Multimedia Presentations: The Pros and Cons

multimedia presentationEver since the dawn of history, humans have been enthralled with the idea of creating images that sent out messages. Trace back a history of 10,000 years or more and humans even then engaged in creating images to convey messages. Of course pictures have later been used to not only convey simple things but full languages were developed on pictorial scripts (Mesoamerican writing styles). Thus, it can be safely concluded that images have always been held to be a powerful mode of communication. Multimedia, on the contrary, is a recent phenomenon and it has taken this pictorial form of communication to a completely different level. So what is multimedia and more importantly multimedia presentations? To keep it simple, multimedia presentations use not only pictures but also animations, ideas, sounds and texts to convey a message. Multimedia is much more attention grabbing than conventional stills. Multimedia is the whole package that use some or all of the components mentioned above to create value which is more than what the individual constituent tools can when used independently.

Advantages of Multimedia Presentations in Business

Imagine a business presentation minus the power of multimedia. It is bland, uninspiring and has the potential to make the audience fall asleep. Ever since presenters started using multimedia tools such as PowerPoint, business presentations have never been the same. They have become progressively more powerful and attention grabbing, often to the extent that simple oratory presentations have now become a thing of the past. So profound has been the impact of these powerful software that it is practically impossible to think of a presentation being made without the help of such tools.

Advantages of Multimedia Presentations in Education & Business Sectors

Although multimedia presentations are used the world over, especially in business environments, the greatest impact has been undoubtedly in the field of education. It is truly amazing what a simple thing such as a multimedia tool can do to bring students to school in the third world countries. In the business sector, especially in employee training, multimedia presentations are an effective tool. Multimedia presentations help faster grasping of ideas and concepts than what simple oratory explanations can hope to achieve. As a result, multimedia based teaching ensures lower cost for training sessions and improve overall quality of such sessions. Concepts and patterns can be explained a lot easier using multimedia tools. E.g., statistical data when expressed as animated charts and graphs are more easily understood than when stated as mere numbers.

Use of Multiple Media in a Single Window

The greatest advantage of a multimedia presentation is that videos, audios, animation and stills can all be used in a single window. The flow of the presentation depends on the presenter. In video presentation, it is impossible to insert slides, containing charts, sounds, animations separately unless one knows how to work with a bunch of advanced software including Adobe Premiere, Photoshop or Lightroom. However, in Microsoft PowerPoint, individual video clips can be dragged and embedded into a presentation, animations can be added to a specific slide and sound or still pictures can be independently used to enhance the quality of the presentation without needing advanced video editing knowledge.

Professional Look and Feel to the Presentation

One impact that multimedia presentations have is lend a lot of professionalism to every business presentation. To look professional is a necessity for any presenter and any presentation. Today’s powerful multimedia tools such as Adobe Flash and Microsoft PowerPoint can create stunning audio-visual presentations in just a few mouse clicks helping presenters help their audience to understand concepts and ideas much more easily. PowerPoint e.g., has many free templates which a multimedia designer can download from the Microsoft library and use them to create a professional looking presentation.

Flexibility

Multimedia presentations have a big advantage compared to other forms of presentations because they can be easily edited to cater to specific training / presentation requirements. A 30-minute slide-show presentation on the topic of general open source web development technology can be edited to include specific points on PHP-MySQL, PERL-cgi and Python to cater to the needs of a specific audience. The same presentation can be, alternatively, edited to include a detailed chapter on e-commerce web development using open source technology and cater to another target audience. The possibilities are endless.

Portability

Training professionals find the portability factor of multimedia presentation to be particularly to their advantage. Presetations can be prepared on a laptop and carried to every business meeting, training session or conference. With conference centers having presentation hardware available as a part of the whole package the presenter does not need to haul additional materials, charts or anything else. A small laptop is all that he would ever need to prepare and give a presentation.

Self-study

Multimedia presenestations can also be meant to be used as study materials, downloaded from a server and watched for future references. This would allow a student to no longer depend on live interactions and can thus learn at his / her own pace. Self-study materials using multimedia prsentations have become an essential tool for a wide variety of courses, at graduate, undergraduate and post-graduate levels.

No Paperwork, No Loose Notes

The problem with written notes is that they can get misplaced. With a PowerPoint slide-show or a Flash based presentation, there is nothing to lose. Everything remains neatly stored inside a hard drive waiting to be retrieved at a moments notice. Additionally, soft copy backups can be taken and shared with interested people as references.

Some Specific Utility Examples – Photography Tutorial

Photography tutorials are one such area where multimedia tools are a must. It is much easier to present ideas, explain concepts and technical know-how using an audio-visual tool. Since photography is a visual art form, it certainly makes sense to have pictures and videos do most of the work in conjugation with oratory skills. Simple things such as the effects of different camera settings can be expressed using different pictures of the same scene taken under different settings. As a result the audience can grasp the ideas faster than if they were merely expressed in words.

Disadvantages of Multimedia Presentations – Adapting to Change

Everything under the blue sky has at least a few detriments and multimedia it seems is not free from some either. A business vying to adopt multimedia based presentation would need to carefully assess the additional costs that are applicable. Multimedia based presentation systems would need investment in software, projection tools as well as a change in the way training is imparted to staff. E.g., a business may be looking to start a new orientation program wherein the entire training would be imparted through a two-day multimedia session. Materials from the original orientation program could be taken to create an audio-visual presentation but this would require a change in the attitudes of those at the helm as well as approval of the additional costs.

Lack of Design Skills

This can be explained with an example. Schools in India have adapted multimedia based teaching in the past two decades. It is a booming business worth $100 billion in 2014 by some estimates. There are more than 1.4 million schools in India and yet not all of them have computers. Those which have and those which have been using multimedia presentations in their course curriculum face a different sort of problem. Teachers who teach these programs are sometimes not technically savvy enough to edit the courses and update them to include new material as and when required. Advanced use of Microsoft PowerPoint or Adobe Flash however requires proper training. Thus adopting a new technology does mean investing money into training and infrastructure.

Requirements for Migrating to a Multimedia Based Presentation System – Software

The first thing that you would need to create multimedia presentations is the right software. One of the best multimedia software for creating presentations is Adobe Flash. Flash is easier to transfer, is lighter than PowerPoint presentation files and provide better content security. Having said that, Flash required advanced programming knowledge in order make presentations. Since Flash is widely supported you only need a normal web-browser to be able to play Flash based multimedia presentations. Flash is also supported by most projectors meaning it is an ideal medium for educational and business presentations.

Microsoft PowerPoint

Some details about the efficiency of Microsoft PowerPoint as a powerful animated slide-show creator has been discussed elsewhere in this discussion. The biggest advantage, however, is its apparent simplicity making it possible for every beginner computer user to be able to use the software and create workable presentations. PowerPoint is usually bundled as a package on the Microsoft Office Suite of applications and thus is one of the three basic Microsoft products that most computer users (using a Windows system with Microsoft Office installed) use the world over.

Projecting tools – Projector

The second important tool is a projector. This machine when connected to a laptop will project the slide-show on a screen or wall. There are many different types of projectors available in the market. To begin with one can start with a basic model that can hook up with a laptop via a HDMI or other cable and project the contents on a screen.

Laptop

Without a laptop you will have to haul a computer system at every venue and every business meeting where you need to make a presentation. This is not something that you are going to enjoy. A laptop gives you the convenience to not only make a presentation but also show it to a gathering. When buying a laptop ensure that it has multiple USB ports, at least one HDMI port and a VGA port. The hardware configurations are not that important unless you are going to run advanced animation or 3D design tools. You only need an average configuration to prepare presentations in Flash or PowerPoint and then display them via a projector. However, battery backup should be something that you should look into and it should be a minimum of 6-8 hours. You won’t imagine the kind of paces that you will have to go and make presentations and it will certainly help if your system can run for an extended period of time without having to recharge.

Screen & Audio Equipment

These two are accessories that you mostly won’t have to invest in but are nevertheless just as important. Without a perfectly working audio system your killer presentation with movie clips and audio files will be a boring silent era movie, enough to make your audience fall asleep. Again, a non-existent screen will force you to project the presentation on a wall making texts appear unreadable and images and videos to have pot marks all over. These two things are usually taken care of by the presentation hall or auditorium but it does make sense to make yourself familiar with what to expect at least a day in advance. This way you can suggest some corrective steps if required. After all, you will never get a second chance to make a great first impression!