Presentation design as a concept is still young, even more so as an industry. Considering it is something of a niche within the design world, it’s difficult to find a true genesis or beginning, so let’s just start with the first release of Microsoft PowerPoint in 1987.

An incredible year – Eddie Murphy performed his iconic special Raw, Eric B. & Rakim released Paid in Full, the original Street Fighter hit arcades, and PowerPoint was making presentations easier to create for businesses and educational institutes.

Since then, the software has had to bear the sins of presentation as a concept. In the same way Hoover and Kleenex replaced vacuum and tissue respectively for people in the US, PowerPoint became synonymous with presentations and people conflated the platform with the skill itself. Now, we’ve spoken at length about this absurd reductivism, but the key takeaway – PowerPoint made presentation more accessible to people everywhere, but as a skill, presentation is a complex interaction between slides, presenter behaviour, and audience.

In our eyes, presentation is multi-disciplined and multi-faceted, an amalgamation of different skills across communication and creativity that has had resounding value in this era of digital, multimedia, and interactive communication. Presentation professionals are designers, directors, animators, writers, public speakers, marketers, communicators, and engagement experts. However, these skills are barely considered when businesses put together presentations as the simplicity and usability of PowerPoint masked the complexity of creating and delivering an engaging presentation.

Presentation in Education

Schools and universities have been more receptive and understanding of presentation’s value as a skill. The increasing use of blended learning utilises digital technologies and traditional class-room methodology to make learning more accessible, more interactive, and more interesting for students and teachers.

Using online content and presentation/communication platforms as teaching resources not only encourages students to learn at their own pace but improves their digital literacy and ability to work autonomously. An experiment of 36 university students studying an engineering course of multimedia technology conducted by Ting (2015) demonstrated that participates developed their autonomy in exercising digital literacy to resolve challenges faced during online exploration and data.

With evidence of improved learning autonomy, schools and universities have historically been more accommodating towards mixed-media learning, offering students online teaching portals and resources so they can access lessons remotely or revisit previous lecture material. This is also helping teachers digitally adapt to industry changes, allowing them to connect with students remotely and use blended material such as online tests and presentations, video conferences, traditional lectures, and auxiliary teaching resources to keep content fresh and engaging for students.

This digitalisation of presentation demonstrates a clear understanding of the changes occurring in technology and audiences, particularly as education provides service to a younger and more digitally literate demographic than most businesses. The ability to understand, design, and deliver presentations is critical during formative years, but remains vital inside and outside the corporate world.

Historically, businesses still opt for live presentations, preferring conference events to webinars. While we regularly encourage organisations to invest in digital platforms for collaboration, onboarding, and training, it’s yet to become industry standard and presentations are often mismanaged, ignored, or outsourced.

Presentation and the TED Effect

Although established initially as a live event and only by invitation, TED talks evolved into a disruptive presentation force when it was offered free online in 2006. These annual conferences spread around the world in different iterations, popularising presentation as entertainment while demonstrating professionals’ ability to deliver engaging conferences.

Social media also started making headway during this era, particularly the likes of Facebook and YouTube, which made creating and sharing content very simple. This abundance of platforms, content, alerts, and updates has also shifted the way presentation has been understood as attention spans shorten and entertainment value increases.

Social media saw the growth of content creators as regular people were given the tools and access to build international following through the videos they produce, posts they publish, and online persona they build. Social media enabled new avenues for creativity and self-expression, empowering people to create content for wide audiences and communicate directly with users.

These platforms combined with the GFC and popularisation of TED talks have inspired many to move towards the presentation industry as it provided the resources, inspiration, and audience to start creating, designing, and delivering.

Presentation Today

COVID-19 demonstrated the challenges of managing information in terms of credibility, timeliness, and scale. However, presentation design is about providing information clearly and easily, such as through infographics that highlight key information and convey it in an engaging way. We’ve also seen the increasing prevalence of webinar platforms, helping live presentations digitalise and offering safe communication/collaboration channels during times of isolation.

Online platforms remain a powerful force in training and education as there as countless channels for learning different skills available online (often for free). We’re seeing people become more proficient in eLearning, both as students and creators. The monetisation of social media content further demonstrates how the presentation industry is digitalising and entertainment continues increasing in value, which we’ll explore further in our next blog.

To understand more about PowerPoint’s role in reshaping presentation in the business and education sectors, check out our collection of academic resources highlighting its value in training, learning, and development. Download your free PDF resource here

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