users to move freely within the tool.
It’s About Interactivity
If a cost-effective interactive PowerPoint presentation sounds like a unicorn, that’s because it usually is. If your budget is generous and your capacity for menial tasks is high, you can probably put together a somewhat interactive PowerPoint deck. But in the real world of B2B marketing, your budget isn’t unlimited; realistically, that PowerPoint deck is going to end up being, well, a PowerPoint. Not to mention, the deck usually can’t perform well without an accompanying presenter.
Conversely, digital presentations are (at their very core) interactive pieces of software, with a higher capacity to create a strong impression and draw people in. Users may be more likely to spend more time engaged with a digital presentation, leading to better conversations and even conversions. Digital presentations are touch-screen capable out of the box, which makes them perfect for trade shows or kiosks in your office lobbies and common areas.
Deploying PowerPoint presentations for customer use? There really aren’t a lot of options. Most marketers export them as PDFs to hang on websites or give them to salespeople to email or share with customers. Again, presenter not included. Not to mention, there’s nothing drier and impersonal than handing someone a deck of slides.
Since a digital presentation is built using web technology, you can upload it to a web server and have it publicly or privately available via a browser. You can package the tool as a desktop app, which makes it easy for salespeople to use and marketing to incorporate as a trade show display or content for a kiosk. Digital presentations can also be converted to native mobile or tablet apps. The benefits of re-use across myriad media are often cited when customers make the investment in digital presentations.
PowerPoint has its place. It’s great for internal meetings, introductory conversations and board rooms. But businesses’ dependencies on PowerPoint often lead to platform abuse. Opportunities to create interesting dialogues and conversion opportunities are foregone in favor of ease and familiarity. Chances to create interactive, engaging, flexible user experiences are overlooked.