I usually make three to four major presentations a month. In January, for example, I made presentations at our Quarterly Business Review Meeting, our All Employee Meeting, and The Thomas Nelson Way session. In February, I will make four presentations.
I often get asked what tools I use to create my presentations. Currently, I am using eight:
- OmniOutliner. This is where it all begins. I start with the content. Personally, I think the worst thing you can do is start with your presentation software. This is letting the tail wag the dog. You need to start with great content and then decide how to best illustrate it or enhance it. In this regard, I highly recommend two books: Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson and Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.
- Keynote. It’s not that I dislike Microsoft PowerPoint. My feelings are much stronger than that: I actually hate it. I started using Apple Keynote a few years ago and have never looked back. Occasionally, I am forced to use PowerPoint (yes, I have version 2008), but it’s never a pleasant experience. I find Keynote gives presentations a professional, finished look with the minimum amount of effort. The results are always great. I just used the most recent version, Keynote 09, in my last presentation. It worked flawlessly and is well-worth the upgrade.
- iStockPhoto. I have a theory about presentations: the presenter should be the show not the slides. In other words, the message I am delivering is the main thing. The slides are simply there to illustrate or enhance that message, not be the message. As a result, I use very, very few bullet slides. (This methodology is best laid out in three must-read books: Beyond Bullet Points by Cliff Atkinson, already referenced above, Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds, and Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte.) Instead, I usually use charts, graphs, a single word, or a photo. I get nearly all of my photos from iStockPhoto. They are amazingly inexpensive and the library of images is ginormous—and growing. I also use them for all my blog photos.
- Handbrake. I also embed quite a bit of video in my presentations. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video clip is worth ten thousand. I used to use a hardware switcher that switched between my presentation software and a DVD player. Not any more. I simply “rip” the video clip and embed it right in Keynote. It creates a seamless transition. I use Handbrake, a free software program, that will rip a DVD chapter and convert it to an MPEG-4 video.
- QuickTime Pro. Once I have ripped the chapter I want, I often need to edit just a clip from the chapter. There are lots of ways to do this including iMovie and Final Cut Studio or Express. But in my view, these are overkill. I can do the same thing in QuickTime Pro. I simply select the clip I want, “trim” off the beginning and end of the clip, and save it to my hard disk.
- Box Shot 3D. This program does one thing extremely well. It creates 3D covers of books that look very realistic, including reflections and shadows. You can control almost every aspect of the lighting. Since I work for a publishing company, most of my presentations have slides of book covers. I use this program to show them in 3D.
- Snapz Pro X. Occasionally, I need to include a screenshot in a presentation. Macs come with this capability built-in, but I wanted more control. There are several programs that provide enhanced screenshot capabilities, including Skitch and LittleSnapper. I have tried them all and keep coming back to Snapz Pro X. The interface needs an update, but I still find that it gives me the most control. (I used this program to take the screenshot I used in the blog photo above.)
- KeySpan Remote. There are several programs that will turn your iPhone into a Keynote remote controller, including Apple’s own Keynote Remote. However, an iPhone is just too big for me. I want to use a remote that is inconspicuous and fits in the palm of my hand. Enter KeySpan Remote. I have had this remote for a couple of years and have not found anything else that is smaller or easier to use.
I intentionally didn’t talk about projectors. I don’t even think about this any more. I use whatever the venue has, and they are usually sufficient. (I can’t even remember the last time this was a problem.) I set my Mac to dual display mode, so that I can see Presenter Notes on my laptop and display the slides to the audience.
Finally, if you are really serious about making great presentations, get a Mac. I switched four years ago and have never looked back. In my humble opinion, the presentation options are just much better. I personally prefer the 15″ MacBook Pro.
Question: What am I missing? If you are a speaker, what tools do you use?