Presentation apps have tried practically everything to get a leg up on Microsoft PowerPoint. They have given away their software for free (Google Slides, Apple Keynote). They have focused on simple formatting (Ludus, Paste, Beautiful.ai). They have positioned themselves as virtual meeting amplifiers (Prezi, Mmhmm).
Christian ReberCEO and co-founder [Photo: courtesy of Pitch]Now a startup called Pitch has come up with a more novel idea: It lets users embed pre-recorded videos into their presentations, with customizable video sizes, shapes, and positioning for each slide. For example, on one slide, the presenter might appear as a small chat bubble over a relevant data point, while on the next slide, the presenter might take up half the screen. Users can record separate videos for each slide and can also assign recordings to other members of their team.
In addition to the new recording features, Pitch also recently launched analytics tools to track the number of views for each presentation (and see how much time people spend on each slide in the future). CEO and co-founder Christian Reber hopes these kinds of features will make Pitch more useful for remote working and ultimately help people move away from PowerPoint.
“The reason people have stuck with existing tools—or stuck with PowerPoint—for decades is that no one has really entered this market in a way that appealed to PowerPoint users,” he says.
A new kind of slide
Pitch has been around since 2018, when it launched in a private beta with a small number of companies and promptly raised $19 million in Series A funding. Reber, who previously co-founded the popular to-do list app Wunderlist and sold it to Microsoft, called Pitch “a presentation tool for the Slack generation.”
The public launch of the app took place in October 2020. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pitch positioned itself as a team collaboration tool, citing features such as the built-in video chat and the ability to pull live data from Google Sheets. Pitch is free for individual use and costs $8 per month for additional features such as analytics, granular access control, unbranded PDF exports, and a library of stock photos.
Today, the scope of Pitch has expanded a bit. Tomaž Štolfa, the startup’s head of presentation experience, still says Pitch is useful for teams looking to present updates asynchronously, but the company is also turning to sales and fundraising as its core use.
The new shooting functions match those focus areas. For example, a sales rep or startup founder might use video to create personalized introductions for each recipient, or to make sure everyone who sees the presentation gets the same message.
[Image: courtesy of Pitch]“Anything you can do to give a personal touch — a deck of cards that shows your face, goes through the problem, goes through the solutions — that’s a good place to start,” says Štolfa.
Pitch isn’t alone in offering recordable presentation tools. Its closest equivalent is Mmhmm’s record feature, which, like Pitch, allows users to record videos for each slide and choose between multiple ‘takes’ for each slide. Prezi also offers a recording feature and you can also use screen recording software like Descript or Loom to record video on top of other presentation apps.
Pitch’s approach is a bit different as the actual presentations are still the focus. The presenter’s video may be just a small bubble on a portion of the screen and can be resized to different sizes, shapes, and positions for each frame. As a result, creating a presentation with video is not much different than creating a presentation with static images and text; the video is just another element to be dragged and dropped onto the screen.
“One of our real goals here was to minimize this barrier to producing really high-quality content – for whatever type of communication you want to do with your presentation,” says Štolfa.
Pitch’s recording features alone aren’t likely to topple PowerPoint, but Reber says they’re just the start of a broader effort to create more dynamic presentations.
“If you look at the format of presentations — and we know it’s traditionally unsexy — it’s a really meaningful format to deliver information in a fast, efficient and exciting way,” he says.
Over the next few years, Pitch plans to build a community around presentation creators—an idea that sounds inspired by Notion’s success with user-created templates—and add more advanced charting features. It also plans to launch plugins and custom embeds so users can display more types of live data directly in Pitch, and is working on a way to turn Pitch presentations into standalone websites.
Functions like this can eventually stretch the definition of what a presentation is, but that’s the point. In the same way that apps like Notion and Coda overturn the concept of a document, Pitch believes it can disrupt presentation without deviating too far from the general format. That may be what drives people to reconsider their reliance on PowerPoint in the first place.
“We know that the format of presentations is actually good,” Reber says. “The process behind making it and sharing it is what’s broken.”
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