PowerPoint is dead. Long live PowerPoint.
The demise of the ubiquitous presentation tool has been predicted for a few years now. Sure, it gets the job done, but there is a whole new generation of presentation tools that do the job while making more engaging, creative, and eye-catching slides that can help you tell your story and connect with even more people. In today's 21st century workforce, regardless of where you work, your resume will not be complete without them.
With each new tablet and social network that launches, more of our interactions are happening online, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and Google +. According to a 2011 Pew Research Center report, half of all Americans use social media, compared to only 5% just six years prior. Given our increasingly reliance on the online world, it's only natural that our work shifts online, too.
"As more and more of our interactions become asynchronous and globalized, the need to present information online becomes greater,” says Chiara Ojeda, an educator, blogger and speaker who blogs at Tweak Your Slides.
Enter presentations tools like SlideShare, SlideRocket, and Google Slides, which make it easy to create slides and share them online with your classmates, colleagues, or a global audience of millions. More sophisticated tools like cloud-based presentation app Prezi.com do away with the idea of individual slides altogether to help you make impressive, modern-looking animated presentations on a seemingly endless canvas. Along that line are video scribe tools like Doodle and PowToon, which can truly animate your ideas. Not only can these presentations become more engaging, they can help your audience understand the subject matter better. One of the most popular Prezi presentations can teach you about the theory of relativity by showing it to you in action through a nifty animated elevator.
These presenting tools are prevalent in business, as well as IT, marketing, and education, and are quickly becoming essential. Jennifer Stagner manages SEO and ecommerce sales for office supply website www.tops-products.com and regularly uses Google Docs and SlideRocket to communicate with coworkers in other parts of the country.
"I use online tools for every presentation, whether it is presenting sales analysis to our executive team, search engine optimization best practices to our content team, training presentations to our technical support team, or product solutions to our customers,” says Stagner. "As a manager of a large department I also believe that students who are familiar with online presentation tools will be more valuable to future employers.”
If you're an undergraduate student, graduate student, or recent graduate, now is the time to learn how to learn these tools and get these increasingly valuable skills on your resume. You can use them now in your classwork or internship, and have them in your arsenal for when you enter the workforce.
"This is absolutely an important skill,” says Ojeda. "Particularly because those already established in the workforce tend to do things in the old death-by-PowerPoint style, the opportunity for young, 21st century-workers to set themselves apart by taking on the tools of 21st-century presenting is very great.”
The Online Presentations Tools You Need To Know
Because many of these presentation tools are free, you can get started learning how to use them right now and incorporate them into your own assignments. Here's our primer to understanding the more popular online presentation tools — and how to get the most out of them:
- Google Slides: For Google's version of PowerPoint, check out the Google Slides section of its Google Drive cloud storage (previously known as Google Docs). Through this free online presentations app, you can create and edit presentations using pre-made templates and inserting images and videos. For more collaborative projects, you can edit the presentation with fellow students or coworkers. Once it's ready, you can share with others via Google Drive, download as a PDF, PPT, or .txt file, or even embed onto a website.
- SlideRocket: Like Google Slides, SlideRocket helps you make presentations online. But the website also has more sophisticated tools so you can add animations and transitions. You can also include data from real-time sources, like Twitter live feeds and Yahoo! Finance stock quotes, for an always up-to-date presentation. When you're finished, you can publish your presentation as a URL, which you can then embed in a web page or blog or share with others. There is one caveat — this popular tool is at a bit of a crossroads. Following an acquisition by ClearSlide, a sales-based presentation platform, SlideRocket is not currently accepting new registrations for its services. So you'll have to stay tuned to see what's next in store.
- SlideShare: As the name implies, SlideShare is all about sharing your work. If you made a presentation through PowerPoint, OpenOffice, or Keynote, you can upload it to this online community to share with a global audience. The free website supports a variety of documents, including PDFs, MSOffice, OpenOffice, and iWorks docs, which you can add audio to through the site. You can upload presentations publicly or privately and share on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, or embed on blogs, wikis, or websites. The site can be valuable for when you're conducting research, too, thanks to the thousands of uploaded SlideShares covering any number of searchable subjects.
- Prezi: One of the more advanced tools of them all, this cloud-based presentation app uses Adobe Flash to help you choreograph non-linear, dynamic presentations. Its signature rotate and zoom capability can be useful for conveying complex ideas, so it might not be best for every project. It's free to sign up, and you start with 100 MB of cloud storage. Working in a group? You can collaborate on a prezi with others in real time. When your presentation is ready, you can share publicly or download to present offline.
- Skitch: Visuals are key in any presentation, and this free Mac image editor app from Evernote lets you easily manipulate your images and add annotations, shapes, and sketches.
- Keynote: When working offline, many designers prefer this Apple product to other desktop-based presentation tools like PowerPoint to make their slides. Choose from more than 25 transitions, made 3-D charts, or morph text from one slide into the next for visually stunning slides that can then be uploaded to a site like SlideShare.
The Next Generation
To some presentation gurus, even cutting-edge tools Prezi and SlideShare are already passe, and the future of presentation belongs to video scribing — a new form of visual story telling that uses whiteboard animation, stop-motion photography, or illustrations to explain a concept.
"The days of PowerPoint, Slideshare, even Prezi are not long for the world,” says Duane Siebert, founder of www.TonerRefillKits.com. "People are suckers for motion, videos, more engagement, more entertainment.”
Siebert would know. He regularly creates "doodle-art” whiteboard videos using tools like Powtoons.com, as well as YouTube videos based on PowerPoint files, effectively for his business. These video presentations can make even the most mundane topics watchable and engaging. Siebert himself will tell you that his YouTube videos have garnered more than 300,000 views on stuff as boring as toner for printers.
Some of the emerging players in this animated arena include PowToon, a free animated presentation online software tool; Sparkol VideoScribe, a subscription-based whiteboard animation tool; and Camtasia Studio, an app that turns screen recordings into video. And as is usually the case with adapting brand new technology, younger people are at an advantage.
"A huge leg up young people have on us 'old farts' is that they are so keenly aware of the cutting edge nature of video, what's appealing, what is eye-catching,” says Siebert. "It is far easier for them to see the power of tools like these and come up to speed on them far faster.”
Tips for a Killer Presentation
Though the tools themselves may have evolved, what makes a great presentation indeed great still relies on three key things: content, delivery, and visual presentation. Jim Endicott, author of The Presentation Survival Skills Guide, calls this a three-legged stool, a concept that Nancy Duarte, author of slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations, expanded on more recently with her presentation ecosystem. It all boils down to this:
"A presentation is strong in three areas: content that is dynamic, real, and resonates; delivery that is natural, engaging, and connected; and slides or visuals that are design-centered and visual in approach,” says Ojeda. "Each one takes unique preparation, self-critique, the critique of others, revision, and practice. An effective presentation is one that leaves the audience wanting to take action and effectiveness doesn't come without [these] characteristics.”
Here are some tips to help you make effective presentations, whether you're using online tools like SlideRocket, Google Docs, SlideShare, and Prezi, or, yes, even PowerPoint:
Follow by example: There are thousands of online presentations out there, curated by design and presentation blogs. It's likely the more popular ones will also be some of the more engage, too, so point around and learn by example to see what works. "Study great presenters, don't just go it alone,” says Ojeda.
Be succinct: An online presentation isn't an essay — less text is better. And better than text is an image. "You want to avoid too many words on a slide or too many slides; often you can relay the same concept with an interesting visual or infographic instead,” says Stagner.
Rehearse: If you're in school, you're likely not just uploading your work to sites to let it potentially go viral; you're presenting it before a classroom. And just like any presentation, it's important to practice and put the time into the actual presenting — not just the presentation itself. "Don't procrastinate, prepare instead,” says Ojeda.
Getting Started Now
Becoming proficient in any or all of these online presentation tools can be a valuable addition to your resume and portfolio. And the best part is you can start now; many of these tools are free and provide tutorials to help get you on your feet. You'll be wowing your fellow classmates, professors, and future employers in no time.