We’ve all been there: having to create another presentation in a format that seems more like ‘extra work’ than is necessary. However, presentations as we know them are actually an incredible evolution of history and likely to remain a staple in the world of business. The problem is, they can also at times feel tedious leading people to sometimes feel: “PowerPoint is evil?” So, curious ourselves, we did the legwork to find out the full origination story of presentations so we could all fully appreciate the thought process and value. In this article we’ll talk through the history (and mentality) of presentations, so you can better understand the value they provide (beyond just tedious work :))
The slide projector.
Slide projectors were invented in the 1800s, and they’ve been used for almost as long to display images and text on a screen. In fact, depending upon your age, you may even remember having seen slide projectors in elementary school or even at weddings.
Slide projectors were first introduced to the public at the World’s Fair in London in 1851. A few years later (also at another world’s fair), they began featuring three-dimensional images that could be viewed without glasses — or “stereoscopes” as they were called at the time.
The popularity of slides even grew so much that by 1877 there were an estimated 10 million stereoscopes being circulated around Europe and North America alone!
PowerPoint was first released in 1987. It was originally called Presenter, and it was created by a company called Forethought Inc., which later changed its name to Microsoft (bet you didn’t know that fun fact). The idea behind PowerPoint was to allow anyone to create business presentations quickly and easily, so that they could be given at a moment’s notice. The first version of PowerPoint only supported text presentation; it didn’t support any kind of image or video until version 2 released in 1990—but even then, it was pretty basic stuff: users could insert photos from their hard drive into their presentations but couldn’t manipulate them much beyond that.
In 1992, Microsoft bought out PowerPoint and put some serious work into improving the program’s capabilities over time: by 1995 you could use custom fonts and colors in your presentations; by 1997 there were templates available; and after 2000 you were able to insert images (and video!) directly into your slideshows.
Why are there so many presentations?
The answer to this question is a complex one. The first presentation wasn’t given until 1859, when Alexander Graham Bell gave a speech about the telephone. He did not use PowerPoint, Keynote or any other presentation software; instead he stood on stage and spoke. So why did we get presentations?
The answer is simple: presentations are a product of history. Presentations exist because humans like to share information with each other in a very specific way—by standing up in front of others and talking about what you know for 20 minutes or so—and then listening to your peers discuss what they know for another 20 minutes or so.
Presentations didn’t start off as digital things; they were simply written speeches that were delivered by people standing up in front of an audience who would then discuss the material afterwards over dinner and drinks (or some other type of snack).
Why do we even have slideshows?
You’re probably wondering, why do we even have slideshows?
- Slideshows are a product of history. They originated as visual tools for storytelling, which is not a modern concept at all—narrative and image-making were used by people in ancient times to record history and teach future generations about the past.
- We can also thank printing presses for popularizing the slideshow format (and in turn, PowerPoint). Printing presses allowed people to replicate books faster, which made it easier for content creators to distribute information quickly.
- Slideshows are also products of the industrial revolution, when commercial endeavors like public speaking became more important than ever before due to increased travel and population growth during this time period.
The 20th century was also responsible for changes in presentation technology thanks largely in part thanks to computer software programs like Visio!
Presentations are a product of history, but there is always room to grow and further optimize
Presentations are a product of history, but there’s always room to do better.
Presentations have been around for ages, and the fact is they’re likely not going anywhere anytime soon. The fact is, presentations as we know them are easily digestible. As a result, we will always have the need to communicate with large groups of people in such an organized manner; and presentations are the primary way to do this. Additionally, your audience will inevitably be comprised of visual, audio, and reading-based learners; as such it’s important for content creators to ensure that their audiences receive all the information they need in a tailored format. However, there is always room to innovate here. With the ongoing evolution of integrated slide technology, learning styles, art technology, and beyond, the concept of professional and simultaneously exciting presentations continues to progress.
Although presentations are a product of history, that doesn’t mean we can’t evolve them. The balance between simplicity and familiarity mixed with innovation continues to be an excellent growth opportunity. And this opportunity means our audiences are both taken care of while also being captivated. The result: you have fun with the process of telling your story, the audience is excited, and you achieve the goals you have in mind.