Some years ago I was speaking at the Computers in Libraries conference. One of the other speakers asked me to run his PowerPoint presentation as he spoke, and I noticed something fascinating. Before I turned off the lights, and started the presentation, people were interested and engaged. And the instant the lights went off, people's eyes glazed over and they SLUMPED. That's not a comment about the speaker, or even the slides. I learned that people are wired to attune to people -- that's why you go to conferences and talks.
So I don't do PowerPoint, usually. If I do, it usually involves cartoons.
But I have been playing with mindmaps. Many of us, most of us, are visual. And graphics can be a powerful way to illustrate points. Mindmaps are particularly good at something PowerPoint isn't: showing the interrelations of things.
I often use a freeware product called Freemind, which is a Java application, so runs in Windows, OSX and Linux. It's a great brainstorming tool; I like to use it for speeches because you can give a talk, even a complicated one, off a single sheet of paper.
Lately, it offers some great export tools, too. For my upcoming talk in Boise about "Cataloging the Community," I started in Freemind, then found that I could output three files that would allow me to display the file, interactively, in a browser, as a Java applet. That's cool, and means I could bring the files on a jump drive, and just plug it into somebody else's laptop (I like to travel light), then fire up Firefox.
But when I tried to load that on my web server, so all I would need is a browser, I couldn't get it to work. But there are several other options: export as a pdf, export as a png, export as a Flash presentation. You can find the pdf of the program here, and the Flash version here. But neither is as good as the Java applet, which not only lets you expand and contract the various tree diagrams, but provides live links to some of the samples. (Later: no, the Flash does allow you to go to the links -- you have to click on the little red arrow. But it's still not as pretty as the Java version.)
Anyhow, I would much rather see these kinds of tools being used than PowerPoint. Mindmaps help us to see the big picture, and that's better than the 3 bullet slide.
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