If you’re considering purchasing a mind mapping program to do presentations, the commercial software programs available today vary significantly in their capabilities. Here is some the functionality you should look for, along with brief descriptions of the 3 programs that I think do the best job of enabling map-based presentations.
What to look for
Logical, easy to use controls: Controls to navigate your mind map in presentation views should be simple and easy to use. This is critically important because when you are standing in front of an audience making a presentation, you don’t want to be fumbling around with your program trying to get it to work the way you want it to. Ideally, the program should work equally well with the mouse, a wireless presentation device and keyboard shortcuts.
Annotation: One of the powerful benefits of utilizing mind mapping software in a meeting is that you can actually annotate your map during the presentation to accommodate feedback from your audience. This may be especially valuable in a small group setting where you and your colleagues are reviewing a business plan, for example.
Displaying attached assets: Business mind maps are essentially visual databases. Their value is derived from the topics and subtopics and their relationships with one another. But another part of their value comes from the ability to link to files, e-mails and web pages. The presentation mode of the mind mapping program you select should be able to display these information assets seamlessly, without any glitchiness.
Configurable: The best programs for making presentations give you options on how the program will behave, and what map elements should be displayed or hidden. This enables you to customize the program to meet your unique needs. If you’re presenting to a small workgroup, for example, you may want to display more map elements, because it will be more of a working session. When presenting to a large group, on the other hand, less is probably best.
Try before you buy: For best results, I recommend downloading a trial version of the programs you’re considering and creating several mind maps that are typical of the type that you’d like to present as part of your work. Once you have set up your maps, invest some time playing around with each program’s presentation mode to see which one is the best match with your presentation style.
The best mapping applications for making presentations
Here are the 3 best mind mapping programs for making presentations, in my opinion:
iMindMap 4: This program, developed by Buzan Online, has some neat capabilities, including a two-screen setup – so you see a special presenter view with a menu bar at the bottom of the screen that controls your presentation and notes for your reference, but your audience only sees your map. Also, the presenter view displays a timer, which shows you how much time you have spent on the current slide and the presentation in total. If your map contains links to child maps, those are displayed in your presenter menu, so you can jump back and forth easily between the parent and child maps. Finally, iMindMap’s presentation mode extends the program’s organic mapping focus: Clicking on the forward button of the presentation toolbar causes your map branches to smoothly and organically “grow” into place. It looks very elegant, among the best mind mapping software presentation modes I’ve seen.
NovaMind 4: The NovaMind Mac presenter mode (see image above right) divides your map into a series of “slides,” consisting of your entire map, each topic and its associated subtopics. Like other mind mapping software presentation modes, it “walks” you clockwise around your map and its contents, branch by branch. Where NovaMind differs is that it doesn’t make you, the presenter, click on each branch and sub-branch to expand it. It does that for you, creating a set of views with each topic and sub-topic automatically centered on the screen. This enables you to focus on presenting your remarks, and eliminates the need for you to fiddle with your map while you’re talking. The presentation view in NovaMind also contains an elapsed time clock. Below that is a split screen; the left side displays the view of your map that your audience sees, while the right side displays the “slide” that will appear next on the screen. This gives you a preview of the next slide, so you can mentally prepare for it. Finally, below the split screen is a selector panel, which displays a timeline of all of the map views that will be part of your “slide show.” You can use it to jump to any “slide” in your presentation at any time. In the Windows version of NovaMind, the presentation mode highlights the branches and automatically expands children branches as necessary to show the detailed information. The presentation toolbar also enables you to access the program’s libraries of icons and images, which can be dragged and dropped onto topics, edit task information and access the Suggesterator, a thesaurus-like tool that you can use with your colleagues to brainstorm additional topics and ideas while in the program’s presentation mode.
MindManager 8: MindManager’s presentation mode is uncluttered; a narrow toolbar at the bottom of the screen gives you controls to move through the branches of your map, with automatically expand one by one. It also contains buttons that enable you to adjust how your map topics behave in presentation mode, show/hide the ribbon toolbar, expand the number of levels of topics initially visible, and show/hide map and topic elements, such as links, attachments, images and callouts. In fact, MindManager offers a surprising level of granularity in customizing what’s visible and what’s not in presentation mode; a long list of map elements is displayed in the selector, with checkboxes next to each one. Want to display attachments in your map? Check the box next to it. MindManager defaults to a common-sense set of map elements, but you can easily customize it to meet your presentation needs. One tip: the less clutter, the better, especially when audiences can easily become overwhelmed with “map shock.” You can edit MindManager maps in presentation mode, using the program’s extensive list of shortcut keys. Right-clicking on a topic also gives you access to a bevy of topic elements. If you need to, you can also turn on the ribbon toolbar in the presentation views options menu. While MindManager doesn’t offer the split screen option that several other programs utilize, I think you’ll find its presentation view to be powerful and flexible enough to meet just about any need.