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Before PowerPoint: The History of Presentations

Whether for business, school, or something else, you’ve likely had to give a presentation. We’ve all been on one side or another; either we’re pouring blood, sweat, and tears into a presentation to make it just so, or are sitting on the audience’s end, listening to someone speak on a particular topic–whether we’re particularly interested in the topic or not, as the case occasionally is.

Thankfully for us, modern presentation software and sites such as Visme have made creating presentations–and making them interesting–significantly easier.  Most of the time, we hardly stop to think about how this software might have evolved, or how difficult it might have been years ago.

When presentation slides were first created, actually, they would have been considered a work of art.

Before PowerPoint and similar software was available, slides were hand-crafted. Paula Tesch provides the majority of the information for these type of slides, so please check her article out.

Artists were specifically hired to design slides as a full time job—but not anything else. The work was time consuming, and the artist had to pay great attention to detail.

Slides commissioned from these artists were also quite expensive.  Everything that had to be put on a slide—words, pictures, data—would be factored into the expense.  Moreover, if the buyer wanted anything changed on the slide, he or she would have to go back to the artist, rather than changing the slides themselves.

The slides tended to be finished several days before the actual presentation was due to be given, in order to give the presenter time to rehearse.

The slides themselves were created using various cuts of paper and glue, piecing different parts together to create the image desired.

Because of the process of making them, slides tended to have a lot less information. They would still be filled with charts and visual aids, but featured significantly less text.

While creating slides like this took some time, it also allowed for more focus on the slide’s presentation and design.  A bit more creativity could afford to go into its creation because one person was focusing solely on the slides.  The presenter was also forced to know the material better, and the slides would be significantly less cluttered.  The downsides, of course, were the price to create and the time and effort needed to make.

Slides such as these were known to be used throughout the 1950’s, and likely earlier.  In the 1960’s a new method to present first came into being: transparent slides.

While on a forum site, a man named Wes Bucey notes that by the 1960’s transparent projectors were already being used, as well as needing to drag around both the projector and the slides. notes the abundant use of transparencies in the 1980’s.  The site provides a lot of the information below, and is very informative, so check them out if you have the time.

The process of using transparencies involved transparent slides which had the needed information printed onto it.  The slide would be put onto a projector, which would shine light through the image and project the contents onto some sort of screen.

Transparencies were convenient in that information could be added to slides during the presentation.  Presenters could use arrows to point towards certain subjects or charts, or could circle areas that they wanted the audience to focus on.

Audience participation was also enhanced, as the presenter could create activities of some sort on the slides, and then write, circle, etc. whatever they wanted according to the audience.

Transparencies took over from the original slides, as they were easier and cheaper to produce.  For a long time they were the dominating force among businesses, teachers, and other presentation givers.

Transparencies, however, were not the easiest to port around, as our forum friend suggested.  The transparencies themselves, much like the slides before them, would need to be carted from place to place for the presentations.  A projector would be needed wherever the presentation was given; if one was not readily available, it would either need to be transported to the site, or a new location would need to be found.

The invention of slide projectors made the transportation process slightly easier.  A slide projector, though still somewhat bulky, usually held about 80 slides, according to, although they could potentially hold more.  The slides were also relatively smaller than the transparencies.  This made slide transportation, at least, less of a hassle.

The ability to present the slides themselves was also more advanced.  Slide transitions and audio in presentations originated here.  Animations—using different slides—in presentations also appeared with the invention of the slide projector.

The slides themselves were still created by dedicated professionals, who could usually max out at 30 slides a day—a significantly reduced time from the original slides of the 1950’s and earlier.  Generally speaking, the slides were created using tablets, and sometimes included actual photos in the mix.

The most obvious benefit of slide projectors was the greater ability to transport presentations from place to place.  That aside, several innovations included were also able to set the stage for later developments.

One large issue with slide projectors was that the creation of the slides was still rather expensive.  Moreover, it still required hiring an outside team to create the desired slides, and it likely would have had similar difficulties as predecessors with editing information.

In the 1990’s, PowerPoint first made its appearance on the scene.

The original program was not as easily accessible as it is now, but it still proved a step in the right direction.  For one, at the time it still wasn’t always easy to transport, as, since laptops and USB’s had yet to be invented, desktop computers had to either already be in, or be carried to, the places where presentations were to be given.

The original version of PowerPoint also didn’t include quite so many features as the modern version.  The article “Remembering Life Before PowerPoint” states that the program was originally known as ‘Presenter,’ and it had the bare basics used to create presentations but little else.

PowerPoint may have had its issues at the time of its creation, but it still proved incredibly useful, which contributes to its longevity.  The presentation software—aside from being considered ‘innovative’ and something of a step into the future—allowed for presenters to create their own presentations rather than rely on outside aid.  The program itself would still cost a bit to buy and install the first time, but enough presentations could be made in the long run to justify the cost, making it ultimately cheaper than the previous methods.

According to the article “Remembering Life Before PowerPoint,” in 1997, PowerPoint began adding some of the features we in the present day are familiar with: slide transitions, animations, audio features, and the like, allowing it to surpass the slide projectors before it.

In the early 2000’s, however, people began looking for alternatives to PowerPoint software.  At the time, however, there was little to compete with it unless a presenter wished to commission someone else to create something for them, much like the presentation methods in years past.  One particular example, known as Multimedia presentations, managed to gain popularity due to the ability to skip to a desired slide anytime one wished.

Many individuals still wished to see other, cheaper alternatives to PowerPoint.  Other presentation software—such as Prezi, Google Slides, and Visme itself—began to materialize.  Many sites such as these offer a ‘free’ version, usually with a bare-minimum package, and various buying options.

Online presentation software has quite a few options PowerPoint does not.  For example, Visme has plenty of available preset templates, as well as the ability to easily share a presentation.  Many presentation sites include libraries of preset images and animations to use, and sites like Visme include the ability to create infographics to enhance your presentation.

In the modern day, it is easy to create a fluid, accessible presentation.  With USB’s, laptops, online sharing, and even presentation software specifically online, transporting presentations has become significantly easier.

Presenting has become far cheaper, with potentially free presentation software available, as well as comparatively cheap software that can be used again and again.

Innovative features have been added to presentation software, allowing an individual to create interesting, artistic presentations with much less effort.  Moreover, the presenter can create the presentations themselves, cutting down the need to reach out to another company or individual to create the slides, and allowing the presenter to tweak the slides to his or her heart’s content.

There are some downsides to modern-day presenting.  With less worry about the cost of creating slides, and less worry about how much it’d take to get extra words or images added to a slide, many modern presentations can be bogged down by excessive text on a slide, which can make an audience feel overwhelmed.

Slides design tends to get less attention.  This is likely due to the fact that now the presenter handles all aspects of a presentation, rather than just a few—a double-edged sword, if you will.

The fact that presentations can be tweaked can be useful, but, much like the above, is also something of a double-edged sword; an individual might find he or she has less time to practice the material, or may be so anxious about what is on the slides that he or she never truly feels ready to present.

There are several individuals who also believe that modern presentation software has taken some of the creativity out of presentation creating, though this is debated, and for good reason—a lax presenter may choose to take the easy way out, but there are plenty of creative individuals who create presentations that could almost be considered works of art.

One may wonder where presenting will go in the future.  Perhaps newer programs will add more ways for audiences to interact—such as including voice recognition, where a presenter could say a word to move a slide or could reveal certain parts of a slide when an audience member gives the desired response—or will encourage presenters to put extra creativity into their work.

There is an old saying about remembering the past in order to shape the future.  This seems rather applicable in this situation.  Presentation software is an amazing step in the right direction, as it ultimately eases many of the burdens of presentation creating.  However, remembering the good about presentation history—less information to a slide, preparing further in advance—can help make good software better.

How do you think presentation software might develop in the future?  What would you like to see, and what are you grateful for?  Let us know your opinions in the comments!

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How Galaxy Promotions is adopting Visme for their business needs. (Case Study)

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.49.40 AM

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.52.07 AMToday we’re interviewing Sally from Galaxy Promotions, a small business and member of the Canadian and American Promotional Association.   Sally came across Visme to see if it will help her improve and allow her to more easily market her promotional material for various clients.     She has since upgraded to our Premium plan and is a regular user of Visme.   Here’s a bit more insight into her company and how she’s putting Visme to work:

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How Visme is Helping Solve the Big Data Problem & What it Means for You

Big DataLet’s face it.

We’re drowning in words. There is simply too much information around us that we can possibly consume. We don’t have the time to sort through and grasp the amount of information that comes to us.

And guess what? Your customers think in the same way. Continue reading

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Visme, the faster, more stable all around awesome version has arrived

Visme_Add-SlidesAnnouncing our most anticipated release yet.   The new version of Visme: Faster, more stable, tons of new assets, and just all around more Awesome.

Creating engaging visual content in the form of Presentations, Infographics, and short animations has never been easier and our new version based on the feedback of over 65,000 users makes it even more intuitive and user friendly than before.

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Content Marketing is Ruining the Web: Here’s How You Can Stop it and Stand out in 3 Steps

Content MarketingIf you have an online presence, you’ve probably heard of “content marketing”.

Simply put, content marketing is a practice of providing relevant content to your prospects that “pulls” them toward you.

Over time, you keep creating or curating nuggets of useful content with the goal to convert the prospect into a paying customer.

You don’t send them sales pitches; instead, you send them ongoing and fresh information that makes an impact. The readers reward you with their loyalty by becoming your customers. Continue reading

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10 Tips to Become a Master Presenter and Move a Room

10 Tips to Become a Master Presenter and

Got an important presentation coming up at work?

Want to nail that perfect pitch?

You’re in luck because today, we’ve got some hot presentation tips for you.


How to Become a Master Presenter and Move a Room

1. Know your audience’s pain

Before anything, you want to connect with your audience. You want to know their deepest pain points. Continue reading

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30+ Presentation Tips and Tutorials for the Savvy Presenter

Presentation tips

We’ve been compiling a list of top presentation resources that will help you become a master presenter.

Check out the resources below nicely divided into categories of articles, infographics, Quora and videos. There’s something for every presenter!

Read (or listen or watch) on and let us know your #1 favorite in the comments below.

Keep an eye out for more resource guides in near future. More awesome-sauce coming your way!

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Want Free + Beautiful Visuals for Your Business or Social Media? Here’s How

Create Awesome Infographics, Presentations, Banners, Animations in 1-2-3

Hola! At Visme HQ, we’re working tirelessly to convert complex into beautiful.

Our eternal goal is to let you grab a cuppa, sit back, relax and create awesome visuals with as much as of a click of a button. (Psst… it doesn’t matter what type of visual you’re after – we’ve got something for every need!)

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7 Experts Reveal Their Secrets: How to Use Visual Content to Attract More Readers (Part II)

how to use visual content to attract more readers part-1
Missed Part I? Read it here.

67% of your audience considers clear, detailed images to carry more weight than product information or customer ratings.

Smart marketers, educators and small business owners all around the globe are using visuals to make their message more effective and engaging. Continue reading

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7 Experts Reveal Their Secrets: How to Use Visual Content to Attract More Readers (Part I)

how to use visual content to attract more readers part-1

The Internet can be full of hogwash.

Sometimes you need quick answers and you want to make sure it’s accurate. How do you do that? By asking the right people who’ve put the strategies into use.

With that in mind, I got in touch with some of the leading experts who have combined their blogging with interactive visual content.

These guys are the real deal. They know they stuff and walk their talk. Pay close attention and steal away their secrets as they answer 4 key visual content questions below.


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Posted in Experts Answer, Featured Story, How To, Visme | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments