Are you a PowerPoint Survivor? Chances are that you’ve had to make a presentation at some point in your life—or worse, been subjected to several of them each week—and have wondered: How do I make a presentation go from just right to rocking?
PowerPoint was created by Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin (trivia: PowerPoint was the first product to attract strategic venture capital from Apple Inc. in the late 1980s. Microsoft Corp. later acquired it for $14 million, around Rs 74.76 crore now). Gaskins developed the tool to create quick summaries of big ideas. Generation Next, weaned on PowerPoint, doesn’t write. Much less write the Big Idea. They go straight for PowerPoint bullets.
Quirky options: Don’t get bogged down—learn to jazz up your presentations. Imaging by Sandipan Das/Mint
And if you think there is a way around this, forget it; there’s no way to bullet-proof corporate life. Tedious and never-ending PowerPoint slides are a familiar, everyday happening in offices. An inordinate number of office hours are spent by an army of corporate grunts colouring and formatting slides that end up saying nothing. More often, they blunt your ability to think, dull the senses, and fuel the market for the coffee that keeps PowerPoint audiences awake.
So we thought, let’s be practical. What is it that will make your presentations relevant and interesting? How can you make your presentations more persuasive? More incisive? More telling? More 21st century? Less 1980s-groovy and more 2011-awesome? Here are some tips, tricks, tools and techniques that can make you the star of the daily corporate show.
Why do a ‘deck’ when you can paint a canvas?
PowerPoint/Keynote presentations are linear. They begin from the first slide and strenuously make their way to the last slide. Of course you have linked slides and embedded Excel sheets to make life interesting. But put your hand on your heart and tell us, doesn’t it all drive you to despair? So why not get rid of all the slides and just paint a vast canvas of ideas?
Prezi is an online tool that allows you to do just that. You can pan and zoom across one single canvas where all your ideas live. You can draw, paint, write, move around. You can club ideas and keep zooming into them, until you reach the very core of the idea. You can click on any part of the canvas and enlarge it to make it the focal point of the presentation. For example, if you are trying to explain the functions of various body parts, each PPT slide would show a hand, leg, skull, nose, eyes, and so on. But with Prezi, you’d see all these in context—one body with all the parts, and you can zoom into the skull, then click to zoom deeper into it, and so on.
Now, when your boss says he wants a drill-down, you’ll have the perfect way of doing it. Prezi has a free version and is also available for desktops for $159 (around Rs 8,490) a year. Visit www.prezi.com
We understand, you already own PowerPoint but...
Heard that collective groan in the conference room when you launched your presentation? Most users of PowerPoint know a secret that few of us suspect: Microsoft has an entire library of free templates, transitions, images and backgrounds that can soup up your presentation. Why not download a few that apply to your business? Choose from presentation templates for academia, business, astronomy, healthcare, food, government…and become a power user instantly. Some of the transitions and effects available—and ready to use—are so slick you’ll wonder why you missed them all these years. Instructions to recreate them are embedded in the “Notes” area of the slides. Of course, if your presentation is mindless, no amount of cosmetic dressing-up is going to help. For free downloads, visit www.office.microsoft.com/en-us/templates/CT010117272.aspx
Get rid of bullets, opt for the word cloud instead
Sometimes, bullets can be irritating. Or worse, they do not tell the story quite the way you want them to. If you have the opportunity to make a more informal presentation, try generating a word cloud instead of bullet points. Wordle does this pretty effectively (and quickly). So instead of having a slide that is sinking under the weight of its words, you can create something online that is smart and slick. Simply cut and paste the passage or text you want turned into a cloud, select the style and colours and Wordle does the rest.
Wordle has some incredible fonts such as Kenyan Coffee and Alpha Fridge Magnets All Caps, and colour sets (Indian Earthy, Organic Carrot, Heat and so on) to pick from. Visit www.wordle.net and you won’t be able to stop playing around with it
Top the PowerPoint charts and be a rock star
The most boring aspects of presentations are the charts. They take hours to prepare and are—truth be told—often inaccurate. One of the ways to beat this is to use a powerful plug-in called Oomfo. The end result is graphs and charts that are animated and stretch data visualization to the level of stunning. More importantly, if you are online, the data can be live. Oomfo can connect to things like Google analytics, Twitter analytics and Salesforce.com data to produce live charts. So, you create the chart once and let Oomfo fill in fresh data each time you present.
To download this precious plug-in, go to www.oomfo.com. Oomfo is free. The program can be downloaded after online registration and the installation file automatically makes it a .PPT plug-in.
Go mobile, go pico
You are mobile, so shouldn’t your presentation be mobile too? Today’s pico projectors allow you to load a presentation from a smartphone or a computer, edit it on the projector and project it wherever you are. Pick the ones that come with their own OS, weigh about 150g with the battery and can work for about 60 minutes. As an example, you could try the Portronics Mini Mobile Smart Touch Pad Wi-Fi Wireless Android Projector that costs approximately Rs 28,000. Visit www.ebay.in for the best prices. For details on the projector, visit www.smartdevices.in
What? Your presentation isn’t 2.0? Go social now
A Twitter tool for PowerPoint brings interactivity to your dry-and-devoid-of-life presentation by embedding social media (Twitter) into it. No kidding. You can tweet directly from your presentation. There are a set of tools that can auto-tweet your slides, pick up Twitter feedback and display them in real time on your slides (as a ticker), create bar and pie charts from Twitter voting, etc. Makes you salivate, doesn’t it? For all those who believe that life without “social” is not a life lived, go directly to www.sapweb20.com/blog/powerpoint-twitter-tools to download the free stuff
Arun Katiyar is a content and communication consultant with a focus on technology companies. He is a published author with HarperCollins and has extensive media experience spanning music, print, radio, the Internet and mobile phones.
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