Business people today may find it hard to imagine the days when slide projectors and cardboard graphics were the main tools available for presentations on sales, manufacturing or any other business topic.
Giving effective online presentations is as basic a business skill as balancing a checking account. Software such as Microsoft PowerPoint have not only changed how presentations are created, but also how they're presented. And Google Docs can make creating and giving Internet presentations fun and simple, allowing the business associate to imprint his individuality into the process.
Online presentation software allows business people to create presentations in the form of a slide show, which can be controlled and paced by the presenter. Such presentations can be stored on a computer hard drive or disc for the presenter to access in person, live in front of the intended audience.
But the software also can be used to deliver and store a presentation via the Internet, where audience members can access it at their convenience. The technology's portability makes it far more powerful than the paper-and-slide-based days of the past.
Today’s software also allows the presentation author to incorporate traditional text and images into their message. But they also allow the presenter to use more advanced media, such as video capture software and screen capture software to bring digital video images and animation into play. Such software is also written to be intuitive and easy to use for the novice.
In this article, we’ll talk about creating online presentations, including how to use screen and video capture software to make your presentations more effective.
Using PowerPoint for Online Presentations
Microsoft's PowerPoint recently marked its 20th birthday. Over the last two decades, PowerPoint has become the standard in presentations.
Using PowerPoint for online presentations is easy, fun and can help your work stand out. The program provides seemingly endless means of expressing ideas through its many options and features, while also helping the author organize his ideas.
PowerPoint allows the presenter to create a series of panels -- similar to slides -- which can hold text, graphics, hyperlinks, spreadsheets, digital photos, video or sound, and animation. Presenters are limited only by creativity and their judgment as to the appropriateness of each of these features. The latter is not a small point. The software and those who use it have at times received criticism for putting the presentation's flashy nature over the message's importance [source: Manage Smarter]. As management consultant Abhay Padgaonkar reports, PowerPoint users must know and understand their audience to craft an appropriate presentation.
Once the author has assembled the presentation, he can give it live in a meeting using a computer-screen projector. In this way, PowerPoint can be used to augment points, entertain an audience and bring cohesive understanding to a subject in the traditional meeting setting. Another advantage is that such presentations are highly reliable and portable, which would assist, for example, a vice president tasked with making the same marketing presentation at several outlying offices.
That same vice president, however, could also choose to skip the travel and place the presentation online.
By converting the files to HTML, a PowerPoint presentation can be placed for download on a company's Internet or intranet site, where it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. The author also can turn the presentation itself into a Web site that contains files necessary to display the presentation in any Web browser.
Other options for using the Internet to make the presentation available include sending it directly to audience members via e-mail or broadcasting it live over the Internet using a microphone and digital camera.
The PowerPoint files also can easily be converted to XPS or PDF files, which makes them sharable across a wide variety of platforms. Also, a new, compressed Microsoft Office PowerPoint XML format reduces the file size and offers big advantages in terms of storage and bandwidth requirements.
On the next page, we'll talk about using Google Docs for presentations.
Using Google Docs for Online Presentations
Online presentations can be shared with Google Docs, a Web-based program that makes it easier and more efficient for groups to collaborate.
Google Docs allows participants to store documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more at a secure online site, where they can be accessed by those who have permission. The free service allows users to create these items in their account or upload them from outside the service. Once an item is uploaded, its creator or anyone with permission can work on it online using any browser. The service provides real-time collaboration, which allows several users to work on an item simultaneously and keeps track of what changes each party makes.
It's easy to use Google Docs for online presentations. Google Docs allows the user to import existing presentations, including those in Microsoft PowerPoint and others. Users can edit presentations using a "what you see is what you get" type editing programs, inserting images and formatting slides to fit their vision. It also allows users to present real-time presentations for invited guests at various locations (provided they have a standard Internet browsing connection) and also allows a presenter to publish their work on the Web, allowing the entire Internet community access. The entire process operates from a familiar desktop arrangement, which makes the new program comfortable for the user.
Because Google Docs is supported by Google, users can use the popular search engine to find a document from their past. Security features allow the administrator to choose which parties have access to what item and when. They also can set further restrictions on internal and external document sharing and can change those at any time.
Google Docs supports most common Web browsers, including Explorer, Netscape and Mozilla Firefox.
On the next page, we'll talk about using video-capture software to make your online presentations more effective.
Using Video Capture Software for Online Presentations
Let's say there's a video clip that really illustrates a point you're trying to make in your online presentation. Not that long ago, such a situation might call for you to ask for your audience's indulgence as you stop your presentation and fire up a VCR hooked to a too-small television with poor sound quality. Instead, you now can use video capture software to seamlessly incorporate video clips into your online presentation.
Using video capture software for online presentations can make your work stand out. For instance, it can inject an invigorating change of pace into a text-heavy presentation, bringing your audience back to focus as you hit important points. It also brings a hint of multimedia flavor to any presentation.
Video capture software helps convert older, analog video images, such as those on video tape cassettes, into digital format. For example, a company might want to convert its old training tapes to digital. Or, a public relations firm might collect a variety of past television news reports concerning a client that might help define the client's public image.
There are many choices in this area of software, including freeware such as AviScreen Classic and commercially available software, such as Windows Movie Maker and many others.
Once the video images are captured, presentation authors can incorporate them using the insert menu in PowerPoint. The program also allows the author to create titles and in some cases mark up the video, perhaps placing circles around important things shown in a clip.
We'll talk about how to use screen capture software for online presentations on the next page.
Using Screen Capture Software for Online Presentations
Closely related to the video capture software previously mentioned is screen capture software. Screen capture software captures video and movements from one's computer screen, such as mouse and cursor movements and window cycles.
This can be especially helpful in online presentations about computer software. Screen captures can actually show the movements -- the click-and-drags, pull-down menus and results -- as someone operates the software being demonstrated. It can show a desktop's layout and facilitate discussion of the software's various features as it's demonstrated as part of the online presentation.
Typical screen capture software is easy to use, with popular features such as toolbars and convenient, intuitive editing features. Most allow the user to send copies of their screen captures to others via e-mail. They provide the means to capture the authentic menus, colors, text fonts, mouse movements and other live elements from a computer screen.
Simplicity is key. For example, a screen capture program called !Quick Screen Capture captures any part of a computer screen using up to 10 methods. It automatically saves captured images in popular formats such as BMB, JPG and GIF and claims a powerful image editing function. Another such program called SnagIt approaches the task in three easy steps: capture, edit and share. It, too, features region capture, used for capturing certain parts of the computer screen only and allows users to make short tutorial videos to share with others.
The editing feature is critical in any such program, because it allows the author to insert text comments on top of the various screen movements, adding a layer of instruction to the simple demonstration the screen capture provides on its own. Editing functions allow the presenter to cut through the action and highlight specifically what he is trying to demonstrate while preserving the authentic feel provided by the screen capture software.
Online presentations are the natural extension of communications in the digital age. Available programs make it easy for everyone to illustrate and communicate their ideas and information. The programs make such presentations easily portable and increasingly easy to access online, where they can reach either wider general audiences or exclusive targeted ones. Presentation authors are limited only by their imagination and the time they have available to hone their messages.
For more information about online presentations and related topics, check out the links on the next page.