The Future of Content Episode 36 with Mikey Mioduski

Key Ideas:

  • Presentation design is more important than you may think.
  • When it comes to presentations, succinct is better; one key image and a headline equals something magical.

Mikey Mioduski is the founder of Ghost Ranch Communications, a presentation design agency. He is a visual storyteller who works collaboratively with clients to launch their presentations into new heights.

“If you like design in particular and business in general, presentation design is this wonderful profession that’s growing in demand. I stumbled into it and suddenly became ‘the PowerPoint guy.’ That’s not a glamorous title for most designers; no one is frothing at the mouth to design corporate PowerPoint slides all day, every day.”

— Mikey Mioduski, Founder of Ghost Ranch Communications

As a visual storyteller, Mikey’s preferred medium is presentations. Where others see slide after slide of bullet points that are typically read in mind-numbing fashion, Mikey sees an opportunity.

“Visual storytelling is where we really make our mark. The client may have a core idea that they want to convey or that they’ve sketched out on a napkin or something, and they know it could make or break that one presentation. It may be a complicated solution in a sales or martech deck—if we can help clarify their message so that someone could look at it and get it, that’s what visual storytelling is.”

— Mikey Mioduski, Founder of Ghost Ranch Communications

Mikey and his team work hard to bring their clients’ stories to life by creating templates to keep everything aligned and unified. That’s the easy part. The hard part? Actually working with them.

“I have a hard time with templates, because that’s all they are—a blank canvas. They’re frames, and as such, they’re more about appearance than substance. As presentation designers and visual storytellers, we care about the substance of the slides—how can we take these words and distill them into a key image and a headline that really make an impact.”

— Mikey Mioduski, Founder of Ghost Ranch Communications

One of the biggest mistakes Mikey sees in presentations is how much information clients want to include. He feels that less is truly more.

“Most clients don’t realize that the presentation is just a visual aid; it should enhance the story they’re telling, not be the focus of it. If you think about the best public speaker you’ve ever seen, it was probably someone with one big, beautiful photograph behind them that they’re speaking to. That can be really powerful. If the slide you’re using is distracting everyone from what you’re saying, then it’s counterproductive. Most people can’t read and listen at the same time.”

— Mikey Mioduski, Founder of Ghost Ranch Communications

There is an actual science to the art of engaging presentations, and it sounds like Mikey may have cracked the code!

>> Ghost Ranch Communications

>> Mikey Mioduski on Twitter

>> Mikey Mioduski on LinkedIn

>> Mikey Mioduski on Instagram


Stream Episode 36 now, or subscribe on your favorite podcast platform below.


Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript may contain some minor wording and formatting errors. Apologies in advance!

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome to The Future of Content. I’m your host, Todd Nienkerk. Every episode we explore content—its creation, management, and distribution—by talking with people who make content possible. Our goal is to learn from diverse perspectives and industries to become better creators. 

The Future of Content is brought to you by Four Kitchens. We build content-first websites for universities, nonprofits, and publishers. 

Today, I’m joined by Mikey Mioduski, founder of Ghost Ranch Communications, and we’re going to be talking about presentation design. 

Welcome to The Future of Content, Mikey.

Mikey Mioduski: Todd, thank you so much. I am ecstatic. Elated to be here. This is awesome.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, full disclosure: You have helped us develop a presentation in the past, and so I’ve been through this process and it was very enjoyable. And I learned a lot about creating effective presentations that I didn’t know, and I guess I kind of thought I did, because I’ve done a fair amount of speaking at conferences and things like that. But this was a really unique experience. So thank you for joining us. I’m really excited to share that process and some of those things with our listeners. So I’m curious, just right off the bat: You design presentations. So, what does that mean? Like in a tactical day-to-day way?

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah, sure. And when I told my wife, you know, I was going to go all in on designing presentations, you know, I think she was like, “I better, you know, go find a better-paying job.” Because, you know, I was a generalist, graphic designer, you know, was staying busy with websites, banner ads—you name it, just everything. So we would just take on everything. But stumbled into this niche of presentations, you know, and suddenly became this one tech company’s team’s PowerPoint guy. And, you know, you ask most designers that’s not the most glamorous title, not everyone’s coming out just frothing at the mouth to try to go design corporate B2B PowerPoint slides all day, every day. But on the surface—

Todd Nienkerk: There’s alot of commerce that happens as a result of these.

Mikey Mioduski: I know. Yeah.

Todd Nienkerk: Like venture capital pitch decks and key presentations, all of that stuff.

Mikey Mioduski: It’s phenomenal and I joke about it, but honestly, I am the biggest advocate and evangelist of presentation design now because you’re so close to these things that have tremendous impact and you get to actually be in the room where it happens, you know, as Hamilton would say. 

But, you know, you get this like front-side, courtside seat to work with people like you to be with like hundreds of different speakers any given year. And they actually collaborate with you, the designer, and ask you, “Hey, what do you think about this? What do you think about this flow?” And, you know, it’s pretty awesome. And you have to be on top of your game. You have to sort of be a geek about business and communication and all of those things. But if you like design and you like business in general, presentation design is this wonderful profession that’s growing and in demand. And I can’t speak more highly of it now. I’m just trying to recruit everybody because it’s such an awesome niche. 

But, you know, one of my favorite parts is, in fact, like you said, you learned something as you worked more closely with a true presentation designer on your keynote. And the same is true for us. Every time we get to work with someone, we learn from them. And that’s been one of the coolest parts of the job too, is just seeing that no two speakers do it the same way is eye opening. Because, you know, there’s no one way to give a presentation or prepare that sort of content, and everyone does it a little bit differently. So it’s just kind of a cool place to be a spectator and a participant at the same time.

Todd Nienkerk: I imagine that when most people hear “presentation design,” they probably go straight to like, “Okay, well, you’re going to give me like a slide deck template with some layouts and typography and maybe some illustrations, and all of that.” But the real crux of this is really in storytelling, right?

Mikey Mioduski: Yep, it is. It’s about visual storytelling for us is really where we can help someone with that, that core idea that they know it’s there or they’ve sketched it on a napkin, but they know it could be like make or break for that one presentation. You know, if it’s like maybe a complicated solution in a sales deck or something like some of those, like marketing a martech landscape or your stack—whatever it is, if we can help clarify that so that someone could just look at it and kind of get it, that’s what visual storytelling is. And the more we can help to bring that to life, the more successful that engagement can be and the presentation can be. And yeah, I guess my hot take, too: Templates—we build them all the time, you know, corporate PowerPoint templates. It keeps everybody somewhat aligned, unified at least. So there’s not those Frankenstein decks that are circling around. 

But I have a hard time with templates because that’s all it is. It’s just a blank canvas—it’s a frame. It’s more about appearance than about substance. And that’s what, you know, I think the presentation designers who really care about the story are the ones who care about the substance of the slide itself. How can we take these words and maybe even distill down and strip away 50 bullets and instead create that one key image plus headline equals that magical, almost like advertising design, you know, those great print ads. Less is more, but you can be so powerful just with one key image and one key headline to do something really impactful.

Todd Nienkerk: So in this industry we’ve all heard of Edward R. Tufte, right? He does all kinds of like— He has multiple books that he’s written and essays, and I don’t know if he still does it, but he used to teach these classes where you buy all the books and you go to this day-long thing. And I’ve done that; so many people have done that, right? We’ve all in this industry, we’ve seen this guy speak at some point, right. And he does really deep dives into how to effectively communicate information visually. That’s kind of his life’s work. And he has an essay called “The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.” I’m sure you’ve run into it, Mikey, right?

It’s been years since I read this, but I think that his fundamental thesis statement is: A PowerPoint is a PowerPoint. It’s not a document, it’s not a takeaway. So don’t try to make your slide deck a Word, doc. The slide deck exists to enhance what you’re saying in a visual way and to maybe keep people on point, or to realign people, or to visualize data, or something. It is not intended to be a thing that you download and then distribute. But people do that all the time. PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides—that stuff is regularly used as a daily vehicle for information that people turn into a PDF and download and then flip through. 

So what’s your thought on the role of the literal slide deck, right? The format, the thing that you export from PowerPoint, Keynote, Google Slides, whatever as a takeaway document, like a Word doc or as a video or as a purely visual enhancement. Where do you and Tufte agree and disagree?

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah, he definitely takes some jabs at PowerPoint and he’s right you know, because not at PowerPoint itself but as just a slide where it becomes this easy crutch to just blurt out your thoughts and then talk someone through, like I said, those bullets—that’s the biggest common, you know, probably knock against PowerPoint. Everyone hates to be in a room where there’s just all those bullets on the side and someone just talking through each one. It’s like, “Yeah, I see it.”

He’s right. And you’re right. It should be a visual aid. It should enhance what you’re saying. I don’t know, if you think about the best public speaker you’ve ever seen, or at least a keynote presentation, it was probably someone who just had one big, beautiful photograph behind them and they’re speaking to it. I think of Seth Godin. I think of those really nice TED Talks where, if you were to look at it while that person is saying and if they’ve timed it really well, you know, they click and right when they say that one word, it’s like, you know, “Open,” or whatever. And then there’s this big sky or something, you know, it’s like, it can be really powerful. But if it’s distracting, you know, they say we can’t read and listen at the same time. Like maybe you can, Todd. But like for most of us, it’s physically impossible, right? 

Todd Nienkerk: I can’t do it. I can do one thing at a time.

Mikey Mioduski: It should not be distracting.

Todd Nienkerk: I can chew bubblegum or walk. That’s it.

Mikey Mioduski: That’s it. So if the slide up on the screen is distracting from what you’re saying, then it’s counterproductive. But if it enhances, if it, if it finally gives them that aha moment, that’s where it’s really magical. But the conundrum, of course, is the one question you 100% of speakers get is, “Hey, are you going to share these slides with us?” Or, “Hey, you know, you just got off a sales call—hey, can you send us that deck? I want to shoot it up to my boss.”

Todd Nienkerk: Exactly. Exactly. And so from a practical— Okay, I’m a person who’s giving a presentation. I’m a sales person that needs to make a pitch. That’s the better way to phrase it. What matters is that you’re making a pitch, not that you’re giving a presentation, and you always get asked exactly that. So I speak in a lot of open source conferences and I’ve learned that I have to say twice in the presentation, once at the beginning, “Don’t worry, you will get a link to the slide deck afterwards.” And then about 15 minutes in, I have to say it again. Yeah. Because you can tell.

Mikey Mioduski: The people and notes. Yeah.

Todd Nienkerk: They’re taking it like, come on, come on, just hold on, let’s just talk so that reinforces it. Is that like, well, then that thing that I see on the screen should be exactly the thing that I’m getting and it should convey exactly the information that the speaker was saying alongside it. And so from a presenter’s perspective, or a salesperson’s perspective, or a teacher’s perspective, it’s a real pain to make two documents: One that is just purely the thing that’s on the screen while you talk, and the other is the like the narrative—the actual words that you’re saying, the detailed notes, the book version of the of the presentation. So I can see why people are like, “I’ll just do one thing and send it or I’ll just dump everything in the speaker notes.” 

Mikey Mioduski: It’s a different experience. You know, when I’ve said like it’s not a presentation without representation, you know? That’s why I hated slideshare.net. Like you just, you can, you can dump these slides off. But if Todd’s voice isn’t there to speak to them, it’s then it really is a different experience. Then it’s a document. And then you— If it was created beautifully for that to make sense as someone speaking to it, then if you’re just clicking through, it’s a totally different experience. Then you’re like, “Okay, what the heck does this mean?” Bummer. We do sometimes advise our clients if they have the resources create that send-ahead or that follow-up version with more of that talk loaded into it or more bullets more, more text on the slide. Hopefully it doesn’t have to be too painful of a process, but it certainly is rework. There’s, you know, Nancy Duarte, I don’t know if you’ve heard of her. She’s like the OG, right? You know, she basically made our industry what it is. And she’s got a really cool idea. She calls it Slidedocs. I think if you go to Duarte’s website, they have these really cool training programs and one of them is all about this conundrum. And they call it Slidedocs. And I honestly have not taken it or looked too far in, but what I gather is it’s like, how do you repurpose the slide presentation and make it something that can actually stand alone? Worth looking into.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. You used a term just a couple of moments ago, a “send-ahead,” which I immediately— I’d never heard that before, but it’s obviously the opposite of a takeaway. So I’ve I’ve always I’ve always thought of like, “Well, okay, there’s going to be a takeaway after,” but what do you think is more effective generally? Is it sending the more verbose version ahead or is it having it afterwards? What makes it better, and in what context is that better?

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah. The send-ahead we’ve this will come up I believe the most in a— Think of a board meeting, or a lot of times the send ahead will happen in the VC like pitch process where the VCs demand seeing something ahead and then that’s when they decide whether or not to schedule you for an actual pitch call. 

So we’ve seen it a few ways. You could do a little teaser, a little sizzler to get them excited, but not spill the beans and say, “Hey, look, if you want the rest, wait for this epic presentation we’re going to give you.” But I think for the case of something like a board meeting, that’s where the send-ahead actually becomes— You need to send the full document because a lot of times they’re going to want to review it and then use the meeting actually to test the questions and dig in. So that’s very much situational, right? But otherwise, if it’s in a sale, I would say don’t give away too much. Just use this send-ahead as a teaser and then the leave-behind version of the deck you just sent (or the takeaway) can be that nice synopsis, executive summary. You don’t have to send the whole deck, maybe, but if they need to you can do that. We also like loom.com or some way to record yourself talking through the deck so that you can make sure that they’re seeing you. And I think in Loom I’ve used— I presented myself talking through a proposal because it stinks to have to send a proposal without any context without being able to talk through it.

Todd Nienkerk: That’s a great idea.

Mikey Mioduski: In case they can’t get the meeting all at least talk myself through that, record it and then the chapter notes, I’ll hyperlink to the timestamp and say like, “Here I talk, I show our capabilities. Here are some samples here. Sixteen minutes in is the pricing,” whatever.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, that is. I just made a note of that. That’s a very smart thing to do. That’s really good. So record a Loom, meaning— A Loom is a software platform that lets you record your screen and basically make your own presentation, you know, walk people around a website or a video or whatever and just share it super easily.

Mikey Mioduski: Exactly. And I’m sure there’s a ton of other options out there right now.

Todd Nienkerk: Sure. Yeah. And this podcast is not brought to you by Loom. We’re not trying to we’re not trying to pitch anything here. To go back to the idea that presentations might have imagery that is intended to enhance the words that are being said by the speaker: I found that there are generally two kinds of presentations. Very, very broadly speaking, there are those that are sort of the storytelling and the interaction with the presentation with the slide deck is almost artistic. It’s intended to feel like an experience as opposed to the slide deck being more information processing, like drive home key points. I mean, these can overlap obviously, but I’m thinking of things like Lawrence Lessig, who’s a luminary in the world of copyleft, meaning like free culture, creative commons, open source, all of that. He’s an intellectual property attorney, among many other things. I’m sure I could be misstating that even. 

But he gives beautiful, artistic, highly narrative, and sort of emotionally driven presentations because he wants to inspire people to think differently about notions of copyright and intellectual property and stuff like that. And his style is he has, I don’t know, his talks probably have 400 slides in them for a 45-minute presentation. And these slides auto advance. He has them timed. So it’s like 2 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 1 second, 1 second, 2 seconds. And he just has the whole talk memorized so that it’s as if there’s somebody who knows exactly when to hit the queue for these things, but it’s just on auto advance. And he just goes and goes and goes. And as a result, he has no clicker in his hand or anything, he’s just walking up and down the stage. He has every word, every step, every like mark on the stage memorized so that it just feels almost like— It’s like you’ve gone to church, right? He is definitely like, it is that kind of feeling of there’s a, there’s a momentum being built and drama and and there’s like a climax to the story and there’s takeaways and it’s beautiful. And those are really wonderful because they get you sort of inspired, they make you think differently, they put you in a different kind of emotional state. But, you know, you might not necessarily walk away with a lot of facts from that. You might not walk away feeling like you’ve been educated as much as you have been inspired, or you’ve had your thinking changed. 

That was my experience with some of his talks. But have you found that there are certain presentation styles that you recommend for different contexts, like a venture capital investment pitch versus an agency sales deck versus maybe somebody trying to get a job like they’re looking to get hired. What do you think?

Mikey Mioduski: That’s great. Yeah, I’m going to crush some Lawrence Lessig videos after this. I think it probably is cliche, but it all boils down to knowing the audience first. And the occasion, certainly. But knowing your audience, who they are, what’s in it for them is the very, very first place to start any presentation as you’re planning it. 

Because yeah, I agree. Like those we’ve worked with say at a conference we support, let’s say a big tech conference, their user conference for the year. So we’ll have a few tracks on the general session stage where it’s the CEO or the product leader. They give this big visionary-type keynote to a room of 1,000, a couple thousand, and then you’ve got these breakout speakers, right? Who, they’re the technical experts. They’re going to tell you, “Okay, here’s this big product suite. I am the product owner for this one thing, and I’m going to tell you all the crazy stuff you can do with it.” So knowing why someone would go to the big visionary session and then why they would go to that different breakout session, you know, it’s like one is looking like, “Okay, what’s come and what’s on the roadmap? How can I get excited about this whole thing?” And then the other one who goes to that breakout session probably wants to come away with some tactical takeaways, like, “I’m going to go learn some cool new thing that I can do with, you know, this email tool,” Whatever. And so yeah, understanding the motivation and what’s in it for the audience is fundamentally where you got to start. And then if you’re sort of on the fence, why not a little bit of the theory and a little bit of the story upfront, but then make sure you’re giving something tactical and actionable toward the end of that is probably a safe 50/50 way to to approach like if you’re not quite sure.

Todd Nienkerk: It seems like thinking around presentations, what people expect from them—the bar has really been elevated in the last, I don’t know, probably maybe the last 10 years, maybe the last 15 years. And the reason why I picked that timeframe is because two things happened around the same time. I think, at least in my recollection of my history, they seem to happen around the same time. And those were one Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, and two, TED Talks being widely available. And those two things, at least in my experience, that’s when it really hit home to me. Like what a really incredible presentation can be, because there’s something unique about a presentation because it is a really good speech plus a visual storytelling component, right? And An Inconvenient Truth, like I remember lots of people talking about like, “Whoa, like, did you see that Keynote?” That’s an amazing like, just like the file, just the imagery and the video and the words and the way it was artfully presented just really drove the emotional truth of that of that emotional inconvenient truth home. 

And then TED Talks becoming a thing that we just sort of devour, you know, like I don’t know what, like M&Ms or something, right? Like just something you just want more of. You can’t get enough of this stuff. Is that true? Is that kind of when or how the bar was raised or did this start happening a lot sooner or even more recently than that?

Mikey Mioduski: No, I think I would have said TED Talk as well, I think. And yeah, you’re so right about Al Gore’s because, yeah, I know there again, he worked with Duarte there to make what is arguably one of the— They were already well on the map but I mean talk about a historical presentation. That was like top top five ever, right? And when you so maybe people see what an impact it can have then TED Talk I don’t know if like democratized things but it, I think it showed us all that, dang if you have a cool idea you can put it out there, right? Anybody can give a TED Talk, and so many people have and have launched and accelerated their careers from it [or] got like really cool ideas out there. Yeah, and and we can all, you know— Like it’s something to aspire for. I would like that’s kind of on my bucket list, too. It’s like even though, you know, we were behind the scenes, like it would be so cool to someday try to like, have something meaningful enough that you want to share it out there on a TED Talk. So I think there wasn’t a pro speaking circuit or something like that before. You know, there are certainly— There’s the motivational speakers, you know, and you’ve seen some make your eyes roll. Some are really great. But TED Talks is like there’s substance to those talks because those people are experts. Maybe that’s why it’s so cool why it took off. Right?

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. Because people are talking about the things that they love and that’s different from a motivational speaker trying to, like, get you out of the seat and buy the next course.

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah.

Todd Nienkerk: That’s a very different dynamic.

Mikey Mioduski: Did you see— I don’t know if you have; I think it was on Apple’s streaming service. They had one called the Beastie Boys Story. It was Mike D and Ad-Rock gave this presentation up on a big stage with mixed media behind him. It was, you know, next to Al Gore, I’d say it was one of the better presentations that way. It was so good.

Todd Nienkerk: And there’s also, like, there’s this emerging form of video art. There was, I forget what I was at some show. I don’t know if it was like a Jurassic 5 show or something, but it was a hip-hop show. And there was this guy, his name was Mike. All these Mikes. I’ll have to look it up later. I’ll probably put it in the show notes. But he did live turntable and video scratching. So he had video tracks like the equivalent of, like, a turntable, but for video tracks that he could hop on and off and play back and forth. And he was doing it all alive, which was, like, incredible. And it had a narrative to it because he was weaving music and some spoken word and visuals, but then like clips from movies that of course had audio themselves, and he tied it all together to sort of create this, this narrative. But that was one of the most unique. Like it was essentially like, imagine going to a show and then watching a presentation, but done in the style of like, yeah, you know.

Mikey Mioduski: That is sweet. Yeah, yeah. Multimedia. I think that’s one thing. That’s what that’s what we talk about. Presentation thinking, which is like, this is such a multidisciplinary kind of medium, meaning like, yeah, when I first got in, I thought it was just one one way to do graphic design. But as you get into it, oh, there’s transitions between these slides, that’s, there’s motion graphic opportunities and then yeah, there’s, oh, you can embed video. That’s awesome. Oh, and then there’s this whole performance aspect and then there’s like behavioral science and psychology. How do you persuade somebody? And then there’s so many facets that can help influence and you know, and better inform. And not to mention, I mean, the mother of all is like storytelling. And yeah, if you want to embark on a path to master storytelling, like that’s a lifelong pursuit in itself. And so packaging all that up is what we call this sort of holistic idea of presentation thinking. And it’s so cool because we can learn from so many different outsiders and pull in what they do so well and try to inform this really cool medium.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, let’s take a short break. And just before we do, I had to Google it: Mike Relm. Mike Relm is the music video mashup artist. Yeah. Anyway, when we come back, we’re going to be talking about the future of presentation design and presentation thinking. 

[break]

Todd Nienkerk: Hey, everyone. We’ll get back to the episode in just a moment. I wanted to very quickly tell you a little bit about Four Kitchens. You probably know that we create websites, but we do so much more than that. We do technical strategy. We do user experience strategy, user research, visual design, all kinds of stuff. Our team of Web Chefs can help you make better use of your content, scale your web team, and create world-class digital experiences. Just for example, we’re in the middle of helping a university build a digital publishing platform that will power more than 1,000 websites. So to find out more about how we can help you with your big content projects, please visit us at fourkitchens.com. Now back to the show. 

Todd Nienkerk: Welcome back to The Future of Content. Our guest today is Mikey Mioduski, founder of Ghost Ranch Communications. They are a boutique presentation, design, and thinking studio that helps marketers elevate their stories one slide at a time. So as we left off just before the break, we were starting to talk about some of the the future of presentation design and presentation thinking and storytelling and all of that.

And there’s a lot out there. So there’s a handful of things that I’m curious to get your thoughts on. The first is the tools themselves that are changing the roles of desktop platforms like Apple Keynote and Microsoft PowerPoint versus something that’s more collaborative and cloud-based like Google Slides. There’s the emergence of VR and Facebook/Meta of course, with their Oculus platform. They’re really trying to lean into virtual meeting spaces. And what does that look like? What does an avatar, you know, sitting in a chair and you’re wearing a headset and you’ve got these controllers on your hands, what does that— The weirdest thing to me, though, is that I have an Oculus Quest Two and I play around with it. And I haven’t yet done the thing where it’s like a virtual desktop or a virtual workroom where it’s like,” Hey, you know, it’d be really cool if we put your laptop in VR and you can use your laptop.” I don’t want to do that! And I don’t want to pay 20 bucks to do that either. So I’m curious to get your thoughts on like the tools and the future of what presentations might be. Are they in VR? Is that really going to be a thing?

Mikey Mioduski: It seems like it, right? I think I’ve seen this— This may be like two or three years ago, we were at a Presentation Summit, it’s called, which is very meta. It’s a lot of presentations about presentations. And someone talked about using VR to at least prepare and rehearse. So yeah, like so that you can as you’re going to give your practice keynote put, put on the again like I’m so bad because I don’t have one or use it. But yeah, you go in and yeah, you’re in a simulated theater or a simulated boardroom, you know, and that’s kind of a cool way to practice, I suppose. And so then too, yeah, I guess like why not? I don’t know. With the pandemic, we all are so much more now ready and able to do anything and everything remotely. Certainly everyone, conference organizers realized, hey, a lot more people can attend if we do this, at least hybrid, if not just fully virtual. And then yeah, if there’s some way to simulate it and actually do something with VR, then maybe, yeah, maybe that’s in our future. And then I’m sure the bounds of a 16 x 9 slide are no longer there. You know, I think I’m sure you can do more three-dimensional stuff. You know, it’s not the traditional slides that we think of, but imagery and art will still be at the core of visualizing ideas. It’s just, hey, the format might change, right?

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah. Because in VR there and we’ve, we’ve talked to some people who do immersive content, VR and AR and stuff like that on this podcast in the past. In VR, you can change everything. You can change not just like, okay, well, here’s, here’s a 16 x 9, but three dimensional like, yeah, you could do that. You could have three dimensional objects that are visible from all angles sitting in the middle of a room that everybody’s looking, like theater in the round. You can do that. You can change the theater. You can change not just yourself, but the other people, right? Like they could look down at their hands and those have changed and done something. There’s information like I mean, it’s like it’s limitless, right? 

But then there are these really weird… not drawbacks, but there are things that you have to think really hard about, in VR when you’re doing 360 space. And I don’t know if this applies to presentations at all, but one of the things that’s always stuck out to me is we had a conversation with somebody maybe a couple of years ago in this podcast where we were talking about, uh, 360 filmmaking. So putting a 360 camera in the middle of the room and making a movie. The problem there is cuts are really hard because if you’re sitting watching— Let’s say you’re the camera, right? And you’re stuck in the middle of the room and you can spin around in your chair and look at things happening all around you. Well, what if you’re going to cut to a new scene or cut to a new angle? That’s extremely jarring, right? Because you’re suddenly, like just teleported to a new space with no transition. So we need to develop a new, like, immersive 360 video film language for transitioning from one space to another. I wonder if in a three-dimensional presentation environment, if we’re going to also need to come up with ways to transition from like, quote, slide to slide or scene to scene, and what that might look like.

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah. You just scrambled my brain. Oh, my gosh. Yeah. So much to think about.

Todd Nienkerk: Yeah, it’s a lot to think about.

Mikey Mioduski: It’s gonna be fun. It’s going to be the Wild West. You remember when, like, Flash websites came along? 

Todd Nienkerk: And then they all went away. Isn’t that right? That’s actually a whole thing. We need to get some Flash person on this podcast to talk about that because that was a thing that came and went. Like it was a really big deal. Everybody loved it, everybody wanted it. People made movies and games and like all the famous Internet animations, from like 1998 to like, I don’t know, 2012, were all Flash, right? Like the whole like Napster bad, you know, Metallica thing, going way back in time. That was all Flash, right? Yeah. And yet that is now gone. It is dead. Apple killed it, and for good reason. I mean, it’s inaccessible. It’s a totally locked-in thing that not everybody can experience equally or fairly in any way. But that just like, came and went. And it makes you wonder, like, what are the things that we just totally take for granted as being part of our everyday now that are just going to be gone completely in five years?

Mikey Mioduski: Well, that’s why— You know, this might be unrelated, but for the first 10 years of Ghost Ranch, every let’s say once a month, someone’s like, oh, you do presentations. Do you ever work in Prezi? You know, and I would say that question comes up a lot, but no one’s ever actually sent us a Prezi presentation to redesign. It’s, you know, in grad school it’s something novel that some student might use. But when it comes to market share, everyone’s using PowerPoint, and now I’d say half of our PowerPoint users are switching to Google Slides because it’s collaborative. There’s a new one called Pitch.com that’s got people really excited about it because it’s sort of like the Figma. It’s built on collaboration as a premise, but it’s got, like, sick animations, and it’s slick as heck.

Todd Nienkerk: Hmm.

Mikey Mioduski: Like Prezi was, right? I’m just like, Flash. You bring up Flash. I agree that there’s going to be amazing new tools to play with. But what’s ubiquitous and what is most accessible by people in business today, I think, is what’s going to hang on for a while. And so like when it comes to VR that there could be opportunities to blow people away with something like that. But how many people are going to see it? And until we cross that chasm and everyone’s, you know, got their headsets and that’s what we do when we log in. But, you know, maybe the reason I’m not a futurist— You might call me like actually hanging on to crap. “That’s people like you still work in PowerPoint,” but, you know, right now, like we kind of play where everyone can access and see this stuff on a more of a level playing field maybe. And I think that’s why presentations are still like even though they get trashed so much like PowerPoint, you know, it’s crazy how many people use them every minute of every day.

Todd Nienkerk: The rise of collaboration. You talked about how 50% or more now of the work that you do is in Google Slides. And you mentioned Pitch.com. And I just brought it up here to take a look. Collaboration seems to really be taking a foothold across all tools, right? There’s collaborative whiteboarding with tools like Mural and Miro and obviously collaborative document editing, all kinds of other seemingly unrelated platforms like Dropbox. Dropbox has collaborative documents. They created their own Word slash Google Docs thing, right? So apparently there is a huge space for that. Where do you think that’s going to leave the desktop applications like PowerPoint and Keynote? Are they just going to drop off? Are they going to have to— Is PowerPoint going to join some unholy Microsoft Teams alliance that will be semi-collaborative?

Mikey Mioduski: Oh, man. They’ve been working on it. I think you know Keynotes got some like Keynote Live. PowerPoint, their kicker is it’s— I know they’ve got SharePoint, which is prohibitive. Like when someone shares a SharePoint, it’s hard for us to log in, whereas, you know, everyone can just… It’s so easy to share G slides for some reason and then I know Microsoft’s working on an online and they’ve got it right they’ve got a version of PowerPoint online. I just don’t know why it hasn’t hasn’t taken off but I do know they know it is extremely important for them to catch up there because that’s where it’s gone. And that is it has to be the reason I don’t have the numbers. But I do believe that’s why Google Slides has just really bitten into their market share.

Todd Nienkerk: One last thought here, completely unrelated to really any of this other stuff. But to me, it really emphasizes how much the idea of presentations, slide decks, more broadly said “PowerPoint” in the sense of like people say Q-Tip instead of cotton swab and Kleenex instead of facial tissue or say PowerPoint. And we all know that we mean some kind of slide deck. Have you ever heard of PowerPoint karaoke?

Mikey Mioduski: Yes, I’ve seen it. I don’t think I’ve done it. It’s hilarious.

Todd Nienkerk: Okay. For those who haven’t heard of it, PowerPoint karaoke is essentially an improv game where you get up on stage and somebody plays a PowerPoint deck that auto-advances that you’ve never seen before, and you have to give a presentation about it. And it’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had. I think for some people that is like the most terrifying thing they could think of, because it combines improv with public speaking and like all of these things that would just terrify you. 

But there’s something that’s just so much fun about a deliberately random slide deck that somebody has put together. And you have to construct a narrative between these different slides. They have to somehow make sense and you’re making it up as you go. I could probably just do that all day long and I’d be happy. What do you think that a game like that says about us that like, yeah, that’s something that we do for recreation is going to put together a deliberately, really difficult or challenging slide deck and make somebody give a presentation that isn’t real that they’ve never seen before. Uh, go. What does that say about us?

Mikey Mioduski: That’s hilarious. I think it’s just, like, so ingrained in what we do. Everyone knows PowerPoint, and because even you could do it, it’s a fun activity for, say, a company retreat or a team-bonding kind of thing. It’s hilarious because it is so unexpected to see. Maybe there’s that quiet teammate of yours. Suddenly they kick into pitch mode and you’re like, I had no idea this person could just riff. And we’ve all got our like, you turn on your little like your pitch mode and it is some of the funniest stuff you’ll see. Yeah, on our team, you know, we keep track of PowerPoint in the news and stuff. And I think, you know, the kids these days are doing, they have like PowerPoint night and you hear about people making PowerPoints about why you should date my friend or whatever. I think it was Emma Stone who convinced her parents that she should move to LA, you know, back in when she was a teenager via PowerPoint. So there’s so many funny stories like that. It’s just the chosen medium of how we communicate important ideas, right? Because you can actually structure it. You can there’s like Easter egg opportunities. You know, there’s like there’s set up, there’s build up. It’s just a lot of fun. And maybe because it’s so universal, that’s why you have that opportunity to throw in those wild cards and those, you know, you have those opportunities to differentiate a little bit.

Todd Nienkerk: It’s so interesting to hear you say that PowerPoint slide decks are ways that we convey important information, because that’s absolutely true. There’s something about the medium of a slide deck that is the same as, like, a leather-bound book. There’s all kinds of stuff where like, like a piece of video that has that certain filter on it that makes it feel cinematic. Right? There’s just something that we have become emotionally attuned to that, oh, well, you could I could either sit down and talk to you about this thing, but I brought a slide deck, like that suddenly is like, Oh, this is professional and serious. And I’m going to really listen to what you have to say because you sat down and put together this thing, which is really just a different way of writing down your notes, right? It’s just a different way of framing what you want to say. It’s funny how much gravitas that we assign to PowerPoints.

Mikey Mioduski: It’s funny. Yeah. And I guess the trap there is like, you hear, you know, you know, in a good sale, let’s say, the seller should be talking probably less than the prospect. Right? And it should be a two-way conversation. And so that is probably the biggest “watch out” with building a presentation. You’re always defaulting to PowerPoint mode because you go into that one way mode, and people like to come to their own conclusions as opposed to being told what they should think. And so maybe if that’s one big takeaway that we’ve learned just from our own research and talking to really good speakers, how can you frame those slides—still use them as an aid—but use them as a conversation catalyst and build in those slides that are almost like a maturity matrix. “We see a lot of people on this end. We see a lot of people here. Where do you find yourself or what problems are you having?” And be sure that you still don’t forget to include them in this more interactive kind of presentation.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you again so much, Mikey, for joining us today. How can listeners learn more about Ghost Ranch and what you do?

Mikey Mioduski: Yeah, sure. You can check out our website, ghostranch.com. mikey@ghostranch.com if you want to email me. We’ve also got a podcast being spun up called Presentation Thinking, so you could check that out. And yeah, we just kind of pull in a bunch of different threads and going down this storytelling rabbit hole and there’s so much good information out there. We’re just trying to curate it and talk about what we’ve learned along the way because yeah, like I said, it’s sort of this never-ending journey that we’re on to try to get better at this whole thing.

Todd Nienkerk: Well, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. This was super fun. 

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