My Favorite Presentation Resources

I don’t know about you, but our business runs on PowerPoint, and, to a lesser extent, Keynote presentation software.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/davidf, Image #513471

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/davidf

For example, last week I attended an internal “Bible Summit” where Wayne Hastings made a very effective presentation using Keynote. The next day, I used Keynote myself to make a presentation at our All Employee Meeting. Later in the week, I attended a “Webinar” where the speaker used PowerPoint.

In fact, any more, it’s rare that I attend a meeting where the speaker or facilitator doesn’t use Keynote or Powerpoint. They have become ubiquitous in our organization. We use one or the other for Board meetings, author presentations, sales conferences, and other ad hoc meetings. To misquote a verse from the Gospel of Matthew, “where ever two or three are gathered, there is PowerPoint (or Keynote) in their midst.”

The problem is that most people using these presentation tools have not received adequate training. In fact, most have received no training whatsoever. As a result, too many people misuse the tool. This results in too many slides, too many bullets, and too much copy. Consequently, the tool often gets in the way. It becomes a hindrance to communication rather than an aid.

Evidently, these people are not aware that the Web is full of PowerPoint and Keynote resources. In less than two hours of surfing, you can radically improve the effectiveness of your PowerPoint presentations. Here is a list of resources to get you started (in alphabetical order):

Presentation Philosophy and Tips

  • Beyond Bullets—This is a great Web site on how to use presentation software more effectively. The content is very stimulating—and will challenge your presuppositions. Guaranteed. This is not a collection of more templates and clipart. Instead, it presents serious thinking about the way you use your software and how to improve your effectiveness.
  • DesignSense—This company advertises itself as “graphic design training for businesspeople.” It contains a series of design lessons for people (like me!) who have no formal graphic design training. They claim that the training you receive on the site is equivalent to a 40-hour graphic design course. However, it is condensed into 12 hours of computer-based training. It costs $59.00.
  • MasterViews—This site is actually a blog. It offers a large collection of very specific and very practical PowerPoint tips. Comments from readers further enhance the value of the content. The site also offers news related to new PowerPoint add-ins and related hardware (like wireless pointers and mice).
  • Presentation Zen—If you are going to visit one size, this is it. This is Garr Reynold’s blog on issues related to presentation design, technique, and delivery. He provides real-live examples of great presentations and not-so-great presentations. I learn best by seeing concrete examples. Garr does a great job of showing you what works and why.
  • Presenters Online—This site is sponsored by Epson. It contains a variety of helpful articles and resources related to PowerPoint software and presentation hardware. Naturally, the purpose of the site is to sell Epson hardware; however, I still found it useful.
  • Presenters University—This site is sponsored by InFocus, a competitor to Epson. It is one of the best siites for PowerPoint training. It contains a number of courses that you or your staff can work through. It has tons of articles, software you can download and try, and even an “Ask the Professor” bulletin board where you can get answers to your specific questions.
  • Projector Solution—This site has many resources. I found one article particularly helpful. It is called “The Art of Communicating Effectively: Tips about all aspects of pulling off a successful presentation!” It’s must reading for every PowerPoint presenter.
  • Really Bad PowerPoint—This is a controversial white paper written by Seth Godin, the author of The Big Red Fez, The Purple Cow, and Permission Marketing [affiliate links]. You can download it for free here. (Note: this is a direct link to the PDF file.) You may not agree with Seth’s conclusions, but it will definitely stimulate your thinking. I distributed the article a few years ago to my staff following a very tedious sales conference presentation. They read the article, made adjustments, and dramatically improved their presentation at the next sales conference. This article is great for squashing the tendency to make your slides too copy-intensive and bullet-heavy.
  • Tony’s PowerPoint Weblog—This blog bills itself as the Internet’s first business weblog dedicated to PowerPoint, presentations and related topics. It contains many short, insightful tips bound to improve your PowerPoint presentations.

Themes and Templates

  • Crystal Graphics—This is a great source for PowerPoint add-ins that enhance the basic program. Television-like transitions, 3D Titles, supershapes, and custom templates are some of the more popular add-ins. I have purchased several of these in the past and found the quality excellent. My only caution is that some of the effects, particularly the television-like transitions, require some serious hardware horsepower.
  • KeynotePro—This site provides Keynote themes for professionals. They are stunning. I have used most of the themes at one time or another. Highly recommended.
  • Keynote Theme Park—This site provides some really good Keynote themes, too. I have purchased several of them. You can download individual themes or collections. The site also has some Keynote tips that I found helpful.
  • Jumsoft ThemesThis site provides some good, but not great, Keynote themes. If you can’t find what you want elsewhere this is worth a look.
  • PowerPoint ImageObjects—This site offers a collection of what others call “floating objects.” These are graphic objects with transparent backgrounds that appear to float on top of the slide. The site offers collections of symbols and shapes, metaphor objects, numbers, bullets, and other objects. These objects are very cool and very professional.
  • PowerPoint Templates Pro—This is yet another collection of professionally produced PowerPoint templates. You can purchase single templates or a collection of templates. The site’s customers include a impressive roster of Fortune 100 companies.
  • Presentation Plates—Yet another collection of PowerPoint templates. If you haven’t found what you are looking for, this site is worth checking.
  • ZapIt Media—This is another collection of PowerPoint templates. But these are very different and very cool. Like PowerPoint Templates Pro, you can download single templates or collections.

Images and Videos

  • AbsoluVision—This is a royalty free collection of images in the JPEG2000 format. (This is the new JPEG format that offers better quality at higher compression.) These are excellent images, many them depicted as floating objects. The price is $39.99 a month (download up to 300 images) or $79.00 a year (download up to 3,600 images). If I can’t find it on iStockPhoto (see below), I come here next.
  • iStockPhotoI use this site almost daily. It’s my primary source for blog and presentation images. The images are cheap, usually a dollar or so, depending on the size and resolution. This has become my one-stop source for stock photos.
  • Jumsoft Keynote Stills—This is a collection of floating objects. It includes some 260 images. They are excellent. I use them regularly. The collections costs $39.00.
  • MovieMinistry.com—About a year ago, I started using video clips in my presentations. Since then, it has become a staple. It’s a great way to illustrate a point in a compelling and entertaining way. The challenge is to find appropriate clips when you need them. Enter MovieMinistry.com. This subscription-based Web site ($69.95 a year) has thousands of references to clips, tagged by category. (Note: the site doesn’t offer the clips themselves. Instead, it offers a comprehensive database of the clips. You’ll still have to buy the DVD.) It offers you a number of ways to search for clips and even provides appropriate set-up copy and application suggestions. While this site is primarily designed for churches and ministry leaders, you’ll find it equally useful in a business context.
  • Microsoft Clip Gallery Live—This is Microsoft’s clipart site. It is a decent resource and it’s free. However, I prefer iStockPhoto.com. It’s probably worth checking here first to see if you can find what you need. If you find that it just doesn’t have enough horsepower, then you can use iStockPhoto.com or some other subscription site.
  • PowerFrameworks—This side provides conceptual graphics that you can use to illustrate workflows, business processes, or conceptual relationships. This is a very helpful tool for making complex ideas simple—and elegant. It is expensive—$249.95 a year—but if you make frequent use of these types of graphics, it’s a whole lot cheaper than doing it yourself.

Related Software

  • Excelsius—This is my favorite charting program for PowerPoint. Unfortunately, there is not a Mac version (though you can run the output on a Mac). It essentially creates animated flash movies, based on Excel data. It is highly customizable and very sophisticated. This also makes for a somewhat steep learning curve. However, if you want your charts to have the “wow” factor, no other charting program I have tried comes close.
  • ImageWell—This is an essential tool for simple manipulation of images. Sure, Adobe Photoshop can do everything this application can do—and a whole lot more. But therein lies the problem. It is overkill for most of the simple things I need to do—resizing, cropping, etc. Image Well is a simple solution. It does a few things really well—and fast. Best of all, it’s free!
  • MindManager X5—This used to be one of the five most-used pieces of software on my computer. Since switching to the Mac, I use NovaMind, even though MindJet, has a version of MindManager for Mac. Regardless, mind-mapping software will change forever the way you plan and prepare your presentations. It is essentially a brainstorming tool that allows you to create “mental maps” of your presentations. It will help you quickly get all your ideas out of your head and then organize them. In my experience, this tool provides a much faster path to the final result than any other tool I have ever used. When you are done with your map, you can export it directly to PowerPoint. Both software developers offer 30-day trial versions of their software.
  • Ovation—This site takes PowerPoint presentations and enhances them. It does stuff that you cannot do in PowerPoint alone. I haven’t personally tried it, but it looks interesting. The demo was impressive.
  • PowerPoint Add-Ins—This is a collection of mostly useful add-ins written by PowerPoint Guru, Shyam Pillai. My favorites are the “Handout Wizard for PowerPoint,” which allows you to create customized layouts, “Rename Shape/Slide Add-in, enables you to rename slides and shapes by clicking on them, and ”Toolbox for PowerPoint,“ which provides a collection of Shyam’s VBA code snippets for PowerPoint.
  • PresentationPro—This site offers some very cool tools not found anywhere else. For example, EmailPRESENTER allows you to e-mail a PowerPoint presentation to someone within the body of the e-mail itself (rather than as an attachment). OnlinePRESENTER is similar, in that it allows your Web site visitors to run a PowerPoint presentation on your site without having to download the presentation and run it within PowerPoint itself.
  • ProfCast—This is a tool for recording lectures, including PowerPoint or Keynote slides, and then distributing them as podcasts. I haven’t personally used it, but it looks slick. I am looking for an opportunity to give it a whirl.

Miscellaneous

  • Indezine—This is a great PowerPoint information site run by Geetesh Bajaj, a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP. It contains PowerPoint articles, links, reviews, and templates. Geetesh also sends out a weekly ezine on PowerPoint. The reviews page is especially helpful. He lists almost every known PowerPoint add-in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have an RSS feed—at least that I could find.
  • PixelImage—If you want to employee a professional design firm to design your presentation, this is one of the best. They have done work for Starbucks, Microsoft, Philips, and ASCAP. If nothing else, their site may provide inspiration for designing your own presentation.

If you have other resources that I have missed, please use the comments feature (see below) to share your favorites.

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