Does a presentation's medium affect its message? PowerPoint, Prezi, and oral presentations

PLoS One. 2017 Jul 5;12(7):e0178774. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178774. eCollection 2017.

Abstract

Despite the prevalence of PowerPoint in professional and educational presentations, surprisingly little is known about how effective such presentations are. All else being equal, are PowerPoint presentations better than purely oral presentations or those that use alternative software tools? To address this question we recreated a real-world business scenario in which individuals presented to a corporate board. Participants (playing the role of the presenter) were randomly assigned to create PowerPoint, Prezi, or oral presentations, and then actually delivered the presentation live to other participants (playing the role of corporate executives). Across two experiments and on a variety of dimensions, participants evaluated PowerPoint presentations comparably to oral presentations, but evaluated Prezi presentations more favorably than both PowerPoint and oral presentations. There was some evidence that participants who viewed different types of presentations came to different conclusions about the business scenario, but no evidence that they remembered or comprehended the scenario differently. We conclude that the observed effects of presentation format are not merely the result of novelty, bias, experimenter-, or software-specific characteristics, but instead reveal a communication preference for using the panning-and-zooming animations that characterize Prezi presentations.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Audiovisual Aids / classification
  • Audiovisual Aids / statistics & numerical data*
  • Communication*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Dissemination / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Software*
  • Speech
  • Teaching
  • Teaching Materials / standards
  • Young Adult

Grant support

This research was supported by a grant from Prezi (http://www.prezi.com) to SMK. In the sponsored research agreement (which we are happy to provide) and in our conversations with Prezi leadership, they agreed to let us conduct the study as we wished and publish it no matter what the results revealed. Aside from funding the research, the only role that any employees of Prezi played was (as documented in the manuscript) 1) to provide us with a distribution list of Boston-area Prezi customers (8 of whom participated in the first experiment) and 2) as experts in Prezi, review the background questionnaire to ensure that we were accurately describing Prezi’s purported benefits and features (just as PowerPoint and oral presentation experts did the same). No employees at Prezi had any role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. None of the authors have any professional or financial connection to Prezi or personal relationships with any Prezi employees. We do not plan to conduct any follow-up research on this topic or obtain future funding from Prezi. As evident in the manuscript, we took special care not to allow bias or demand characteristics to influence this research.