By Greg Volm

In early July, Harvard’s Decision Science Lab released a study claiming that presentations are more effective, engaging, and (most importantly to sales professionals) persuasive when presenters use technology with zooming user interfaces. The study pitted Prezi (technology with zooming user interfaces), PowerPoint (slide technology) and oral presentations (absence of visual tools) against each other to see which one conveyed meaning the most powerfully and clearly.

As someone who has spent my entire career in sales, the study’s methodology made me perk up because it was largely sales-focused. Harvard recruited 146 people to participate as presenters in the study and 153 people as mock-audience members. The study was broken out into two parts: the first part involved randomly assigning the group of presenters with creating a board presentation for a fake company by using either Prezi, PowerPoint or an oral format (without visual aids), and presenting it to participating audience members.

The second part asked presenters to video record the same presentations and broadcast them out to a large online audience. With the online audience’s involvement, more than 1,000 people participated in the study.

The results: forget slides

The outcome of this study was crystal clear: participants evaluated presentations using Prezi’s zooming user interfaces as more organized, engaging, persuasive and effective than both PowerPoint and oral presentations. I think a lot of this comes down the power of visual presentations and the style of conversational presenting.

To make the most impact, presentations need to have visual and conversational elements—elements found in presentations with zooming user interfaces. It is this technology that allows presenters to go back and forth in presentations rather than scroll through slides or use bulleted lists. This technology lends itself, according to the study, to a more persuasive presentation, which is great news for sales professionals.

Sam Moulton, the lead researcher on the study encapsulated the results as follows: “The most important finding across the two experiments is easy to summarize; participants evaluated Prezi presentations as more organized, engaging, persuasive and effective than both PowerPoint and oral presentations. We therefore conclude that the observed effects are not confounds or biases, but instead reflect a true and specific benefit of Prezi over PowerPoint or, more generally, ZUIs over slideshare.”

Future of sales calls: graduating from slides

Harvard’s study provides keen insights for sales professionals on how we can make our presentations more effective and revenue-generating. Business is moving beyond slides because, as so many of us can relate, slide fatigue is real. Zooming interfaces, on the other hand, allow presenters to create conversational presentations, which lend themselves to more interaction and not so much pressure on traditional, end-of-meeting Q&A sessions.

These types of technologies directly impact corporate bottom lines and validate the ROI involved with cold sales calls. What’s more, zooming presentations have proven to be easier for our brains to digest thanks to the advanced level of spatial orientation involved. Combine these factors with the ability to tailor a message on the fly to any audience, and zooming presentations might be the future of sales meetings.

Greg Volm is Vice President of Sales at Prezi. @prezi