Beyond Boring

Sore feet, aggressive sales people, and bad PowerPoint presentations are familiar hazards to anyone who attends major conferences like the recent HIMSS meeting in New Orleans.  Comfortable shoes and focused and strategic navigation of the vendor exhibits are two keys to survival.

But what about those damn PowerPoints?  After only a few days of squinting at overstuffed bullet lists and charts with microscopic detail, many of them are more non-prescription sleep aids than vital components of dynamic presentations.  (Of course, I can’t claim to be blameless in this regard, having delivered many presentations on IT topics with high eye-glazing potency.)  If the purpose of presentation is communication and learning, clearly something needs to change.

This isn’t exactly a new insight, it’s something people have been complaining about for years (yes, like the weather and the government.)  And there have been some interesting attempts to map a different path for presentations.  The approach of Garr Reynolds in “Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery” (New Riders, 2008) offers an interesting minimalist path, which is insightful, if sometimes a bit full of itself.  It’s well worth a look.

But wouldn’t it be nicer if a simple, accessible tool came along that embodies these values of a visual simplicity, amplifing points rather than parroting the written page?

One step in that direction is Haiku Deck, an iPad only “freemium” app — the app is free with additional design / graphic packs available for in-app purchase.  The Seattle-based start-up just released version 2 of their software, and it’s well worth a test drive.  The software is available on the App store and the company has a nice website, including a blog and a variety of suggestions, FAQ’s, and ideas for presentations at http://www.haikudeck.com

Haiku Deck is very visually oriented and has its feet planted firmly on the Web.  In addition to traditional presentation modes there are easy options for sharing your designs through a variety of means including Twitter, Facebook,  email, or embedding on a blog.  The supply of graphics supplied with the apps draws from your own graphics, including from web services, and they provide their own library of professional quality images.  And — it should go without saying, but that isn’t always the case — there are clear controls to allow to decide whether your presentation is private to you, available to others through explicit sharing, or public.

Is this the perfect presentation app?  Probably not, perfect is a strong word.  You can always find features you need — and it would be very nice for the app to be available on other platforms.  But, if you’ve got an iPad and want to challenge yourself to make better presentations, you’ve got nothing to lose in trying Haiku Deck.  And who knows — maybe your next audience will be engaged with you, rather than trying to decipher  16 lines of 12 point type per slide…  At the very least, I think you will find it fun to try it out.

Here’s a sample presentation about Haiku Deck 2.0:

http://www.haikudeck.com/p/WcX8qWtWJQ/introducing-haiku-deck-20

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