The Cure for PowerPoint Pain? Try Slidevana, Says Microsoft Vet

Ravi Mehta, the vice president of product at Boston-area startup Viximo, has an interesting side project. It’s called Slidevana, and it’s aimed at entrepreneurs, academics, lawyers, and anyone else who wants to deliver more effective presentations.

Today, Slidevana is releasing its first set of 150-plus slide templates for PowerPoint, available for a one-time download fee. The idea is to provide a basic portfolio of well-designed slides that you can pick and choose from to craft your message. Ideally the templates will enable presenters to spend more time on the content and delivery of their talk, rather than on designing the look and feel of the slides.

Mehta says he created Slidevana particularly to “give entrepreneurs a powerful set of tools” to help them build slide decks to pitch potential investors, partners, and customers. Back in February, he released Slidevana templates for Keynote (Apple’s presentation software), and says he’s gotten about 600 purchases from people in 35 countries. But the majority of the world still uses PowerPoint for their slides; hence today’s rollout.

A six-year Microsoft veteran on the Xbox and gaming side, Mehta emphasizes the importance of visual design—and the idea that slides need to be able to tell a story on their own, since they are often shared offline. So, although it’s sad that PowerPoint isn’t going away anytime soon, perhaps innovations like Slidevana will help ease our pain.

A few more highlights from my chat with Mehta:

—On what he has learned from making presentations to Bill Gates and top-tier VCs: “Think about the story completely,” he says. “Not just the core message, but also the edges.” It’s important to anticipate all the questions your audience might ask, he says, and the best way to handle that is to have a stack of backup slides with which you can show data to back up your arguments.

—On how presentations have changed over the past 10 years: “A big difference is the importance of design overall. Now we’re surrounded by good design everywhere.” He points out the exemplary design of Apple’s products, as well as certain social-networking and e-commerce sites. Visual design is important “not just from a technical standpoint, but from a consumer behavior standpoint,” he says.

—On his advice to presenters: “People tend to use slides as a teleprompter, rather than using them to communicate with a visual or picture,” he says. But the conventional wisdom is to not use a lot of words, but rather use slides to enhance the message. Mehta recommends something in between: Use visuals to help guide your talk, but the slides “need to stand alone” too (if you put them on SlideShare, for example). “There has to be enough content, and that balance is achievable,” he says. “Slidevana will support that dual-use case.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and Editor of Xconomy Boston. E-mail him at gthuang [at] Follow @gthuang

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