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

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

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Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Harvard Initiative for Learning and Teaching, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States of America.
Minerva Schools at the Keck Graduate Institute, San Francisco, California, United States of America.


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.

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