Presentation Software Tools- Network Administrators
If you are like most network administrators or network professionals, you will have to do many presentations without formal training. You may even be called upon to help someone with a PowerPoint demonstration. How do you avoid torturing your audience with yet another PowerPoint show? The products reviewed here will help you polish your show, without falling into traps.
Not all presentations will be PowerPoint. “Looking Good in Print” by Roger C. Parker is the first book to read for anyone printing a flyer, newsletter or other presentation. Parker’s use of simple rules makes good design both a joy and an easy objective. The new edition includes new or enhanced sections on illustrations, photographs, business communication and response forms, especially as applied to electronic communication.
In “Looking Good in Presentations,” Molly Joss tries to do what Parker did for print, but this text is showing its age. PowerPoint has been through several revisions since the book was published, and in an attempt to make .ppt files universal, Microsoft made Producer available for a free download. Newer versions of PowerPoint add more special effects, backgrounds and transitions. Some 90 percent of the transitions in Hollywood movies are simple dissolves or fades. More than that creates attention problems for the viewer. Remember KISS—keep it simple and safe. The basic mechanics of presentations do not change, from overheads to PowerPoint video, but Joss excels mostly at explaining graphic elements.
Witness the old adage: Tell them what you will say; tell them; tell them what you told them. To that, add audience participation and queries to make sure the audience is following you. In Los Angeles County’s rigorous Scuba instructor training program, we train candidates to give lectures by following the TOMI PASTA mnemonic: topic, objectives, materials, introduction (including an attention getter and value), presentation, application, test of objectives and assignment. The same elements are required in any subject.
In the past few years, only the tools of presentation have changed. Presenter turns PowerPoint files into a distributable movie, and Apreso synchronizes a video capture of your narration with a PowerPoint slide show. The whole presentation can be packaged with a single click, for e-mail or CD, and even distributed online via Apreso Online service. Online playback requires only a Web browser. It’s easy to use, and depending on the skill of the author, it creates professional-appearing packaged presentations for a pittance. You only need a Web camera and a good microphone.
Other tools ameliorate the nerve-wracking physical aspects of presenting before an audience. Many IT presenters use Gyration Ultra Professional Optical Suite’s 3-D mouse. Gyration’s Professional Suite gives you 100-foot range, and the compact keyboard has a very good feel with dedicated playback and volume buttons. With the 3-D, ergonomically sculpted mouse, you move your hand in the air to move the cursor. An activation button controls when the cursor moves. Though there are other mice with enhanced range and extra buttons or laser pointers built in, none offer the navigation of Gyration, freeing you to interact with your audience.
CuriousLabs bought Office Advantage from MetaCreations, and was itself recently purchased by e-frontier. No support is provided, and limited quantities are available. Write to CuriousLabs and tell them you want to see this product updated! Office Advantage is a set of add-ins for Excel and PowerPoint. Though my older version did not work with PowerPoint 2003 and XP, it did work with PowerPoint 2000 and Excel 2003. These are great add-ins. In Excel, the 3-D views and chart add-ins surpass anything Microsoft provides. In PowerPoint, you can enhance transitions, change colors, add narration, pan, control playback, etc. The best effect is literally one-touch enhancement, which improves your slides. Another MetaCreations product, Kai’s PowerShow, is now owned by ScanSoft and does some similar playback modification.
PowerPoint has become a universal lingua franca. The products here will help you polish your presentation and could make your IT department the envy of other shops.
Douglas Mechaber is a network engineer and architect who enjoys finding new ways to make his work easier. Douglas has written for Network Computing and remains active in several local user groups. He now works as an independent consultant. Send him the names of your favorite utilities at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Anystream Apreso for PowerPoint ($199) www.apreso.com
- Effective Presentation Skills for IT Professionals (online course) from WatchIT www.watchit.com
- Gyration Ultra Professional Optical Suite from Gyration ($299.95) www.gyration.com
- Office Advantage from Curious Labs Inc. (now owned by e-frontier) www.curiouslabs.com
- Producer from Microsoft (free download) www.microsoft.com/producer