Options for Multimedia Presentation Formats

There are a lot of different options available for multimedia presentation formats. You may be most familiar with PowerPoint or Keynote, as they have been widely used for many years. These are two excellent options that allow you to combine text and multimedia into different slides with transitions between content, but they aren’t your only options. You should also consider a PDF presentation or a Prezi presentation. Each of these options have different pros and cons for you to consider.

This, of course, is not a comprehensive list of presentation options. You could also use Google Docs, OpenOffice.org, SlideRocket, or a number of other alternatives.

PowerPoint (windows) or Keynote (mac)

PowerPoint (for windows) and Keynote (for mac) are probably the two most widely-used presentation software. Each bear a striking resemblance to their word processing counterparts, Microsoft Word and Pages. Those similarities make these two options very easy to use.

Powerpoint and Keynote both require the purchase of proprietary software.



  • requires specialized software to create and view


Prezi is a virtual whiteboard that transforms presentations from monologues into conversations: enabling people to see, understand, and remember ideas. Prezi became most popular for its unique non-linear arrangement that utilizes zooming over more traditional slides. Instead of clicking to change between slides, Prezi has one very large “slide” and zooms in and out to focus on different areas of the page.

Prezi is free to use online and has a desktop version available to paid users that allows presentations to be created and viewed offline. Students can access a free upgraded version of Prezi or pay a reduced fee for the Pro version with Prezi’s Student & Teacher License.


  • non-linear format highlights both big picture and smaller points
  • free online tutorials
  • allows for collaboration
  • templates available


  • very easy to embed multimedia
  • requires internet access or specialized software to create and view
  • doesn’t allow presenter notes
  • limited font options

PDF Presentations

PDF presentations are created in another piece of software, like Adobe InDesign, and then exported as multimedia enabled PDF files. This is definitely not the easiest of the three options covered here, but should be considered because of its universal use. PDF files are a standard of presenting all types of information and nearly every type of device has the capability to view these files. This option is a good alternative when you do not have your own technology and will need to rely on using whatever equipment will be available for each presentation. If you don’t feel comfortable enough with InDesign, there is also an online paid service using Acrobat.com Presentations to create and export your presentation.

PDF Presentations require the use of proprietary software like InDesign or a subscription to Acrobat.com.


  • doesn’t require any specialized software to view
  • works on nearly every device (the most universal option)
  • all elements are embedded, and will never fail to show up on different devices


  • steeper learning curve
  • more difficult to embed multimedia
  • doesn’t allow presenter notes
  • no collection of online tutorials
  • requires specialized software to create


Portability is one of the most important issues in deciding which format to create your presentation in. Initially, you will need to do some educated guesswork to consider the situations that you might be delivering a presentation in. As you begin to give the presentation more you can always make adjustments.

First, you want to consider what type of presentation you are creating, and the typical environment it may be presented in. Will you primarily be delivering to smaller audience or larger audiences? If you are doing an overview presentation of the organization you may be delivering to larger groups, while a fundraising presentation would likely be delivered to smaller groups. If presenting to larger groups, while the setting be one that would already accommodate multimedia presentations with preexisting technology? On the other hand, would smaller presentations take place in someone’s office or a coffee shop? Finally, you need to consider whether you would have your own portable equipment to run the slideshow with audio, and video.

All of these considerations will help you decide which format will be best for your presentation. Let’s say that you will primarily be speaking to large groups and that you have your own computer with built-in speakers, projector, and portable projection screen. This would be the ideal situation, as you could really choose any format because you would never have a situation where particular software wasn’t available or a room wasn’t equipped with a projector.

If you know that you will primarily be speaking with smaller groups or individuals over coffee, your needs will be very different. It wouldn’t make sense to bring a projector to this type of meeting. Maybe you would want to show the presentation on a laptop or tablet instead. Your presentation type would be limited by what would work on your laptop or tablet. If you couldn’t load powerpoint on a tablet, then that option would not work for you.

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