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PowerPoint and Presenting Blog: November 2009

Thoughts and impressions of whatever is happening in the world of PowerPoint

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Learn PowerPoint: Text Placeholders vs. Text Boxes

Monday, November 30, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 1:34 PM IST

Aren't text boxes and text placeholders the same? Are they really different? And why should I bother even if they are different? All these are valid questions, and the answers to them form one of the most important foundations in learning to create more structured presentations.

In PowerPoint slides, text can be found in many places: text placeholders, text boxes, tables, charts, Notes pane, and more places. However, the text within a text placeholder has characteristics that set it a class apart from all other text. So what exactly is a text placeholder, and how is it different from text within a text box or anywhere else?

Learn more here...

Categories: outline, powerpoint, powerpoint_2003, text, tutorials

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posted by Geetesh on 10:24 AM IST

In the PowerPoint 2003 Interface page, I already showed you the different parts of the program interface -- in this page, we'll focus on one particular area of the interface: the Slides/Outline pane, and it is normally placed on the left side of the interface. The Slides tab is normally active, but to get to the Outline tab, all you need to do is select the second tab shown in the pane.

Learn more here...

Categories: outline, powerpoint, powerpoint_2003, tutorials

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Saturday, November 28, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 1:02 PM IST

Ellen Finkelstein is the author of 101 Advanced Techniques Every PowerPoint User Should Know. This book contains several, cool PowerPoint tips, and one of them is excerpted on Indezine as an exclusive. Recently, it occurred to Ellen that the words "slide show" came about because early presentations looked like they were sliding as the slides were moved on and off the screen. Here's a technique that makes your presentation look as if it's sliding.

Learn more here...

Categories: animation, powerpoint, techniques

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Friday, November 27, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 12:09 PM IST

"Oh, no, not again! Don’t tell me I have to sit through another boring meeting staring at line after line of text on a wall," she mumbled. "Why can’t these people learn how to make their PowerPoint presentations more interesting?" We've all wondered the same thing, but monotonously bullet-pointed, text-filled slides continue to be the norm in most presentation venues. Be different: Show, don't tell.

Robert Lane Dr. Stephen Kosslyn

This article by Robert Lane and Dr. Stephen Kosslyn provides you with better options that will allow you to dump so much text! Learn more here...

Categories: opinion, powerpoint

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 4:46 PM IST

Irwin HipsmanIrwin Hipsman is the director of customer community at Brainshark, a leader in on-demand presentations. He has more than 20 years of experience in the cable, conferencing and collaboration industries, and has worked with communications technologies including with multi-point video conferencing; audio, video and Web conferencing; and distance learning via satellite. Prior to Brainshark, Irwin was involved in the management of public access cable television stations.

In this conversation, Irwin talks about the Brainshark Insurance Network.

Geetesh: Tell us about the Brainshark Insurance Network, how it is set up, and whom it is geared to?

Irwin: Sure. We’re very excited to have recently launched the Brainshark Insurance Network. It’s a central site for life insurance carriers and their distribution partners, such as brokerages, and enables everyone to tap into the benefits of Brainshark on-demand presentations. Using the site, life insurance carriers can equip their distribution channels with pre-approved multimedia presentations, which the distributors then use for internal product education, as well as their own sales and marketing outreach.

As background on Brainshark, our technology enables businesspeople to easily create voice-enhanced presentations that are available online, on demand. You can easily turn content like PowerPoint presentations, marketing collateral, and Web pages into interactive Flash-based presentations, incorporating animation, video, survey and quiz questions, and more. Because your audience can view the presentation at any time and have the full benefit of both seeing and hearing your message, it leads to greater reach and knowledge retention.

Now, with the Brainshark Insurance Network, life insurance carriers have a trusted network for communicating effectively and productively with their distribution channels via Brainshark presentations. From within their own Brainshark application sites, carriers can easily publish selected presentations to the Network and update them anytime, so keeping content fresh is a cinch. In addition, by letting their distributors access and send out content from the Brainshark Insurance Network, life insurance carriers can rest easy that their offerings are being communicated in a consistent and high-impact way.

Now if you’re a distributor, you can access the Network, and view and send Brainshark presentations for free. No more combing through e-mails, scouring individual portals and searching back through newsletters for your carriers’ content – everything you need from all the carriers you work with is right here, in this central, secure Network. For a monthly fee, you can also get access to advanced features, including the ability to personalize carrier content – adding in an intro and closing that includes your own voice, as well as a photo or logo to convey the value of your brand. Additional options include using Brainshark’s authoring tools to create your own presentations in a private site, and accessing best practice tutorials from Brainshark. Check out this overview presentation which goes into more detail.

Life insurance carriers and their distribution partners can also take advantage of Brainshark’s tracking capabilities. Carriers can see, for instance, which of their presentations are being used and which distributors are using them – letting them know how content is resonating. Distributors get even more granular info and receive instant notification of individual viewing activity for free – showing who watched a presentation, how much content was consumed, how any questions were answered and more – enabling them to prioritize follow-up. Distributors can also provide direct feedback to the carriers in the form of comments and ratings of content.

We’ve seen a lot of enthusiasm around the Network and already have an impressive roster of life insurance carriers participating, including American General Life, American National Insurance, Jackson National Life, Lincoln Benefit Life, Liberty National Life and United American Insurance, with others joining weekly. There’s a lot of traction on the distributor side as well – with more than 100 brokerages participating.

Geetesh: So in effect, this is a subset of the entire Brainshark content selected and geared towards a vertical industry?

Irwin: That’s a good question – the answer is yes, and much more. The Brainshark Insurance Network is an extension of what we’re doing today and what life insurers have been doing with Brainshark for several years now – using Brainshark-delivered presentations to train and educate distributors and to help them sell using multimedia presentations to tell a compelling and consistent story. And now with some unique capabilities of this new Network, participating carriers are able to increase their reach to distribution partners they haven’t done business with before and better enable distributors by providing them with the technology and content to do their own marketing and selling. In addition, both carriers and their distributors are able to measure the impact of their communications more than ever before.

Categories: brainshark, interviews, online_presentations, powerpoint

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Sunday, November 22, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 9:11 AM IST

The Office 2010 Beta is now available for everyone! You can download the Office 2010 Beta applications and run it on your computer, or even try out the online Office Web Apps.

Office 2010 Beta

The Office 2010 Beta site has more info including video clips, lists of new features, etc.

Just in case you do download the Office 2010 Beta, do remember that this is beta software. Don't run it on a system that's your main work environment! You can however use the wonders of virtualization to run Office 2010 Beta on Virtual PC or VMware.

Virtual PC is a free virtualization software from Microsoft that runs on Microsoft Windows. VMware offers its Workstation and Fusion products that can run a separate, virtual instance of Windows on Windows or Mac.

Getting back to Microsoft Office 2010 Beta, here's the official press release. And look out for PowerPoint 2010 related info here...

Categories: office_2010, powerpoint_2010

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 8:11 AM IST

Rikk FlohrA refugee from 18 years in corporate management and marketing, Rikk Flohr turned his attention inward to his 20-year love affair with photography. He founded his design firm Fleeting Glimpse Images in January 2006 and divides his days between various print and screen design projects, presentation consulting and, of course, photography. He lives in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

In this conversation, Rikk talks about photographs and copyrights.

Geetesh: Many people use all sorts of photos in PowerPoint – and most of them assume that any visuals they find from image searches on Google can be used in their PowerPoint presentations. How are they wrong, and what are the easiest alternative options available to them.

Rikk: I think this leads back to an erroneous notion that items found on the internet are either public domain, due to the magnanimous intentions of the creator, or free for the grabbing due to their public posting. It is a little like the mentality of the proponents of unauthorized wireless internet access. If a person leaves their wireless access point unprotected, they are, by default, inviting people to use it. Only people who hide their SSID, for example, do not wish to share their connection. The same could be said of internet images. By posting them, there is an assumption that free use is implied by virtue of their being visible in the first place.

It seems there is a generational effect at work here. The expectation of intellectual property seems to be proportional to the age of the both the artist and the consumer of the artist’s fruits. Younger people, especially those growing up with the omnipresence of computers in their lives, have a lower expectation of their work being an item of intellectual value. The perception grows as the audience gets younger that work is not longer fine art, but a commodity, or at worst, a freebie. One only has to look at the recent trends in the music and movie industries to see how this applies. Even my own children do not always understand my rabid defense of my own intellectual property. After all, isn’t information supposed to be free? Is that not the modern battle cry?

“What’s the harm?” they say of someone who is using my image on their website, with or without attribution. The harm for me is that my livelihood, and by extension theirs, is directly related to the marketability of my intellectual properties-including the photographs I have taken. If I don’t defend every instance of improper use, I can’t, in the eyes of US law defend an egregious and financially substantial theft.

Unless there is express permission by the images’ creator and/or copyright holder, there is generally no acceptable use of that image. A few exceptions exist but for what we are talking about today, it is the rule. That having been said, there are places where public-domain images exist. There are also places where non-public-domain images are available for use. Creative Commons licensing became popular as a way to grant usage of images to people needing an economical source of quality images. Photo-sharing sites like Flickr offer the ability to couple images displayed to a license that grants usage under conditions for certain considerations such as attribution, linking, and other considerations.

In addition to a wealth of Creative Commons and similarly “no-cost” image licensing solutions, there is the world of the Stock Image House. Stock image prices have fallen through the floor in the past ten years. An image that cost $200.00 USD five scant years ago can be had for as little as $15.00 USD today. That puts a lot of quality photography and illustration work within the reach of many budgets. Images have become a commodity and the lower prices have put them in a place where people should seriously consider foregoing the risk of legal action by purchasing a low-cost stock image. As long as there are images that a 'right-click' can capture, people will consider them free for the taking. No matter how cheap they might become from legitimate sources, the lure of the free will entice some.

Geetesh: If people started clicking their own images with digital cameras, would everything be OK – or are there still some copyright infringement issues they should be concerned about?

Rikk: The ability to easily capture images via the Digital Camera and to process them via Image Editing Software should have improved the availability of quality, pertinent images. It doesn’t always.

First, there is the problem of competency. The reason photographers and illustrators exist is that they have a skill set which allows them to create an end product superior to the layman’s. The advances in technology in digital cameras have gone a long way toward helping a novice produce a better image. The elaborate concepts of lighting, composition and attention to detail mean that a professional photograph is, at best, a hit-and-miss proposition for a novice armed with the latest extraordinary technology. Give the pro-photographer and the novice the same camera and ask them to photograph the identical subject and the difference is obvious.

Quality aside, there are a few issues of which the digital camera user must be aware. Property and people are protected somewhat by current privacy laws. In general, you are safe to shoot images just about anywhere on public property. This doesn’t mean you are free from hassle-but rather that you are within your constitutional rights. That also doesn’t mean that you won’t be accosted by police, corporate security, and angry individuals. In a world containing the threat of terrorism, you can be viewed as suspicious anywhere you photograph. You must be prepared to be detained by authorities, explain yourself, and understand your rights.

In the corporate world, things are different. Once you leave the domain of public property, you are at the mercy, more-or-less, of the persons responsible for order and security. Many companies have policies (written and unofficial) regarding people photographing buildings, technologies or employees. On the recent PowerPoint Live 2009 Digital Photography Field Trip, I, as the tour organizer spent a significant portion of the trip running interference. Four times during the two hour expedition, I was forced to explain what we were doing to hotel security, bank security guards, Atlanta’s MARTA police and people who asked what we were up to. Content which might appear in a digital photograph may be sensitive or even protected.

As a photographer, I carry model and property releases for items which I may decide to photograph with the intent of using at a later date. Without those releases, I open myself to liability should I click a digital image of a person or a property. If recognizable people appear in your image, you will need a release to use the photo. If a trademarked or copyrighted item appears in your photograph, you need a release to use the photo. Think about a Coke™ bottle. The logo is trademarked. The shape of the bottle is even protected. You can get out of paying usage fees to a photographer or a stock house by taking your own image but you still don’t have the rights to use that image containing the trademarked bottle and logo without Coke’s permission-in most cases.

The same holds true for works of art. Consider the Eiffel Tower. How many millions of photographs exist of the iconic Paris landmark? Did you know that, according to the trade publications I read, that you can use any image taken of the tower for any purpose-but only in daylight! After dark, the company which lights the tower holds the rights to usage of any image captured. In the daylight anyone can see the tower. At night, only the company lighting the tower, can provide you with an image by virtue of their ‘creative’ act of lighting. It doesn’t mean you can’t take an image of the tower at night. Use that image in a work for profit item and you may be subject to legal action however.

You can photograph people and places and in certain instances use the resulting images. There are many exceptions to image use including, educational use, public-good, editorial and many others. The answer to just about every copyright question is ‘It depends.’ Anyone sitting in Alvin Trusty’s PowerPoint Live Copyright session would have heard those two words repeatedly. It Depends!

Bottom line: you are going to have a generally less-expensive path to an image by taking it yourself. Realize that you must have some sort of clearing process for what appears in your image. It may require a model release or a property release to completely clear your image for use. You may be in a situation where usage is considered fair without a release but make certain you are before using that image.

Categories: copyrights, interviews, photography, powerpoint

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Monday, November 09, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 2:51 PM IST

In an earlier post last week, I discussed Adobe Captivate's views and compared them to PowerPoint's deafult views. I also explained about the Storyboard View. In this post, I'll look at Captivate's Edit view, which in many ways is similar to PowerPoint's Normal view.

If you are not already in Edit view within Captivate, choose the View drop-down in the toolbar, and select Edit View as shown in Figure 1 below.

Choose Edit View in Adobe Captivate
Figure 1: Choose Edit View in Adobe Captivate

Edit View has a tri-pane view that's similar to PowerPoint's three panes. These are how they compare:

  • Captivate's Filmstrip is similar to PowerPoint's Slides Pane.
  • Captivate's Slide area is similar to PowerPoint's Slide area.
  • Captivate's Slide Notes area is similar to PowerPoint's Notes Pane.
Figure 2 shows you Captivate's Edit View. At the top of the Slide area, you'll notice an option called Edit PPT.

Edit View in Adobe Captivate
Figure 2: Edit View in Adobe Captivate

If you don't see an Edit PPT option, it means that the Adobe Captivate project you are working on did not originate from a PowerPoint presentation.

The Edit PPT option is actually more than one option -- click it to the menu that you can see in Figure 3.

Edit PPT Option in Adobe Captivate
Figure 3: Edit PPT Option in Adobe Captivate

So what do these different options mean? To find out check this space next week!

Categories: captivate, powerpoint

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Saturday, November 07, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 7:49 AM IST

Glen Millar is a MVP (Most Valuable Professional) for Microsoft PowerPoint. Based near Brisbane, Australia, Glen is a regular on the Microsoft support newsgroups, and a featured speaker at PowerPoint Live. Visit Glen's site, PowerPoint Workbench for tutorials on cool animation effects in PowerPoint.

Geetesh: You experiment a lot with animation in PowerPoint – in your opinion, where is the thin line that divides animation that is sufficient and enhancing from one that is too much and distracting. Is there a rule of the thumb that can act as a guideline, and what are your opinions?

Glen: Geetesh, that’s a really good question! There is a thin line between what is effective and what is gratuitous, or distracting. When I animate a presentation, I ask myself 3 questions:

  1. What kind of presentation am I building?

    1. If it is a kiosk presentation, I give myself more licence to be more “animated”- that is, a kiosk presentation is the animated interface between the story and the audience. So, I have more scope to be a bit exciting.

    2. If it is a live presentation (which is the majority of what I do) I will subdue the animations somewhat so they don’t compete with the presenter. The live speaker is the animated interface between the presentation and the audience. The animations must not distract from the presenter.

  2. What is the practical level of animating? I first work out my storyboard and what elements demand being animated. For example, a complex concept can be broken into sub-parts and each sub-part animated in. My audience can then discover each component, without being distracted by all of the elements at once.

  3. What is the artistic level of animation? Once my presentation is fully animated, I then look for artistic opportunities. For example, I have a bunch of cogs spinning on the slide. I use an Emphasis animation, Spin to show motion or effort. When I want to remove them, if the story does not dictate how to do it, I go for an artistic effect. An example would be a slow fade out. I could choose a different type, but not a new animation. That would not be supported by my story.
Geetesh: Tell us about animation builds when successive animations play one after the other. How effective are such builds – please give examples and share your thoughts.

Glen: Successive builds are critically important! I’ve recently been quite concerned about the lack of continuity in our presentations and our graphics. Let me demonstrate with an example. The following two graphics are available as download-able clip art within PowerPoint.

Individually, they are great photos and display very good concepts. However, when I put them side-by-side I realized they contain the same people, but in different clothes. Now, professional movie makers employ continuity folks- people who check every feature of a shot to make sure it is consistent. You don’t want an actor walking down a road to suddenly appear in with a new shirt. Now, while this example is dramatic, it illustrates how important consistency is across a movie.

So, how do you get real consistency? Well, I love breaking stories into logical components, and a classic example is some experimental work I have done recently on time-lapse.

The following is some work to encourage people to read a book. I’ve added just three frames from the 43 frame sequence.

If you look carefully, you will see someone (in this case, my son Chris) turning a book. What a powerful way to tell a story! Every second, a new image fades in over the previous one. You can see him turn the pages! While the output image has been modified in a graphic program, it is so powerful!

You can download the presentation from here...

Categories: animation, interviews, powerpoint

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 12:02 PM IST

GeeteshI often do PowerPoint training sessions in India for corporates -- and yes, that information is nowhere on this site! To make amends for that omission, I am going to speak about my training sessions in this and some future posts.

First, let me talk about my two-day training session on PowerPoint 2007. This is my most successful course and it is geared towards an audience that creates PowerPoint presentations in a typical office environment. On each of the days, I do 4 sessions that talk about PowerPoint usage and creation. The entire course comprises of interactive exercises -- and the goal is to help you create better presentations in less time. Along the way, you learn PowerPoint best practices and options that are buried within the PowerPoint interface. For those of you who have just moved to PowerPoint 2007, it's a great way to learn all the new options available in this version of the program.

If you would like to learn more and want details regarding the curriculum and pricing, please feel free to get in touch through the feedback form on this site.

Picture Courtesy: Rikk Flohr -- taken during PowerPoint Live in Atlanta, October 2009

Categories: powerpoint, training

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Monday, November 02, 2009
posted by Geetesh on 12:28 PM IST

Peggy DuncanPeggy Duncan has a way with words, and that influences how she expresses herself. At the recently concluded PowerPoint Live conference in Atlanta, she went out of her way sharing all her secrets with everyone -- her topic was Shameless Self Promotion. And I guess there's no one better qualified than Peggy to do a session on a topic of that sort -- she's a rare combination of being humble and confident at the same time. She's not scared of speaking her thoughts aloud, and she shares her fears too.

What did I learn from Peggy's session? Her session was about promoting yourself in the online world by promoting what you know in order to boost your organic search engine rankings. Although much of the content in session was familiar, I still felt like I was hearing something altogether new in her session. Why was that? Partly because it's the way in which Peggy makes all that stuff sound: fun and important! She also links all those concepts together and is motivating enough for the audience to want to do something immediately. She also speaks about how these concepts helped her land and stay on the first page of major search engines and how that led to international media coverage and new business. Her command over intuitiveness and timing is perfect, she springs surprises often, and she seems simple, human, and successful at the same time.

Most importantly, I liked her do-it-now message a lot!

Here's a subset of the slides from her Shameless Self Promotion session.

Categories: powerpoint, seo

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