Make Your Presentations Pop with These Free Tools

Corinne Campbell
Corinne Campbell is an assistant principal of a NSW public school with 20 years experience working in primary school education. She's interested in finding better ways to support teachers in their work and in bringing 21st Century Learning into schools.

These days audiences expect more from presentations. We want to interact, and we expect access to the presentation again afterwards. We also expect audio and video, not just stills.  Slides seem  to have become synonymous with bad presentations, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Used well, slides are a great medium for communicating ideas, providing visual summaries, analogies and illustrations that support the key messages.

Happily, there are plenty of free tools to take your basic presentation and make it pop. Here are four of my favourites.

1. Google Slides

Google Slides

Google Slides is part of the free set of tools offered by Google in its Google Drive service. At first glance, it looks like a very basic version of PowerPoint with a slightly simpler interface. But it leaves PowerPoint in its wake for a couple of simple reasons.

Firstly it allows you to seamlessly embed YouTube videos. When you get to the point where you want to show that quick, illustrative video, you don’t have to jump out of PowerPoint, you can just play it right there in the slideshow. (It is of course possible to embed videos in PowerPoint, but it requires a rather complex workaround.)

Secondly, Google Slides are immediately shareable. Instead of having to upload to a host such as SlideShare, you can simply provide your audience with the link and they can view the presentation again from any device.

2. Presentain

Presentain

The most exciting part of Presentain is its interactivity:

  • At the beginning of your presentation, viewers are given a pin to log in to the presentation on their device. This allows them to interact. They can view the slides on their device as you present them, and share any they like on their social networks.
  • They can also submit a question. When they do this, you will see a notification on your smartphone and at an appropriate time in your presentation, you can stop, view and discuss the questions with your audience.
  • With Presentain you can create polls and  multiple choice questions. You can view the responses in real time, seeing a pie chart of the responses.
  • You can use your smart phone as a clicker, record your live presentation and share it later, and  your audience can use Presentain to request a follow up action, such as to request a copy of the slides.

The only shortcomings I’ve found with Presentain is that you can’t show embedded video in the presentations, and you can’t include any of the animations or transitions that you may have liked. Presentation takes a still copy of slides you have created elsewhere and is compatible with either Google Slides or other slides converted to PDFs.

3. Emaze

emaze

Emaze is a stunning presentation tool that allows you to create 3D , zooming and panning presentations in beautiful templates. It is extremely intuitive and leaves you with a very slick and memorable presentation. In the art gallery template, for example, your audience travels through a virtual 3D gallery, with each of your slides displayed on a wall of a different room.

Or, there’s the newspaper template in which you pan and zoom through an old newspaper to see the presentation unfold. You can embed  pictures and video URLs into Emaze to make them immediately viewable, and there are a number of layouts to help you to present data and graphs.

4. Office Mix

Office Mix

Office Mix is a brand new offering for teachers from Microsoft which turns your PowerPoints into interactive presentations. Mix works with the 2013 version of PowerPoint by adding a tab with a number of very cool tools to the interface. Using Mix, a microphone and webcam, you can record yourself narrating the slides and have this play along with your presentation. You can also record screencasts and embed them into your slideshow.

You can include interactive quizzes and polls, and you can receive feedback on how each of your students performed on these.  Like the other tools, it’s very intuitive to use. Mixes can be shared online and viewed on multiple devices. It’s a great tool for blended learning activities.

Tips for a Terrific Presentation

While these are great tools, videos, animations and interactive elements won’t save a poor presentation. Here are some quick tips:

  1. Know your audience and tailor the presentation to their needs.
  2. Begin by creating a sense of urgency or with a provocation that will help your audience invest in the subject matter.
  3. End with a call to action. It’s all very well to present information, but what do you want your audience to do with it?
  4. Be concise. TED talks are only 18 minutes long because that is the length of an adult’s concentration span.
  5. Slides should add should add value to your presentation, not act as a script.  Use them to provide visual analogies, to provoke thought, or to summarise key ideas.
  6. Where possible, build interactivity into your presentation. Adults like to have a voice and not be passive observers.

 

Feature image courtesy of Flickr, jurvetson.

  • Matt Francis

    No Prezi love?

    • Guest

      Hi Matt, I actually like Prezi a lot. It could definitely be added to this list. Thanks for mentioning it. – Corinne

    • jeev

      Yes prezi must be part of this list.

      • Corinne Campbell

        Prezi is awesome, thanks for mentioning it Jeev and Matt. Another one I could have included is Haiku Deck.

  • Aaron Roberts

    Thank you so much for this article! I teach at a university and have been growing so tired of PowerPoint (I can only imagine what my students must feel). Presentain and Emaze will be perfect for my classes.

    • Corinne Campbell

      Hi Aaron, Thanks for the feedback. I’m so
      glad this was helpful.