Monday Mornings with Madison

Creating Great Digital Presentations Today

Word Count:  1,769 

Estimated Read Time: 7 min.

Auyush Jain of Microsoft once said that “A single 10-minute presentation has the power to convert an idea into reality.”  That is perhaps why most companies that sell a product or service (something that is not a commodity) will use a “presentation” to explain their product or service to prospective customers.  This is especially true for high ticket items, complex services and B2B sales.  A typical presentation explains the product/service benefits and features as well as the company’s story and expertise.  In the “old days”, before computers and software applications, salespeople would work with marketing to create the presentation on either boards or in a flip book or binder.  In 1990, Microsoft revolutionized presentations with the launch of Powerpoint (which was invented in 1987 under a different name by a different company).  Suddenly, anyone with basic technical skills could use software found on most desktops to create a digital presentation.  Slides replaced boards and sheets.  A presentation could be emailed to anyone, anywhere, at a moment’s notice.  The use of presentations grew.  They were no longer just used for sales pitches.  Today, presentations are used for operational training, educational seminars, HR onboarding, and more.

Technology has evolved in leaps and bounds since Powerpoint launched and, yet, many people still use Powerpoint.  On the 30th anniversary of this ubiquitous presentation software, business people everywhere still use the program even though it hasn’t changed much and functions in much the same way it did decades ago.  Imagine if 30 years after automobiles became ubiquitous they still looked like Ford’s Model T.  Absurd.  So why is Powerpoint still so widely used?  The reasons are varied.  First, the software still comes with most computers, so why spend money to buy other software when Powerpoint can get the basic job done.  Also, some people just don’t like change and see no need to find a new presentation tool when the current tool is still perfectly adequate to get the job done.  Still others just don’t want to take the time to learn new software.  And a Powerpoint presentation is familiar to most anyone who receives it, making it easy to open and view  However, given the multitude of presentation programs on the market today, it is time to consider other options for creating and sharing great presentations today.

A Wealth of Options

There is a veritable smorgasbord of presentation software on the market today.  Some of the new presentation programs are easy to learn and use, which increases the likelihood of adoption.  And some are even free, eliminating the cost argument.   While some people many not “need” a better tool for presentations and will continue to use Powerpoint for their needs, there are software programs that offer additional features for those who want to create presentations that are more engaging and stand out from the crowd.   Here are just a few of the more established, popular programs to consider, although there are probably 100 options on the market from which to choose.

  1. CustomShow is recommended for mid-sized to larger businesses (those with at least 25 employees or more) that want a robust presentation software solution.  It’s especially useful for Sales professionals, marketers, and C-Suite Execs.  CustomShow refers to itself as a great sales enablement tool that allows businesses to build better customized presentations that look significantly better than a standard PPT.  The software company was spawn from the presentation design agency, Sales Graphics, some 40 years ago so it’s been around longer than Powerpoint.
  2. Keynote is considered the true counterpoint to Powerpoint for MAC users.  Designed to allow users to create highly customized presentations, it comes with 30 themes to get started and has a selection of stock photography as well and allows for animations.  It can be used on multiple devices, is easy to share and inexpensive.  The big downside for most business owners is that it is an Apple product for use on MACs only.
  3. Powtoon is the presentation software of choice for do-it-yourselfers who want to create a presentation with animation. Powtoon allows users to create animated, engaging and interesting presentations without having to be a graphic artist or illustrator.  It is fairly easy to learn how to use the software and the presentations can be highly customized.  While this kind of presentation is really not suited to live presentation in front of a big audience, it can be used by salespeople and marketers to create a product or service video, for in-house training sessions and for business professionals who want a brief presentation about the company.
  4. Prezi Personal is considered a great alternative to PPT by many.  The software transitions to new spaces on a slide while giving the effect that the presentation has not moved to a new slide.  Instead of slides, Prezi uses Pathway Points to give a visual cinematic presentation, which some may feel gives a better style and effect but causes motion sickness in others.   The software is template driven so all Prezi presentations look like Prezi presentations.  The software can be used on various devices, shared with coworkers and is very easy to use.  It is cost effective and can be used offline.  Then there is Prezi for Business.  Like the Personal version, Prezi for Business does works in much the same way but is meant for the managed, repeatable presentations typically used by sales and marketing teams.  On the upside, this version of Prezi is good for collaborating.  The down side is that it is not easy to use by anyone who is not a graphic designer.  So this is really ideal for companies that want to create presentations that don’t require any customizing by salespeople and have a team of graphic designers who can use the software to create the presentations
  5. SlideRocket was bought by Clearslide some years ago.  Although the software does allow users to create presentations, the real focus of this software is volume sales enablement for high-volume sales and marketing companies.  There is more emphasis on sales and tracking than presentation creation.  While Clearslide allows users to upload and include files from a variety of sources including PDFs, Excel, PPT, etc., it doesn’t support seamless video integration.  The software is cloud-based and slide sharing is easy, but overall the software is not easy to use.

Free Presentation Tools

Who doesn’t like free?  Here are some presentation tools that offer alternatives to Powerpoint without the cost.  While free software is usually limited in what it offers, these platforms provide tools that either equal or surpass PPT.

  1. Haiku Deck is a software that uses templates so users can create elegant looking presentations.  It comes with 35 templates and over 35 million stock photos that can be used within the slide templates.  It is super easy to use and getting started is a quick process.  But this platform cannot be used offline and the ability to customize is very limited.  While sales and marketing professionals might not like Haiku Deck, this is great for Managers and HR to use in creating training presentations.
  2. LibreOffice’s Impress is part of the LibreOffice Suite of tools.  Similar to Microsoft, they have programs for word processing (called Writer), spreadsheets (called Calc) and presentations (called Impress).   There’s a lot to like about Impress.  According to Libre, Impress offers a lot of versatility to create and edit slides thanks to different editing and view modes.  Libre’s website says they have “Normal (for general editing), Outline (for organizing and outlining text content), Notes (for viewing and editing the notes attached to a slide), Handout (for producing paper-based material), and Slide Sorter (for a thumbnail sheet view to quickly locate and organize slides).”  LibreOffice adds that, “Impress has a comprehensive range of easy-to-use drawing and diagramming tools to add style and sophistication to a presentation.”  If using their slide show animations and effects, it is easy to bring a presentation to life.  Their Fontworks tool allows users to create attractive 2D and 3D images from text and build / control 3D scenes that incorporate a variety of elements.  Best of all, it’s free and open source.
  3. Another option to consider for those who want to just combine a variety of files into a visual showcase is Slidedog.  SlideDog is not so much a presentation software as a tool that allows the user to combine all different types of files – video, photos, and documents – and put them into a play list that can be moved around and presented seamlessly.  This is an ideal tool for companies that want to show a plethora of different files and make the transition between them smooth.  For example, a real estate investor might want to combine property photos, video footage, floorplans and a site plan into one seamless presentation that could be part of an Offering Memoranda.  Slidedog presentations can then be shared across devices, but there is really no customization, branding or text that can be added.

As the saying goes, “if you always do what you’ve always done, then you’ll always get what you always got.”  While tried and true software programs like Powerpoint may get the job done, it may not be the fastest, most effective or best way to deliver a message with maximum impact anymore.  Having an open mind to try something new is the first step.  Don’t go by what is recommended here.  Do some research.  See if there are some desired features that other software programs may provide that go above and beyond a basic PPT.  If so, why not try it?  If it’s too difficult or cumbersome or confusing, try another.  And remember that Powerpoint is always available as a fall-back option.

For those who just want to stick with Powerpoint presentations, and there are many who do, just remember these rules to avoid the most common mistakes.

  1. If the presentation is to a sizeable group or audience, follow the 10-20-30 rule that is often cited for Powerpoint presentations. Create about 10 slides to speak for 20 minutes.  That’s a general guideline, but it all depends on the information being covered.  The point is brevity.  And use a font size that is at least 30 PT.  This ensures that the people who are far away can read it.
  2. Use images.  As the saying goes, a picture paints 1000 words.  So use images to make information memorable, and resort to text to drive home key points.
  3. If the presentation is one-on-one or is being emailed, there is no need to stick to the 10-20-30 rule.  But brevity is always a good idea for any presentation, unless it is being using for training. The information on a PPT should just drive home main points.

Quote of the Week

“Superb presentations start by establishing “what is:  here’s the status quo.”  Then, they “compare that to what could be,” making “that gap as big as possible”.” Adam M. Grant, Originals:  How Non-Conformists Move the World


© 2017, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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