by Bob Walters | February 01, 2008

When you say the word presentation, most people immediately think of Microsoft PowerPoint. While that standby is still the most common presentation tool, it is far from the only one. A whole industry has sprouted up to provide additional features and capabilities to enliven presentations. Following are a few examples of the ways in which you can change your medium or spruce up your message.

Presenting Remotely

An increasing number of online and remote presentation tools are available, so the need to “be there” to get your message across is not as important as it used to be. I’m not proposing that we do away with F2F (face-to-face) meetings -- but you can provide enough information to get things started from afar, and that will make your F2F time more valuable.

I use Live Meeting (, a Microsoft product, every day to present online database solutions to people throughout the world. I’ve given one-to-one presentations as well as multiple-site presentations, in which my audience was scattered across the country -- all conducted entirely online.

Numerous other online presentation tools are available, such as GoToMeeting, from Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Citrix Online (, and WebEx, from San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco Systems (

Prices for these solutions vary depending on the features you need, the number of simultaneous licenses required, and the number and duration of the presentations you will give. All are packaged with audio and VoIP (Voice-over Internet Protocol) capabilities, or you can use your own conference or calling services.

Most of these tools also allow you to record your presentations, so you can use them for training or to provide access to people who can’t attend a scheduled meeting.

Beyond the Slides

Many add-on products are available to create graphics and animation that will liven up your PowerPoint ( presentations. Not long ago, I worked with Microsoft Agent ( technology to add animated characters to my PowerPoint presentations; these characters helped to guide the audience through the session by speaking and providing background information. You can even use speech-recognition engines to have the agents respond to questions or to search the Internet and read the results of that search.

Agent characters are included with most versions of Windows, but they do need to be installed. MS Agent Ring ( is a user group that provides information and examples of how to use these characters and link to add-on utilities and language libraries.

Atlanta-based PresentationPro ( is one company that provides PowerPoint-based software, including templates and tools for developing presentations or enhancing existing ones. They have a number of products available, from $49 for templates to $399 for the Power Presenter Suite, which includes a variety of enhancement and distribution tools. You can convert PowerPoint presentations to Flash for the web, create e-mails that include graphic links to your presentations with click-through monitoring, or add mood music and sound effects to your

San Jose, Calif.-based Adobe Systems Inc. offers Adobe Pre-senter (, a set of tools that complements PowerPoint and can be purchased as a software download or for a monthly rental or per-minute usage fee. Presenter is part of a larger product package from Adobe called Acrobat Connect Professional, which includes a variety of tools for training, web presentations and web conferencing.

Bob Walters,based in Ann Arbor, Mich., is founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak Software.