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PowerPoint and Presenting Blog: May 2010

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

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Speech-Over Professional: Conversation with Joel Harband

Monday, May 17, 2010
posted by Geetesh on 8:53 AM IST

Joel HarbandJoel Harband heads Tuval Software Industries, based in Israel. Their best known product is Speech-Over Studio, a PowerPoint add-in that enables PowerPoint slides to incorporate narrations using automated voices. In this conversation, Joel discusses improvements in the new Speech-Over Professional product.

Geetesh: What does Speech-Over Professional do for PowerPoint users?

Joel: Speech-Over Professional is aimed at business, educational and government users who want to add voice to their PowerPoint training and e-learning presentations without professional voice recording. Our corporate users tell us how happy they are with the increased productivity they achieve by eliminating the professional voice talent from the workflow loop. The thing they like best about Speech-Over is how easy it is to keep presentations continuously up to date by just editing the text. And managers are happy to see the company's investment in the presentation being preserved.

The main thing these corporate users are telling us is that text-to-speech narration in training and e-learning is an idea whose time has come. The combination of Speech-Over's ease of use and efficiency, the excellent text to speech voice quality, and the automation of the workflow dictates that text-to-speech will replace the professional voice talent for these applications.

Geetesh: Tell us about the new improvements in Speech-Over Professional.

Joel: The most significant improvement is that regular subtitles are now created automatically for long speech segments. Users can enter a long transcription of a lecture on a slide, and Speech-Over will automatically display successive 2-line subtitles at the bottom of the screen in coordination with the voice track. This ability supports creating presentations from transcribed lectures by subject matter experts.

There is now an improved ability to control the clip playing order. New controls now appear on the Clip Organizer depending on which mode you are using: Order with Organizer or Order with Custom Animation.

Speech-Over Professional is now available with the amazing NeoSpeech voices Paul and Kate. Paul is already familiar to Speech-Over Professional users; Kate is also very expressive and very exact. All the voices provided with Speech-Over Professional have commercial licenses that support business presentations.

Categories: add-in, interviews, powerpoint, sounds

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Monday, May 03, 2010
posted by Geetesh on 4:52 PM IST

Harman Singh is the Founder and CEO of authorGEN Technologies, which owns two Internet platforms - authorSTREAM and WiZiQ. is a PowerPoint sharing platform striving to make your presentations sharable on the Web - whether they are viewed from desktops, mobile phones or tablets like iPad. WiZiQ is an online education platform where you can teach and learn online, any subject you can think of. In this conversation, Harman discusses the iPad compatibility on authorSTREAM.

Geetesh: authorSTREAM is the first fully iPad compatible presentation sharing site online – why is this such an important issue for you? Do you think iPad has the potential of becoming a device that changes the way people access your site?

Harman: There is no denying the fact that Apple's iPhone and iPod lead web usage from the mobile devices segment. And when it comes to iPad and such tablet devices, we believe that they are going to change the world of computing as we know it -- its going to bring computers to people who have not used them before. And any content sharing platform cannot ignore this opportunity especially because unlike smaller devices, the iPad's screen size is perfect for viewing rich media content such as presentations.

But as we know, an issue with Apple's hand-held devices is the absence of Flash support. authorSTREAM presentations work on Flash -- so we had to provide an alternative for Apple devices. We also saw this as an opportunity to not only help members access the platform on these devices but to also extend authorSTREAM's reach to a wider audience.

Geetesh: You do mention on your blog that while iPad support is complete, it still does not provide a near PowerPoint viewing experience – some transitions, animations, and effects don’t make the translation yet – what are your plans on that front?

Harman: Yes, that is true. Currently we support only snapshots of slides in a presentation player and not fully featured animations, transitions and narrated audio experience. Simple animations and transitions will follow in the next few versions, so will rehearsed slideshows with narrations. We intend to make rich media PowerPoint presentations fully compatible with iPads moving forward.

Categories: authorstream, interviews, ipad, online_presentations, powerpoint

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posted by Geetesh on 1:08 PM IST

Nancy AncowitzNancy Ancowitz is the author of Self-Promotion for Introverts®. which was picked as one of the best books of 2009 by Publishers Weekly. She is a business communication coach specializing in career advancement and presentation skills. Her clients range from CEOs to emerging leaders in the business and creative worlds. In this interview, Nancy talks about her book, about being an introvert, and about how introverts can become better presenters.

Read the interview here...

Categories: books, delivery, interviews, opinion

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Saturday, May 01, 2010
posted by Geetesh on 11:35 AM IST

Simon NewlynSimon Newlyn is a PowerPoint artisan. Based in London, he works for advertising, design and public relations agencies as well as for direct clients through PRojects. His PowerPoint experience therefore brings him into contact with a wide range of styles and presentation needs and for fun... Simon has animated the London tube map! In this conversation, Simon talks about having fun using PowerPoint.

Geetesh: We constantly use PowerPoint to create business presentations – but every designer creates some slides for fun that they normally don’t share with the world – tell us about your PowerPoint fun projects.

Simon: Creating non commercial or work related projects is a great way to learn more about PowerPoint. Starting with a blank slide and experimenting, without time and budget constraints creates a great sense of freedom and more importantly leads to discovery of actions and ideas that you might apply to a formal project -- knowing how to do it.

My first fun project came about when I was standing on a London tube station platform looking at a giant tube map, on the wall, on the other side of the tracks. As I waited for the train I wondered if I could somehow animate this famous map first designed in 1931 by Harry Beck who was paid around five pounds for his work! Beck's original map design is reproduced below.

Beck's Original London Tube Map
Beck's original London tube map (click on map to see a larger version)

At first I started to draw colored lines -- to represent each track -- and tried to animate a small image of a red tube train moving along just above the lines. This worked OK until you came to a bend when my train appeared to cut across each corner in a straight line!

After a while, and after I had started to put in some station names I realized that the line; the tube train image and station name was just too much information - it needed to be simplified. (This is, of course, the golden rule we should apply to charts and diagrams in PowerPoint!) My ‘Eureka’ moment came when I took the image of the tube out and used the actual colored line as a symbolic train with the station names appearing just as the line goes past. Again this was a great way to experiment with necessary animation and took a lot of ‘fiddling’ to get it to work by bringing in each line over the three map slides that it uses to play the whole animation.

Having got the animation to work, I thought that it needed a further dimension and so introduced sound. The file contains three sound files. The first is the rumble of a tube train and this plays as a background sound across the whole presentation. The second sound is the announcement: “This is Tottenham Court Road. Change here for the Northern line” and the final sound is a recording of the safety warning and the title of the project – Mind The Gap. As each of these last two sounds play, the train ( the symbolic line) stops and then moves on (like a real train) after the announcement has played.

This is the ironic bit: the background sound is not the London tube but a library recording of a train running across the New York subway. The other two sounds I went out with a dictaphone and just stood on the platform and inside a carriage and recorded them. (Today, with greater levels of security in operation in London I would probably be stopped – as I have been for just taking photographs!)

Finally the grey grid lines helped to provide a scale for the whole project but as you will note on the top left hand corner of the last slide (Stations: High Street Kensington to Kensington (Olympia)) I introduced a real bend in the line as a new element but this fades in over the grid line! I’ve left it in. Mistakes do happen when you’re having fun!

Top Of The Pops

My second project is, in a way, far more complex and perhaps political. While there is only one soundtrack, the animation tries to tell a story. In this case it’s about the end of a very famous TV program called Top Of The Pops which was being taken off air after 42 years (1964 – 2006) of continuous broadcasting.

While the program format had probably become dated, it was still very popular and emotionally people objected to the BBC's decision to stop broadcasting the show. Also in 2006 Tony Blair had one more year to run as Prime Minister before stepping down in 2007. By this time many people were getting tired (as they do!) of the same old political agenda , clichés and ideas that just take us round in circles but always cost us more in tax.

Against this UK background, I decided to create a tribute to Top Of The Pops that, I think, reflected a mood amongst the population at large at that time.

To start this project I based a series of animated slides on the 1998 logo for the program.

The actual 1998 logo for the program

Having selected a dance track by SASH!: Encore Une Fois (this reached No 2 in the UK charts), I then tried to ‘dance’ or march the logo across the slides, stopping briefly to introduce two political comments (Blair and a famous shot of his deputy John Prescott) which I think demonstrates a certain attitude – we don’t really care anymore – or at least the attitude understood by people on the street.

Top Of The Pops -- PowerPoint Animation
Shows the animation used to dance the logo across the slide (click on map to see a larger version)

The actual animation was a matter of trial and error but the logo formed a natural grid that once I had moved one part I then needed to move all the other parts to form the whole logo. As for the speed of animation this was obviously set at fast and very fast to keep pace with the energetic music.

To observe copyright the music has been left out of this presentation but Simon suggests that you run it with SASH! Encore Une Fois playing (loudly) in the background

In the end the BBC took the program off but, as we go into the 2010 election in the UK, all politicians and organizations are acutely aware that pubic opinion matters with the public demanding greater transparency. I like to think that the twist on the BBC name, at the end of the presentation, is something the BBC now takes into account before chopping programs.

WOW did I really mean to get this heavy? Well PowerPoint gets a lot of knocks from Angela R. Garbers famous ‘Death by PowerPoint’ to ‘PowerPoint Hell’ so I’m only trying to add a little edge to a much misunderstood program by the communications glitterati!

Geetesh: I see that you sync sound a lot with your slide events – what makes you want to play with synced sound in PowerPoint, especially since this is such a challenging task?

Simon: Because it’s a challenge! Sound control in PowerPoint is what I would call basic. Insert sound, adjust volume, run over X number of slides. That’s it. If you want Flash type control then you have to, at the moment, opt for alternative software.

That said I have made several presentations with a number of different sounds running across specific slides. The key to getting this right is to plan what you want to do in advance. For example, you might want a short piece of commentary to run over a specific animation. Then record the commentary in paragraphs and be prepared to adjust the animation speed to match the length of the commentary always remembering that you do not want this to be either too fast or slow!

Remember that you can embed WAV files which help if you are going to pass the presentation around. But.... and there’s always a but... do test your presentation first. And as complex animations can run at slightly different speeds on different computers do try and test your work on the actual computer that is going to be used for the presentation.

And the final question is: Did I learn anything from these projects? And the answer is: Yes. It helped me to work on a series of promotional presentations for Canon which incorporated stop/start animations and individual sound files explaining various printer benefits. We not only had to do it in English but also in ...that was FUN. Is it worth playing around in PowerPoint? Yes. I bet that you will soon learn something new that you would not have discovered if you just work on formal projects.

Categories: design, interviews, powerpoint

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