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    Tips on Which Presentation Tool Fits You Best

    Tips on Which Presentation Tool Fits You Best

    Much of the advice about presentation tools focuses on new tech, but let’s start this by reminding you that you are the best or worst presentation tool. YOU are the presentation, not your slides or props. Your audience won’t leave a presentation you give recalling your organization format or your slide deck – they will leave remembering you.

    If that’s a scary thought, welcome to the non-exclusive club. Survey after survey finds that roughly 75% of the population fears public speaking. Public speaking is a bit of a misnomer, though, as you would probably be anxiety free speaking to your friend as you walked along a street in public. It’s presenting that people fear. Down in front. Across the boardroom. At a sales meeting. On display in a video conferencing screen. In front of other people.

    Perhaps, if you’re part of the 75% who’d rather do anything other than present to others, it’s only three other people who unnerve you, or maybe it’s 30, 300 or 3,000. Only about 10% of the population eagerly embrace presenting to others under any circumstances.

    This fear isn’t necessarily rational, of course, but if you’re afraid of presenting, your lizard brain takes over and you’re certain you’ll fail in some way—no one will listen or respect what you’ve presented, or argue that you’re wrong, or whatever is your darkest fear. A professor who taught presentation skills in college used to say that once the reptilian brain takes over, anxiety takes the fearful straight to “I will die alone.” Again, not rational.

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    Now that we’ve addressed the negatives of presenting (and added some info on overcoming the fear of public speaking), let’s get to those tips on which presentation tool fits you best.

    First, understand how you excel as a presenter. Everyone has at least one strength to bring to a presentation, including the ability share experience, humor or data in a memorable way. Some people shine at being organized, flexible or adaptable. Some people can demonstrate empathy in front of both small and large groups and some people can energize others (if you can do it with friends and family, you can do it in a presentation).  Try to isolate at least one thing that you do well around others (ask your mom) and bring it to the software you choose to deliver your presentation.

    Also consider your content and your audience. If you’re trying to convince or persuade your audience, your presentation should be filled with quality visuals, including video and you may be best served by a video responsive software such as Adobe Express, formally Adobe Spark. Adobe has a tremendous selection of photos, videos and images available for its users. (There is a free tier for core features, but Adobe Express requires a subscription for custom branding, personalized themes and support, according to its website.)

     If you want to develop a discussion around what’s being presented, a simple whiteboard—on which you can add suggestions and comments as you go—can be effective. (Although, this flexibility puts more responsibility on the presenter to stay focused and poor handwriting or spelling—and the lack of printouts—can be dealbreakers.)

    Tip 1

    If you’re nauseated at the thought of presenting, the most reviled and most widely used software, Microsoft’s PowerPoint, is a strong contender for what’s best to use. While other companies have evolved as competitors since Microsoft released its first official version of PowerPoint in 1990, the familiarity of PowerPoint’s interface provides comfort and stability to presenters. Its ubiquity means presenters can use it on any computer, mobile device or smartphone, without compatibility worries. It’s staying power comes from its ability to clearly deliver information. No fuss, no trickiness.

    “It does everything necessary that you’d expect of presentation software, allowing you to add text and media to a series of slides, to accompany a talk and other presentations. There are easy-to-use templates included to help spice things up a little, but even a general user with little experience of it is likely to find themselves able to use PowerPoint without much trouble at all,” reports TechRadar in its 2023 ranking of presentation software. “It’s hard to go wrong with PowerPoint, and although Microsoft 365 has a nominal cost, the apps are free to use even if they do have more limited functionality.”

    PowerPoint made the top of other lists also, including Consumer Advocates and Popular Science.

    The anxiety and need for a dependable delivery platform that drives people to use PowerPoint can also contribute to them bombing as presenters. The all-too-common temptation to overload with information and turn a visual presentation into a printable document full of tired graphics is real. Keep it simple.

    Rows of colorful chairs in Auditorium
    Rows of colorful chairs in Auditorium

    Think of any presentation platform as a support structure (remember, you’re the presentation) and avoid loading the PowerPoint slide with information that you, as the presenter, read to your audience. Be brutal when you edit your slides, or follow a ratio when you create them, such as the advice from TED Masterclass, or the 7×7 rule.

    “The 7×7 rule is simple: For every slide, use no more than seven lines of text — or seven bullet points — and no more than seven words per line. Slide titles aren’t included in the count,” according to HubSpot. “There’s no specific data supporting the 7×7 model as the ideal; some PowerPoint proselytizers consider 8×8 good enough while others say 6×6 is more streamlined. The point here isn’t the hard-and-fast number but the underlying idea: Cut out extraneous information to improve presentation uptake.”

    Also, although bullet points are tempting, don’t overdo them in any presentation deck, particularly in a PowerPoint. The same college professor who spoke to the reptilian brain also said, “Too many bullets are like shooting in a basement. Everybody dies.”

    So, death again.

    Tip 2

    If you are creating a presentation with other presenters, such as a building materials sales or marketing team, and your strength is collaboration and brainstorming with others, consider Google Slides. It is the pinnacle of collaborative presentation software.

    Part of the Google Workspace office platform, Google Slides was envisioned as an alternative to Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint. It’s more limited than PowerPoint, but its browser-base allows for cross-platform compatibility. (Google, of course, advises that Google Slides be used only with Google Chrome for fluid delivery because Slides is browser based. Not a problem if you’re team Google in all your platforms.)

    It integrates seamlessly with the rest of the Google Workspace apps and you can present to Google Meet video calls directly from Google Slides.

    Also, if you lack confidence in your word selection, placement or phrasing in presentation decks, Google Slides now offers, which is an AI-powered tool that Google says “transforms any text into visually appealing slides, saving you hours of time and effort.” It’s out there, but use it wisely and understand that the text may sound like it’s artificially generated and not authentic to your ideas or information.

    Diverse group of business people applaud during a speech during seminar.
    Diverse group of business people applaud during a speech during seminar.

    Tip 3

    If you haven’t considered Prezi as a presentation software since its 2011-2012 debut, you might want to take another look—depending on your presentation goal and audience. According to Prezi, in 2021, the software company has more than 100 million users worldwide who have created approximately 400 million presentations and in 2019, the company launched Prezi Video, a tool that allows for virtual presentations within the video screen of a live or recorded video.

    If your strength in presenting is a dynamic presence, you could use Prezi, but because YOU are the presentation, you might want to use something else, into which you can infuse your energy. If your content is technical and can benefit from asides, Prezi can help provide context and allows you to “create highly visual and interactive presentation canvases with the goal of ‘emphasizing the relationship between the ideas,’ according to the company. It’s a high-energy delivery, or can be, and audiences either love it—or not. As visually stimulating as it can be as it moves non-linearly among points, Prezi is also visually stimulating and can stimulate nausea and disorientation in some audience members.

    According to TechRadar, Prezi has a variety of handy tools available for business presenters. You can build and edit presentations with your colleagues in real-time, which may be ideal for companies with teams based across the globe. This may sound more like a warning than an endorsement, but Prezi can be magic in the right presenter’s hands and used for the right audience. It offers tutorials, which you may need to start as you learn all the software’s features.

    Bonus tips

    Apple still offers Keynote, which is often described as “PowerPoint for Macs”, but it offers a rich and deep selection of templates and transitions, as well as dynamic animations, with a simple interface. It offers more than 100 cinematic transitions and effects, so if you see yourself as a Stephen Spielberg, James Cameron or Ava DuVernay, Keynote may be your filmic happy place. It’s available for iPad (because Apple) and can usually open and save PowerPoint files. It may feel counter-intuitive to a PowerPoint wizard and may not be the best for collaboration, as people still identify themselves as Macs or PCs.

    ClearSlide has a niche focus for companies, according to TechRadar. It has personalized tools for sales teams and can track user engagement alongside other metrics. ClearSlide allows you to upload PowerPoint, Keynote, PDF, and Excel files and is integrated with other platforms, including Google Drive, Dropbox and Salesforce.

    “The platform is targeted at firms looking to generate successful marketing campaigns, pushing sales via presentations (and more), not least through a range of analytics and metrics to work for sales and marketing”.

    TechRadar writes in its 2023 rankings. “This system is complex and may offer too many irrelevant features for some businesses, but you can create customized content that reflects your company and the message you’re trying to get out to customers. There are also some good metrics and analysis features, and you can sign up for a free trial before making any decisions.”

    If you’re tight on a budget, yet willing to try new things (an explorer, you call yourself!), LibreOffice Impress is part of the open-source suite offered as a free alternative to Microsoft Office. It offers a variety of tools and editing options for your presentation, including working with 3D images. Tech Radar notes that the only  “limitation it’s that it’s software you download and install rather than web-based, but any presentations created should be easily portable to the web if needed.” Find it here.

    There are enough presentation software options out there, so it’s worth it to find the one that fits your presentation style, purpose and audience. PowerPoint is king, but it’s surrounded by a full and feature-rich kingdom. Find what’s right for you within it.

    What is the most important aspect of a presentation?

    You are the most important aspect of the presentation, not the slides or props.

    How many people fear public speaking?

    Approximately 75% of the population fears public speaking.

    How many people embrace presenting to others eagerly?

    Only about 10% of the population eagerly embrace presenting to others.

    Which presentation software is recommended for collaboration?

    Google Slides is ideal for collaborative presentations.

    What is a dynamic presentation software but can cause disorientation in some audience members?

    Prezi is a visually stimulating but potentially disorienting presentation software.

    About The Author

    Elton Mayfield

    Elton's career spans media, production, digital and building industry expertise. His diverse experience makes him nimble, innovative, and curious – always pushing the envelope to create extraordinary work that delivers real results for our clients.

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