Ned Jamieson’s email wasn’t exactly personalised, which normally turns me off, (“Hey Simon, I came across you on twitter and I thought I’d reach out to see whether you’d be interested in something I’ve created” looks a lot like a copy/paste/edit/pray) but I knew his name from his book and Ned’s said lots of sensible things in the past, so he’s on to a winner
What my frugal approach to reviewing means is this: the very fact that I’m even publishing this is a kind of recommendation – at the very least it doesn’t suck!
Ned’s baby is slidebot.io. Slidebot claims to be able to make “Engaging presentations, without the effort”. Score one point against slidebot before I even test it, because it can’t do that and in truth that’s not what it even tries to do. A better claim would be “Engaging slides, without the effort”. Anyone who thinks that slides and presentations are the same thing is wasting time. Still, I kinda like the idea of a tool which allows people to create attractive slides, easily. Frankly, anything to stop people using bullet-points, mindlessly.
The guts of slidebot is this claim…
Naturally, I had to try it. Anything which can make my job faster/easier gets a look-at. And the interface is clean, easy and fast. Plus one point, so we’re back to a draw before we look at it in detail.
Is it magic?
The first big limitation is that it can’t handle anything other than simple statements (or questions). It doesn’t think in any meaningful way. If you give it the quote “The road less travelled” you get that text superimposed on a road. It’s pretty, but it’s not original.
Similarly, if give it the text “financing your business” you get a picture of a hand holding dollar bills. Meh.
And that is both its beauty and its weakness. The beauty of it is that it gives you something which is visually attractive: within seconds you can automatically create attractive slides, and within only a few minutes you get an email link telling you where to download from. The weakness is that you get automatically created attractive slides. They’re soul-less but effective by comparison to the god-awful standard of most presentations – a definite improvement.
After just a few slides, you begin to feel a sense of hard-to-define sameness about them all. Perhaps I’m biased because I know they were generated by a computer but they look like they were generated by a computer. They’re good, clean, competent visual slides – but uninspired good, clean, competent visual slides.
That said, I can see two ways the slidebot approach would be a godsend, straight away, without trying.
- As slides which effectively work as chapter headings to break up more technical slides.
- As the starting point for generating some ideas for slides if you’re a bit stuck
Will it catch on?
I’m unconvinced, but I hope so. The reason I’m unconvinced is that it feels like slidebot is solving a problem for people who, by definition, don’t need it solving. On the one hand, if you’re the kind of person who makes presentation using lots of dense information, perhaps even using bullets etc., you’re not the kind of person who’s going to be able to use slidebot in the first place. While on the other hand, if you’re the kind of person who creates visually impactful slides, you’re going to find you can probably do a better job.
The fee of $19 a month isn’t high, though, so it’s got legs there!
Who’s it most useful for?
Despite my reservations, I can imagine it getting used a lot by people who haven’t had any presentation skills training and who know they need to move on from death by bullet point. If you’re making the occasional presentation and you’re looking for a head start in looking flashy, this is a great starting point.
So not for the professional or experienced presenter but a good leg up for the aspirational one… In my head, I can see it being handy for accountants or lawyers, for example, as they explore how to make their presentations better.
Are there any gotchas?
Well, it’s a computer program, so you need to tweak things manually, obviously. That should be so self-evident that it’s not a gotcha.
What is a gotcha, however, is that some of the images project better than others. Don’t assume the images will work – test them by projecting. If they don’t work, it’s an easy matter to change them but you’d better check first. If you’re using a monitor of any kind rather than a data projector my experience is that you’re fine, though.
Oh, and one biggie… I tested this with my wife, who’s got to give a presentation tomorrow. (Don’t panic, it’s all done and dusted, this was a test.) It’s a real world example. She liked the interface, liked the simplicity, got all excited, and then when slides arrived, laughed out loud because she thought it was a joke…
I must admit, I’m struggling to see why a slide with the text CPD should create a police car. None of the six or seven replacements we tried worked either. Obviously the image-matching algorithm works better if you give it a phrase – and equally obviously the system doesn’t know what CPD is. (To be fair, neither do a lot of organisations! )
Caution – I’ve not tested this fully, so there could be others
Will I use it?
Personally, no. For me it falls unhelpfully between two stools (see above) – but what I will do is recommend it to clients sometimes, when I find they need something to break them out of a mould and they’re the kind of client who likes both gadgets and having a recommendation.