Like many people in the technology industry, I’m regularly tasked with creating and delivering presentations – it’s something I really enjoy – spreading the message of cloud to the world. One of the things I don’t especially enjoy however is the design process around presentations – luckily I have a great person who handles those parts of my life (thanks Adrian!) and this helps. But I’m always interested when people come to me with suggestions about how I can automate the more manual parts of my life. Case in point recently when I was approached by Israeli company VisualBee, wanting to brief me about their software that automates the creation of PowerPoint presentations. I was intrigued having spent time looking at the different PowerPoint animation and template offerings out there and, frankly, ending up disappointed.
There are two general approaches towards the “improving presentations” theme – the first is that taken by companies like Prezi and SlideRocket who seek to move people away from PowerPoint onto more creative and flexible applications. The second approach is to accept that PowerPoint is the de-facto standard and build a tool that uses it, but to better effect. This is what VisualBee has done, creating a PowerPoint plugin to add animation, images, transitions and general creative bling to presentations.
So… How does it perform?
Sadly (if you’re not a creative person) you simply can’t automate the creative process. I’m happy spending good money with my designer because he has the skills and abilities to create something beautiful from, frankly, something humdrum. I ran a test on VisualBee, updating one of my own presentations 9that I created myself I must add). These two presentations, uploaded to SlideShare, are embedded below. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.
I hasten to add that I didn’t do any post creation editing of the VisualBee file – which from one perspective might seem a little unfair – but the entire value proposition of VisualBee is the ability to automate the presentation creation process – post-process editing seems to fly in the face of that.
So the bottom line is that you simply cannot automate creativity. VisualBee is a nice plugin and all but I’m going to continue using real live humans to do the creative stuff for me.