Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio April
BY Bob Walters
ADDING POWER TO POWERPOINT
How to enhance a successful presentation and bring it to
Have you ever attended a session and thought
the information would be valuable for your staff? You ask the
presenter for a copy of his PowerPoint presentation, bring it back
to the office and, lo and behold, your staff just doesn’t get the
point. Or you buy the audiotape, and it just doesn’t have the same
If you’ve experienced this, so have your attendees. How can we
enhance the take-home value of presentations so they can be shared
and attendees can get more value from sessions?
One option is to hire a production firm to synchronize the
PowerPoint presentation with the recording and provide the file as
either a download from your Web site or on CD. This involves either
a speech-editing tool to insert commands that will allow users to
advance the slides, or conversion of the speech to text for
insertion into the PowerPoint presentation using audio
Another option is a technology that exists on PCs running Windows
95 or above. Some might remember “Clippie,” the animated paper clip
that brought you helpful tips about how to use Microsoft products,
or “Bob,” the doomed personal operating system Microsoft tried
targeting to the home audience.
These use a Microsoft technology called Agents. A growing number
of developers have created a range of Agents and tools for using
them to enhance Web sites, PowerPoint presentations, books and
Based on a set of animations and commands, Agents like Merlin
the Magician, Robbie the Robot or Genie add speech to your
presentations. To use the technology, download and activate the
Agents from the Internet. They’re available in several different
places; the most informative is Microsoft Agent Ring (www.msagentring.org).
Here you’ll find a number of Agents and tools to help you bring
your presentations to life.
Another helpful tool is Vox Proxy (www.voxproxy.com), which
has a utility specifically for PowerPoint. To experience how this
technology can bring your presentations to life, download the free
30-day evaluation of Vox Proxy, which includes several characters,
help files, utilities and very informative tutorials.
Once installed, you will see that the Agents option has been
added to the PowerPoint main menu. Go through the tutorials to see
how the product can be used, and then set up a few of your own
presentations. The full version of Vox Proxy is priced between $199
for a single license and $1,270 for a 10-user license.
For more on working with Agents, check out two books from
Microsoft Press (www.microsoft.com/mspress): Developing for Agent and
Agent Software Development Kit. Both contain a CD with samples,
Agents and a speech recognition engine.
These tools also can be used for remote presentations and
training tutorials on your Web site or for downloading. The one
drawback is Agents needs to be installed on the PC that is running
the presentation. Vox Proxy has utilities to handle that if you use
its distribution software.
If you’ve called into an automated help desk, you’ve probably
interacted with AT&T Labs Natural Voices technology (www.naturalvoices.att.com). The voices sound almost
human, and there are many to choose from. AT&T is working on a
version that will plug into the Agent technology.
The Web site offers sample voices and the opportunity to create
a demo. AT&T estimates text-to-speech technology will be a
billion-dollar business in five years.Bob
Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the
founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak
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