Magazine article Marketing

An Animated Performance

Magazine article Marketing

An Animated Performance

Article excerpt

Today's top presentation packages make even the most jaded audiences take notice, writes Ron Condon

There was a time (admittedly some years ago) when you could impress people with an overhead projector and handwritten foils. And if you had a carousel of slides, that really showed you meant business.

But the whole area of visual aids has come on a bit since then. Anyone standing up with foils these days might win a few points for sheer cheek or novelty value, but in business presentations the audience expects rather more.

We are assailed by high-quality graphics on TV to the point where we take them for granted, and this tends to rub off on our expectations when we sit down to watch a presentation.

The laptop computer has become standard issue equipment for doing small presentations, and, coupled to a portable projector, it can handle larger audiences as well.

Furthermore, with powerful processors, large disks and CD-ROM drives built into the laptop, you can do a lot more with your material. But standards are constantly rising. The arrival of good presentation packages, such as Microsoft Powerpoint or Harvard Graphics, pushed even the most humble business presentation into new realms.

These packages chose tasteful colour combinations, helped you avoid clashing typefaces, offered up ready-made clip art to help add further interest. They even helped you structure your presentation.

The net result was good-looking, easy to produce, easy to change at the last minute and a lot cheaper than getting it done at a slide bureau. But there was a problem.

Laptop loopy

Within what seemed like nanoseconds, everyone's presentations looked the same: the shaded blue background, the sleek yellow borders and the perfectly formed white text were suddenly terribly predictable. And there was the nagging feeling that up to that point all we had dune was to replace the slide carousel with the laptop PC.

We had saved time and money but we hadn't added anything. That is changing. Since last August, when Microsoft finally rolled out Windows 95 - to the sound of the Rolling Stones singing Start Me Up - the power of the PC has effectively doubled. The introduction of 32-bit processing (to replace was 16-bit) means that the machine handles data in larger chunks at a time.

Since digitised graphics, video and sound files are usually very large, even rising sophisticated compression techniques, this extra power is what was needed for presentations to break out of their static framework.

Never slow to spot an opening, Microsoft is leading the way on the PC with a range of new animation features, which should wake up a few audiences - for a while at least.

The features come in the all-new Powerpoint 95, which is a completely re-written version of the world's most widely used presentation package. The ten features are as follows:

* Animate title - this sends the title text flying, to the top of the screen in the chosen position.

* Build slide text - with each click of the mouse a new bullet point flies from the left side of the screen into position.

* Laser effect - the text appears character-by-character from the upper-right corner of the screen, accompanised by a whooshing laser sound effect.

* Drive-in - with each click of the mouse a new bullet point flies on to the screen to the sound of screeching brakes. …

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