Presenter Pro is a learning resource for professionals and interns alike, coaching you in the ways of effective presenting.
There are three heroes of presenting for me: Merlin Mann, with his deliciously witty and yet precise style; Lawrence Lessig, who takes a high-speed, word-by-word approach; and of course, Steve Jobs, who is alternately expressive, passionate and evangelistic, all of which contributes to his famed reality distortion field.
While Rexi Media might not turn you into a Mann, Lessig or Jobs overnight, the company does specialize in enhancing your presentation skills. It organizes seminars across the U.S., designs bespoke presentation templates, and even has a virtual storefront in Second Life. Its app contains hundreds of tips, alongside an assortment of videos and even quizzes.
Before jumping into the review, it’s worth pointing out that, prior to going freelance as a journalist and creative consultant, one of my specialist areas was presentations — designing them, coaching colleagues, and even delivering them. Over the years, I’ve helped CEOs prepare for presentations, guiding them through the process and helping give their ideas structure. Plus, I’ve presented to some big companies, including 20th Century Fox, Taito, BBC and Marvel Comics.
With my previous experience in presentations, I was particularly keen to see if Rexi Media’s Presenter Pro would really distill all of the necessary strategies for effective presenting into a single iPhone app.
The app itself is split into four different sections: Home, Notes, Video and Checklist. Presenter Pro is, unlike many other e-learning iPhone apps, well-designed. It features large, clearly labeled buttons and is easy to navigate.
Learning At Home
The main hub of the app, Home, breaks down into different subject categories, such as Structure, Visuals and Gestures. Each section contains several paragraphs of text on a given topic; some even include video and audio, which enhances the learning experience.
The Home section guides you through constructing a presentation; from structuring your message to creating visuals all the way to the art of persuasion and projecting your voice. While some beginners may feel overwhelmed by the information overload, it’s important to note that these are all essential areas to cover.
Without proper guidance, though, I worry that certain techniques could go down like a party balloon that’s been dipped in lead, filled with pennies and dropped off the Eiffel Tower. And what’s more, these techniques could potentially be even more damaging to onlookers than the hypothetical effect of my extended simile.
For instance, there’s a section exploring the notion of incongruity — creating conflict or contradiction as a way of grabbing your audience’s attention. It seems like a risky technique, though, especially for beginners. There’s the possibility that it could irritate the audience, or worse, garner a feeling of doubt when you should be gaining the audience’s trust.
Watch And Learn
There are seven videos packaged with the app. It would be great to have more, though — even if it meant compromising on quality — as watching someone deliver information can be an incredibly effective approach for learning.
Each video is around a minute long. They explore salient techniques, such as building anticipation in your audience and using inquiry as a method for garnering interest in a given subject.
The videos don’t feature any instruction or tutorial; they’re simply fictional excerpts from larger presentations, making use of a certain technique. It would have been fun, and certainly more effective, to include a director’s commentary-style voiceover to enhance the learning experience.
It’s good to have these examples, though. However I worry that poor presenters, desperate to become more effective, will literally copy the lines from the video, rather than identifying the essence of the lesson and making use of it.
While there are a couple of questionable pieces of advice — not necessarily awful, just techniques that I wouldn’t advise a beginner makes use of — in general, the lessons are clear, concise and certainly appropriate for individuals looking to boost their presentation skills.
There are some cute extra features, too, like sending text to the Checklist section for future reference. Plus, the presentation tips are an unexpected, but certainly welcome feature, popping up at random intervals.
The iPhone is potentially a great medium for delivering rich learning experiences. While it’s not a replacement for the real thing, e-learning via the iPhone can reinforce real-world experiences. Paired with the opportunity to regularly test out your presentation skills regularly, Presenter Pro would prove to be an invaluable tool.