As the creator of the Opazity add-in for PowerPoint and Sales Director for the company that produces the Perspector add-in, Steve Hards has been interested for a long time in the additional resources for PowerPoint that are available. He recently launched some free software, called the Encyclopedia of Free Resources for PowerPoint, which he discusses in this conversation.
Geetesh: Why are free resources for PowerPoint important, and do tell us about some of these resources.
Steve: One of my favourite quotes about presenting is from Jim Endicott, who says “Bad PowerPoint can wreck otherwise good presenters.” It highlights that good slide design is a make-or-break issue. Above all this is true if you want to stand out from other presenters. So, for most people, who are not ‘designers’, there is the question of how to improve.
The way I look at this whole issue is that there is PowerPoint, which is a feature-rich program in its own right, and there are paid add-ins and other resources that take PowerPoint to a much higher level. But many people do not take the journey from one level to the other. Maybe they do not want to start on an unknown learning curve but it is frequently rationalized on the basis of time, cost, and of PowerPoint being ‘good enough’. Which is a pity.
However, ‘free resources ‘ are important because they knock down the cost argument. Then, once people start to see the benefits of using external resources, the ‘good enough’ and ‘learning curve’ excuses tend to evaporate.
When you start digging into it, there are masses of free resources to enhance PowerPoint scattered across the internet. I have grouped the ones I have found, and that I think are good, into several categories.
A major one is templates and backgrounds. Every provider of professional templates has some giveaways because they want you to experience their quality, as you know well, Geetesh, being one of those providers!
Another big section is on sources of free photos. I really worry about people who grab often poor quality photos from Google images, ignoring Google’s warning about copyright infringement. Never mind being sued, it only takes one awkward audience member to challenge you on a copyright issue to derail your presentation. My Encyclopedia software has links to sources where you automatically have permission to use them in any way you want. It’s much more relaxing to work with material when you know you have the right to use it.
The same goes for music. I’m frequently surprised at people’s naivety. Just because it is on the internet doesn’t mean that you can use it freely! Like the situation with templates, providers of free images and music often do so in the hope that some users of the free material will become paying customers.
In addition to those types of resources, there are a number of people who are consistently giving away very good advice on how to become a better presenter. There really is no excuse on cost grounds not to start to get better at it. I’m still learning all the time.
Geetesh: Tell us about your Free PowerPoint Resources list, and how it evolved.
Steve: The Encyclopedia software is the third incarnation of a list which started out about five years ago for my own use. I then produced it as a PDF and gave it away as a bonus to people who bought Perspector. However, such a document is not just impossible to update but it’s not very inspiring to use or pass on.
My next attempt was to list the resources on a website, However, it didn’t get many visitors, so it never took off.
Now I have taken the step of putting it inside the free Encyclopedia software where users will get updates of the free resources automatically and immediately. I’m hoping that this will achieve several things. The first is that it will give users a concentrated experience in their mission to find the resources they want. The second is that it will be more handy, as someone said, than trying to keep all those resource sites bookmarked. Thirdly, I hope that it will inspire people to pass it on to their friends, as in ‘Look at the cool free software I found!” If they do, it will fulfill my ambition to help lots more people get started on developing their PowerPoint and presenting skills.