Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mindmapping: an alternative to Power Point

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.


Jonno said...

I agree, Powerpoint is so ... yesterday! I think that actually as a tool, Powerpoint (or Keynote) is capable of facilitating good presentations, and a large part of the problem is in the users. However...

I've been using the NovaMind presenter on their Mac version for all my presentations for some time. People are just blown away by it and I get lots of questions about "what software are you using?" etc.

I'll never go back to boring old PPT or Keynote even though I think that I do use them in more interesting ways than most people.

Jamie said...

My family are all Mac users, and I've seen Novamind. Very professional. I also like a lot of the Mac outliners, and used to do presentation on More, years ago.

Finally, though, I think the most powerful presentations may not need any graphics at all. Just a fully present and engaging speaker. But a lot of peeople find that pretty scary!

Chris said...

Jamie - In looking at your presentation, it brings to mind many of the features that I see emphasized in Drupal - a certain portion of the developer / user communities of Drupal don't call it a "content management system", but a "community management system" - that is part of the power of it and why it was utilized so effectively in creating communities in political campaigns and is often used in that space, but it seems that it would a useful platform to explore for meeting this need.

Jamie said...

chris: interesting! Our library website is based on Drupal, so we're getting our feet wet there. I don't know if there is yet a community/multi-user version of Freemind. That would be a powerful collaborative tool, too. - Welcome

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