On presentation tools
written on Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Last week-end I attended Akademy-fr and gave a presentation about Kdenlive.
I don't present very often, and it seems with every presentation I prepare I try a few presentation tools before settling on one. It usually starts with a "Let's give Stage and Impress one more try" thought, where I pretend to act like a normal person preparing a presentation. I then get frustrated by the lack of consistent styling support and start exploring around.
In the past I have used S5, an HTML-based tool, but writing lists in HTML gets old very quickly. I also used Landslide, a command-line tool which can turn Markdown into HTML slides. I am a huge Markdown fan, so writing slides in Markdown suits me well, but for some reason Landslide got into my way too much while writing slides for the Kdenlive presentation: I could not get the appearance I wanted and the many features was getting on my nerves (it feels a bit like each key can trigger an action and I don't always find the way to get out of it) I managed to resist the urge of writing my own tool and went shopping for existing Markdown-enabled presentation tools.
I first tried Reveal.js. It produces impressive presentations, but it felt too fancy for my tastes. I recently read an excellent article by Kathy Sierra titled: "Presentation Skills Considered Harmful" and this quote resonated a lot for me:
My path to coping with heart-stopping stage-fright is to focus NOT on what I do but on what they experience. And since I'm a software developer, I'll think of the audience as my users.
And if they're my users, then this presentation is a user experience.
And if it's a user experience, then what am I?
Ah... now we're at the place where stage fright starts to dissolve.
Because if the presentation is a user experience, then I am just a UI.
And what's a key attribute of a good UI?
It does not draw attention to itself.
It enables the user experience, but is not itself the experience.
With this approach in mind, I finally settled on Remark.js. It is very simple yet efficient. The way it works is surprising: one creates the presentation slides by writing markdown in a text area!
If you have similar feelings about how presentation tools should work, I highly recommend giving Remark a try.