Visual Presenter: Conversation with Damian McDonald

Visual Presenter: Conversation with Damian McDonald

Created: Thursday, March 12, 2009 posted by at 9:30 am

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Damian McDonald

Damian McDonald
Damian McDonald is the founder of Visual Newmedia which has over 15 years’ experience in developing communication solutions for a number of leading global brands. Damian heads the team in the development and implementation methodologies of Visual’s presentation management solution – Visual Presenter.

Geetesh: Can you tell us more about the problems being faced by folks who create and deliver presentations?

Damian: We’ve been developing presentations for corporate clients since the mid-nineties and have found that the issues businesses face in the area of presenting to their own clients have remained pretty consistent throughout that time.

Obviously, the most-widely used presentation application is Microsoft PowerPoint, which is simple enough that most presenters can construct a basic piece of work within it. The problem lies in a more macro sense: in particular the management – and control – within the business of the various presentations that have been created.

From a business point of view, there tends to be no brand consistency across this multitude of presentations, both visually and within the content itself. This is an issue even for smaller organizations. With individuals ‘going it alone’ to create presentation collateral, the brand messages are mixed, confused, personalized, and worse, often obsolete. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the end-user — another issue we find time and again is that those presenting cannot find the information within the company’s network drives to even update what they are going to present. This is especially true for those working remotely who, ironically, tend to be in the kinds of roles that have to deliver most of the company presentations, and so they simply create and recreate ‘individualized’ presentations, and the information being delivered becomes more and more off-brand, off-message, and out of date.

We also find that even if businesses want to keep their front-line personnel updated with the latest information for client presentations, they often have no mechanism with which to do this. Or you’ll find they can get information to one business channel, but not others, so you still have a frighteningly inconsistent brand message being communicated to clients and prospective clients. So it becomes a vicious cycle, in a sense. These are all issues that we created Visual Presenter to address.

Something else we worked on while developing Visual Presenter was addressing the issues in PowerPoint when it comes to linking associated media files. Clients no longer accept sitting through ‘Death by PowerPoint’ bullet point after bullet point. People expect multimedia, and any effective presentation will include this.

Unfortunately, as multimedia technology has evolved with PowerPoint, media formats such as video, audio, and Flash struggle to maintain valid media links. For example, if you import a video over the network and then disconnect from the network when it then comes to presenting, PowerPoint can’t play the video as it tries unsuccessfully to search for the file on the ‘non-existent’ network location. Very frustrating for the presenter, and very unprofessional.
And how do you merge interactive custom shows? Again we’ve frequently found that those presenters who do begin to get a bit smarter with the advanced functionality of PowerPoint are hampered by the fact that currently there is no way to merge interactive presentations without losing this functionality and having to recreate it. Again, very restrictive, and very frustrating.
The end result, invariably, is that presenters give up trying to create dynamic presentations, they find they can’t customize material to suit a particular audience, they can’t access new information and so they go out to the market with tired, inaccurate, unprofessional-looking material, despite the best of intentions. And the organization suffers accordingly.

Geetesh: How does your Visual Presenter product help them in the problem scenarios you explained?

Damian: Working for such a long period of time in this area, and with a large range of businesses has enabled us to address all these problem scenarios effectively. We also continue to develop Visual Presenter to address issues that we anticipate could affect businesses in the future. At a one-on-one level, we work with the organisations to use this knowledge to address their specific needs. Thankfully not every business is affected by every problem we were talking about in the first question!

Specifically, where we help is in addressing the needs at both ends of the problem, if you like: those of the business itself, and those presenting.

With Visual Presenter, users can create presentations in minutes that automatically tailor the content and design to their audience. Content that is relevant to a user is automatically updated from a centralized server. This is one of the key pieces of functionality of Visual Presenter: it operates as a Master Library of presentations: easy to access, easy to update, easy to control.

We’ve also designed Visual Presenter to allow users to create presentations remotely while flying or in between appointments without internet or network access. Everything they need to create presentations is cached locally.

From the viewpoint of the organization, if messaging changes, or if there’s an entire brand ‘look and feel’ change out, it is simply a case of applying a new PowerPoint template to the library of presentations. Visual Presenter automatically reformats the required content to the correct design format. For larger organizations or those that manage multiple brands, Visual Presenter also enables them to have information dynamically represented with different template designs across the library.

When any changes are published to the main library – and it’s a very simple process to make alterations to the content – online users are automatically notified that updates are available. Through a “one-click” update process all required content for the user is updated to enable them to create presentations on or off the network.

We did a lot of work around the media file issue, and the effectiveness of our solution is that it automatically tracks media content supported by PowerPoint. If media is found that is not stored locally, Visual Presenter will automatically copy down the media and make sure it is tracked with the presentation, the key point being that this ensures that media always plays effectively during a presentation whether you are on or off the network.

A concern often raised with us is the inability that companies have to tailor presentations to suit their audience. This is where Visual Presenter, as an Agenda Based Presentation Management Solution is streets ahead of Slide Management Solutions. When a presentation is created it automatically selects the appropriate information and structure for a given audience. This allows companies to better manage how information is communicated to different target audiences. Further to that, if a presenter wants to tweak the content while they present, Visual Presenter has a unique agenda-based interface that allows additional information to be made available while presenting, giving the presenter a new level of control.

And to complete the process, Visual Presenter makes it simple for companies to get accurate presentation feedback. They can define what they would like to report on, e.g. presentation results, content feedback, next action and date, market feedback, etc. As with the other features of Visual Presenter, this works to ensure a company is delivering the best presentations possible to an ever-demanding market.

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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