There could be life with PowerPoint


I think PowerPoint presentations are useful tools when used effectively as a visual or audio-visual aid to support what you say.

So I certainly don’t subscribe to the “avoid PPT at any cost” school of thinking. Much (most) really depends on how you use your aid (and Garr Reynolds has some terrific tips on effective presentations).

I’ve often wished, though, that I could somehow make a PPT into an interactive tool, give it some life as I’m in the midst of leading a workshop or some other interactive event.

For instance, when discussing a chart or graph with people in a workshop, it would be great to be able to write or sketch some thoughts or different ideas as they come up right on a specific slide; what you write or draw is embedded in that slide which you can save, project and print out.

And do all that with a tool that is simple, low cost and just works.

I have such a tool that I’m going to be trying out in the coming weeks courtesy of Hamelin Paperbrands and especially Jane Rowe (who’s just left Hamelin for pastures new) and Gerard O’Mahony, Hamelin’s marketing director.

That tool is PaperShow described by Hamelin like this:

PAPERSHOW is the new OXFORD digital writing kit for digital flipchart and interactive presentations (PowerPoint) for meetings, conferences and collaborative work. A plug-and-play easy-to-use kit to make your presentation personal and unique: add comments, details and crucial points… instantly!

I have a copy of the retail product that I believe is now on sale in the UK (and launching in the US in January).

I’ll be posting about my experiences with PaperShow on my tech blog during November. Meanwhile, check it out for yourself, either at the PaperShow website (only in French at the moment) or at SurvivingMeetings which has some great videos. You can also read some of the early blogger reviews based on the pre-retail beta version.

Let’s see how to put some life back into PowerPoint.

Related post:

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Tom Murphy


    Well of course I would say this since I work for Microsoft, but poor presentations are really the responsibility of the presenter rather than the tool. People argue that presentation software encourages people to create incredibly boring presentations, but you know the same tools also enable incredibly interesting presentations…

    I’ve been amazed at the innovation taking place on slides over the past year, suddenly everyone is thinking about how to keep the audience’s attention using whatever presentation software they prefer.

    Of course you still regularly hit the six hundred word, slide at 8pt font deck… and then it gets worse because the presenter thinks it would be a great idea to read it to you…

    Papershow looks pretty interesting.

    I’ve (Microsoft disclaimer) been also playing with PPTPlex recently ( . It’s a free download from OfficeLabs (for PowerPoint 2007 only) and offers a very interesting alternative way to approach navigating your presentation – with some pretty cool zooming capabilities.

    Of course like a normal presentation, there’s nothing to stop people abusing it… but then that’s what free choice is all about… :-)


  2. Alex Manchester

    Neville, you should try make your way to a presentation by Eddie Obeng (Pentacle Virtual Business School). He uses a camera over a piece of paper, prjected onto the screen, and switches back and forth between that and a PPT slide deck.

    I saw him at the Henley KM Forum back in 2006 and it was singularly the best presentation I have ever seen. Garr Reynolds is brilliant too, saw him in Sydney in July – very interactive and a great narrative. Eddie edges him though.

    The Papershow thing looks great. I’d expect it to take some practice, but the potential is massive. Look forward to hearing about your experiences with it.

  3. neville

    Heh, it felt like that, Bernie :)

    Tom, I’ve used PPTPlex and it’s rather good. Different kind of a tool, though.

    And I wholly agree with you that poor presentations are all to do with the presenter not the tool. So let’s blame Microsoft for making PowerPoint too easy for most people to abuse :)

    Thanks for that tip, Alex.

  4. Jane Rowe

    @Alex Interesting comment re Eddie Obeng. He has actually be an ambassador for Papershow and has been using the beta version for some months. The Pentacle New World Times blog recently featured some of his work with the product at Totally agree re Eddie’s presentations…he’s a very enthusiastic and engaging person.

  5. Eddie Obeng

    Hi Neville
    I am Eddie Obeng. I have also trialled the papershow for Jane Rowe and have now used it in a wide range of contexts from intimate 1:1 creativity and planning sessions to medium sized (~100 people) events up to large events (couple of thousand) It takes a lot of nerve since the prototype had some strange habits like switching itself off mid stream and a very sensitive Rocker Switch. Fortunately Jane mangaed to get papershow to listen to my feedback and production version is brilliant!

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