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5 Fresh PowerPoint Alternatives

PowerPoint. Everyone’s used it, everyone’s heard of it, and a lot of people are pretty tired of it. Have you found yourself seeking an exciting new angle to approach your presentations from? If so, try these five fresh PowerPoint alternatives on for size.

Before you decide which method to present with, though, ask yourself what purposes your presentation materials have. Critically thinking about how your materials are going to support you will help your presentation be more interesting and memorable. For each PowerPoint alternative we’ve listed below, we’ve included a few of its best scenarios and benefits, so that you can pick the best presentation method for your purposes.

PowerPoint Alternative #1: Printed Handouts

PowerPoint Alternatives - Printed Handouts

An often-overlooked option for presenters is to provide a simple handout, instead of putting together a full-blown presentation.

Great for:

  • Kicking off new projects
  • Meetings with a light tone
  • Content that your team might want to reference later
  • Meetings outside of the office
  • Being prepared ahead of time so you won’t have to fuss with technology

Benefits:

Handouts allow your audience members to interact with the materials, and take your presentation home with them. Your attendees:

  • Can read while you speak, benefitting from both auditory and visual learning aids
  • Won’t have to divert attention to taking notes
  • Will be able to focus more energy into thinking about what you’re presenting on
  • Can share your work with others

Handouts in action:

One person who strongly advocates the use of handouts is Edward Tufte, a pioneer in the presenting world. In his words:

Overhead projectors and PowerPoint tend to leave no traces; instead give people paper, which they can read, take away, show others, make copies, and come back to you in a month and say “Didn’t you say this last month? It’s right here in your handout.”

A paper record tells your audience that you are serious, responsible, exact, credible.

How to pull it off:

Once you’ve decided to make a handout, how are you going to make sure it’s memorable and fun? We recommend Canva as a free, easy, impressive way to put together handouts. Canva allows you to generate all kinds of different content, and it makes you look like a design god with very little effort on your part. Here’s an example made by our Chief Inspiration Officer, Catherine:

PowerPoint Alternative - Handout

PowerPoint Alternative #2: Flip-Boards / Whiteboards

PowerPoint Alternatives - Flipboards / Whiteboards

If you have a dynamic presentation style, and like to sketch or scribble, you might try a using a flip board or whiteboard to present with, in lieu of slides.

Great for:

  • Topics you can draw diagrams to represent
  • If you like drawing or sketching
  • Involving your audience in brainstorming exercises

Benefits:

  • The audience will be captivated by your physical interaction with the board
  • You can shift gears easily and use different colors, lines, and shapes to make sure everyone understands
  • You can invite team members to be involved at the board
  • Doodling can facilitate funny situations easily, which keeps audiences entertained and engaged
  • You have the opportunity to really shine as a presenter, because all eyes are on you

Flip boards in action:

Simon Sinek, author and well-known TED talker, often uses flip boards to sketch and demonstrate concepts during his talks, like his highly-popular Start with Why:

How to pull it off:

There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when presenting with a flip chart, whiteboard, paper tablet, etc:

  • Use bold colors. Yellow, orange, light blue, etc. markers can be very hard to see, especially from the back of the room. Test your markers beforehand and make sure you are well-stocked with easily-seen colors (that aren’t dried out!).
  • Practice beforehand. Find the balance between large enough to be read from the back, and small enough to fit on your board, beforehand. Practice writing at a whiteboard angle, which is very different from writing on paper. If you’re nervous about drawing on the fly, you can even lightly draw diagrams you know you’ll be making in pencil if you’re using a flip board, and trace over them with markers when you’re presenting.
  • Check for glare. If you’re using a whiteboard, scope out the room with the lighting you’re intending on using, and make sure there’s not too much of a glare for anyone in the audience.
  • Speak toward the audience. It’s easy to get caught up drawing or writing on a whiteboard, and to keep speaking when your back is to your team. Just remember, if your mouth is pointed at the audience, they’re going to have an easier time hearing you!
  • Write legibly. Don’t get caught up trying to write so quickly that no one can read what you’ve written.
  • Include visuals. If you’re using a whiteboard or a flipboard, don’t just use it to write words – even lines and shapes can make an otherwise boring whiteboard much more fun and interesting.

PowerPoint Alternative #3: No Slides

PowerPoint Alternatives - No Slides

If you are really comfortable with your material, try delivering a talk without any slides at all. Think about some of the greatest storytellers you’ve known — how many of them used slides?

Great if:

  • You don’t need to show data to prove a point
  • Your meeting topic can involve a lot of discussion
  • You’re confident about presenting and keeping people entertained
  • The content for your meeting can be covered without visual aids, screenshots, examples, etc.

Benefits:

  • There’s nothing to distract your audience or teammates from giving you their full attention
  • Attendees will learn more about your personality through watching you present
  • The situation lends itself nicely to personal interaction
  • You’re more capable of moving around the presentation space
  • You can pack a very powerful punch by moving your audience with your delivery alone

See it in action:

Some of history’s greatest speakers didn’t use any visuals — just think about some of the most famous speeches you know of.  For example, would President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address have been so famous if it’d been made in PowerPoint?

Sir Ken Robinson does an excellent job of addressing creativity in the standard educational system in this TED talk, without using a single presentation aid:

How to pull it off:

  • Bring physical objects or other props, especially interactive ones
  • Incorporate other senses — play music or audio, for example
  • Rehearse enough that you can deliver without a script — you can do this in the car, while working out, etc.
  • Watch the audience for visual cues you can interact with or respond to, so it feels fresh and unscripted

PowerPoint Alternative #4: Mind Maps

PowerPoint Alternatives - Mind Mapping

Mind-mapping apps are great tools for capturing and connecting ideas. They help you understand how you got to where you are, the motivations behind ideas, cause and effect, etc. Creating a mind map during a meeting can be a stimulating experience for your whole team and will definitely keep your audience engaged.

Great for:

  • Brainstorming
  • Planning
  • Strategizing
  • Collaborating

Benefits:

  • Demonstrates connected concepts better than many other methods of presenting
  • Helps keep non-linear ideas organized in an easier-to-understand manner
  • Provides an interesting visual for gathering input, rather than presenting findings

Mind-Mapping apps to try:

  • iMindMap – Featuring one of the most elegant presentation modes available for mind-mapping apps, iMindMap is available for Windows and Mac OS. There’s a free trial, as well as Home & Student / Ultimate editions of the software available.
  • NovaMind – Available for Windows Desktop and Mac OS X, NovaMind is in beta for a number of other platforms as well. The app breaks your maps up into slides you can present, and makes moving through your branches and nodes intuitive and effortless. Both the Windows and OS X versions have free trials.
  • MindManager 8 – If you want to have a lot of control over how much information is shown or hidden within your mind maps, and especially during presentation, MindManager 8 is for you. It’s available for Mac and PC, and you can get a free trial to see if you like it before buying.
  • iThoughts – Creating Mind Maps on the go, or while passing a device around the meeting, can be easy with iThoughts. You can get it for your iPhone, your iPad, and your Mac in the App Store.

PowerPoint Alternative #5: Haiku Deck

PowerPoint Alternatives - Haiku Deck

Of course we have to mention Haiku Deck! It’s very near and dear to our hearts, as you may imagine — but not just because it’s our job. Haiku Deck embraces our favorite aspects of presentations and storytelling: simplicity, beauty, and fun.

Great for:

  • Being inspiring and evocative
  • Presentations that benefit from strong visuals and bold text
  • Large groups that wouldn’t be able to see smaller text from the back of the room
  • Storytelling

Benefits:

  • Makes it quick and easy to create gorgeous presentations
  • Supports you as a storyteller with stunning visuals to pull your audience in
  • iPhone remote allows you to present without having to bring your iPad or computer to the meeting
  • It’s available on multiple platforms (iPhone, iPad, PC / Mac / Chromebook via the web)
  • Your slides will look clean, attractive, and professional — without the ‘template’ feel of a PowerPoint or Keynote slideshow
  • You can print handouts from your deck
  • Your materials will be available online (as long as you save them as public or restricted) so you can share with your team

Someone who uses Haiku Deck:

Lots of people use Haiku Deck, for a wide range of purposes! Here are a few good examples to check out:

But in the interest of the topic at hand, the example I’ll leave you with is from Stefanos Karagos, Haiku Deck guru and founder of XPlain, a performance marketing agency:


The MindMapping Road – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires

So, what PowerPoint alternatives do you use?

Have another PowerPoint alternative not listed here? Any other apps you’d like to recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

7 Comments

  1. I haven’t heard of Canva, sounds great! Especially since it’s not just printing out your slides (which, by the way, is NOT a valid handout).

    Careful though, not having to take notes and reading while listening do not benefit the audience, they can be detrimental to their understanding of your message.
    Reading text is not considered a visual aid. Reading and listening both utilize the language processing centers of the brain. Studies show quite definitively that the brain cannot multitask, therefore a member of the audience will be able to either listen or read, not both, and may miss an important part of the presentation. Better to let the audience know you will provide handouts with all of the key information at the end of the presentation.
    We should always encourage our audience to take notes. Focus on writing just the key points – by hand, not with a computer – and it will lead to greater comprehension and retention.
    Great writeup.

    • Yes, I agree — better to give the printed handouts at the end.(though, audiences can’t multitask…? how many of them are on their mobiles during most large presentations?)

      But why do we actually want printed handouts? Why not post them somewhere with an easily remembered/noted tinyurl and tell your audience they are there, and that you’d love to hear their comments?

      You’ll save the planet a few trees…

      • Great point, @tom_walton:disqus! That could also be another great way to get the conversation going with you and your audience. And it’s also a plus to be good to the environment 🙂

    • Hi @brainslides:disqus-
      Thanks so much for taking the time to read our post and for commenting. Those are great points and definitely good ones to consider when creating and giving presentations!

  2. Perhaps a better “alternative” to ppt is to tell a story, to create interesting slides that guide but are not THE primary source of information. At the end of the day, it’s not the medium from which the presentation was created but the way in which it was created as well as the delivery of that information. The only real “alternative” to ppt is understanding how to effectively create a presentation and deliver it.

  3. Prezi a.k.a zooming presentation tool. It has been around for some years now and comes with a subscription based license model. Prezi offers both a desktop and a web based editor and lets you publish prezis online as well as export them to .exe./.dmg, .pdf and .prz .

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