PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff

Present.me: Conversation with Spencer Lambert

Spencer Lambert is a presentation designer by day, and serial business starter by night. He started his career as a rostrum cameraman making slides on film (remember that?). His first PowerPoint job was in 1993, and sadly has been using it pretty much every day since. Along the way he has started a new media production agency (1997), an e-commerce website (2000) and a bar (2004). Some soul searching led him to decide to concentrate on what he was really good at, and at the end of 2009 decided to embark on a project that would evolve into Present.me.

In this conversation, Spencer discusses Present.me

Geetesh: Tell us more about Present.me, and how it evolved?

Spencer: Quite simply, we scratched our itch. Most readers will know that great presentations are made of 3 things, you – the presenter, your story and your slides. When they’re put together well, you get a really potent combination – just watch Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, or any TED presentation to see this in effect.

We used to make synchronized presentations for our clients all the time and they loved them but they also moaned about how much they cost! If you’ve ever tried making your own and putting it on the web, it involves a huge amount of effort and can be a real pain in the neck. Even a short 30 minute presentation can take half a day to get an output, which is why most people don’t bother.

There are some desktop applications that make it a bit easier, and some web ones that work too, but they’re all far too complicated for the average user. There had to be a better way!

That was the inspiration for Present.me – a really easy (and cheap) way of recording, synchronizing, and sharing your presentations.

Geetesh: What is the most significant task that a user can do via Present.me, and what are the costs involved in doing so?

Spencer: The most significant task is the ability to do it yourself without any technical knowledge or skill. Our solution is simple: you upload your slides, you then click Record, you present into your webcam clicking your slides as you go, and when you’re finished you click Publish and share with the world!

Once we’d built Present.me, we realized 2 things: firstly, if you haven’t had any presentation training, you might not feel quite so confident about putting yourself out there — it’s definitely not as anonymous as other presentation sharing sites. Secondly, it’s really hard to present into a webcam without making a mistake or feeling under pressure.

To fix these two issues we’re building the Academy where two of the founders Richard and Charlie are sharing their knowledge around building and performing great presentations — I’ve worked with many presentation coaches over the years, and this stuff is world class. I’m also uploading my library of ready to use graphics that were originally intended for another project so your slides can look great too!

We’ve also developed the ability to edit on the fly, so if you make a mistake, you can stop the recording, scrub back to a good point before the mistake, and then carry on recording as if nothing had happened — it sounds like a really simple feature, but to make it work in the cloud was extremely difficult.

There are two basic types of account to start with, Free and Plus. If you’re a Free user, you can record up to 15 minutes at a time, all your presentations live in the public domain, and you see banner ads on the site. If you’re a Plus user (only $29/month subscription), you can record for 90 minutes, you have a whole load of privacy options, and no banner ads. We’re working on a different slide conversion process for the Plus account where you’ll be able to keep all your animations and builds, but that’s not quite ready yet.

The future? We have lots of new ideas for features and we’ll keep rolling them out as and when they’re ready.

Categories: interviews, online_presentations, powerpoint