How-To Geek

Ask the Readers: What Are Your Must Have Presentation Tools?

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Giving a presentation, be it in front of the Board of Directors or a roomful of students, has come a long way from paper handouts and poster boards. This week we want to hear about your must-have presentation tools.

Whether your must-have tool is a piece of hardware, an application, or a web-based tool, we want to hear all about it. Sound off in the comments with your favorite presentation tool and how it helps you present better. Make sure to check back in on Friday for the What You Said roundup to scope out your fellow readers’ tips and tricks.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 09/19/12

Comments (38)

  1. owen123

    Presentation Remote – For PC
    Dual View – Presenter View

    I often make ppts, for things and dual view is great with the presenter view, but something to bare in mind, when you see the black borders around the actual slide, you must go to design, page setup, and change it to either 16:9 or 16:10.

  2. Mike Hathaway

    As someone who has switched to Keynote for presentation software that are a few pieces of hardware that are required in the bag of tricks.
    1. VGA, HDMI and DVI adaptors for the current macbook I am using.
    2. iPhone or iPod and apples for controlling keynote
    3. iPad and the keynote app and remote app Some presentations its nice to walk around with a screen that shows your next slide large enough to read.
    4. Airport express I have been screwed way to many times by crappy wireless or wireless that blocks the protocols used by the above mentioned apps. While yes I can do ad-hoc with the laptop its so much easier to just plug this baby in and everyone connects to Mikes Presentation Network.
    5. 25 foot vga cable with integrated audio . Industrial strength insurance for crazy projector issues. The last thing you want is everything to fail and your stuck within 3 feet of a projector in the middle of the room or shouting next to someone to hit the spacebar on your computer for the next slide.

  3. r

    …my notebook (the paper kind), brain & lots of patience –never needed anything else while giving a two-hour lecture.

  4. KB Prez

    I use PowerPoint mostly, but I recently gave Google Docs a try. I like it so far and plan to use it more often.

  5. zenrook

    My favorite was I had a Soils teacher that had a Gateway 285M tablet, she set her powerpoint presentation up to write down the “show your work” parts. That way it wasn’t it wasn’t already done and the presenter doesn’t breeze through the hard stuff. Also writing on the powerpoint gave emphasis to what was already on the slides.

  6. aisamji


  7. Frank

    while recognising the easy temptation of the quick apparently-professional appearance of Powerpoint – I am sensitive to Death by Powerpoint, and strengthened in my preference to avoid it by recent comments I read of US Defence bosses saying it made people stupid – impressive looking short sentences and graphs assumed to be tested and proven facts by the audience, when they may contain significant errors or be just one person’s misguided opinion.

    Mostly I just use MSWord with remote control display software to project on students’ screens to hold their attention – but for learning I think the key thing is short bytes of theory followed by short practical exercises, otherwise the typical presentation provides the ideal conditions for sleep – relative comfort, perhaps dimmed lighting, boredom and repetitive droning background noise – zzzzz !

    presentation to mobile devices for students to access anytime anywhere – being thought about.

  8. john bauer


  9. Ssundra


  10. Nick

    Powerpoint, Mindjet Mindmanager, Onenote and a good tablet

  11. Deekshith Allamaneni

    I use LibreOffice Impress + GIMP to create animations + web browser.
    These days, I am creating presentations using HTML and Javascript. There are very good free to use javascript libraries to create presentations.

  12. MJ

    I did my last presentation using deck.js (an HTML5 engine), I needed a software capable of using GIF images to show the results of my simulations, and using fullscreen Firefox as a viewer it worked flawlessly. It requires a little bit of coding, but the results are very neat. Apart from that, I needed a small bottle with water to clear my voice from time to time.

  13. Joao

    Powerpoint, the easy way
    HTML5 and CSS3, the good stuff
    After Effects compositing, some show off
    SlideRocket, quick presentation tool
    Google Docs & Open/Libre Office, poor tools

  14. Katalin
    An amazing tool! Enables you to create really dynamic zooming presentations, on one big canvas, with no slides! Wow-effect guaranteed.

  15. katador

    – good presentation pointer, with remote control to advance presentations.
    – laptop with extended destkop, to review the presentation if is necessary

    – powerpoint, it is more spread…
    – good pdf reader
    . good picture viewer

  16. OldSalt

    Plenty of time to reherse the presentation and correct last minute glitches and a couple stiff drinks to calm the nerves….

  17. Nic In UK

    The most important must have is to “know what you are talking about”. I have sat through literraly dozens of presentations where the presenter didn’t know what he was talking about. I’ve given a few like that too. The 6 Ps rule makes most sense: Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

  18. StevenTorrey

    Power Point almost goes without saying. I am told that a Power Point demonstration should have no more than 20 slides, take no more than 20 minutes…

    I also use Power Point to help me learn material; presently I am studying math and you would be surprised at how great a tool it is for learning and reinforcement of material. Repeating the concepts, working the concepts, manipulating the concepts helps in the learning process…

  19. Doug Harding

    A strong speaking voice and positive attitude.
    Good knowledge of subject, ability to answer questions.
    A good remote clicker for use with PowerPoint and a good laser pointer.
    And a handout that contains contact info for follow up.
    All my presentations are photos, very little text.

  20. Tom

    When running a presentation from powerpoint or Impress I like to have Display Fusion setup to have a holding slide as wallpaper on the second or display output to be able to easily make last minute changes without the audience having to witness the whole process.

  21. Dominic

    Mostly use PowerPoint but I also like prezi

  22. cwcarlson

    Must haves:
    1. Laptop
    2. Projector
    3. Logitech clicker w. laser pointer (clicks through PowerPoint)
    4. Powerpoint

  23. Chris Hunt

    It very much depends upon the audience. Although I use PowerPoint for simplistic presentations where I am just talking without fielding questions, nor deviating very much, I have found that using “personal brain”, I am able to generate interesting and interactive talks. This software was not designed for presentations, but can be adapted. I use it as a repository for all information, websites, documents, research papers, videos, etc. So if the audience wishes for more detailed information to support what has been said, it is readily available. In addition the ‘spider’ type diagrams can show where we are going and where we have been.

    P.S. I do not work for The Brain, nor do I get any fees or reward for talking about it.

  24. TheFu

    At presentation time:
    1. Any computer. Can be mine or someone else’s provided it has a browser with HTML, kiosk-mode and javascript support.
    2. Projector or other large screen display
    3. USB combo clicker + laser pointer (cheap no-name from China for $9) Sadly, android tablets with USB do not work with this clicker. ;(
    4. Glass of some sort of fluid depending on the crowd. Water, but sometimes an alternative “beverage” is required.

    When building a presentation deck, I need a few more things:
    * Presentation tool called “S5” – It is an html standards-based tool. 100% F/LOSS.
    * A custom perl script to convert textile markup into HTML slides.
    * Any editor, vi is preferred.

    Why S5? I was tired of having to create 2 presentations – one for the meeting and one to post in a webhost later. PDF is wasteful compared to HTML. S5 supports slide decks, 1-page sheets, hidden information, and appendices with links. Javascript is not required to display the information, just for the slideshow. CSS handles styles and fonts nicely.

    I love textile. It is the right mix of function and ease of use.

    I’m always working on a new presentation. Gave up powerpoint years ago. Too limiting.

  25. John Trustman

    A back up:
    * Projector, for when it’s missing or absent
    * Paper copies, for when even that isn’t enough
    * A really good sense of humor for when there aren’t enough of them to go around

  26. Brian

    Powerpoint, a laser pointer, and good information.

    Executives are easily distracted, hence the laser pointer.

  27. whs

    PowerPoint is the way to go.

  28. Paul

    LibreOffice Impress or MS Powerpoint depending on where I wrote the presentation (although I’ve recently been experimenting with Microsoft’s Learning Content Development System. It’s not as good as some commercial ones… but it’s free);
    an interactive whiteboard;
    handouts/notes that require some form of learner involvement (ie not just copies of the slides);
    and most importantly, a decent lesson plan and rehearsed, interesting, and varied content.

    A sense of humour and lots of coffee are fairly high up there too. Presentations where the trainer simply reads the slides and which contain walls of text, odd transitions, unsettling colours, and random sound effects should frankly be a sackable offence.

  29. teck boy

    I use;
    MS powerpoint with presenter view on another screan so I can see the notes and the next slides, remote clicker, SMART interactive white board and a backup of the presentatoin on paper and another memory stick.

  30. Dan

    I use Powerpoint but keep slids to a miximum of 1 scentence and 1 image, and try to average 1 slide per 2 minutes, I then talk about the subject matter and try to engage the audience rather than just talking at them.

  31. Dan Michels

    John and Katalin are on the right track. PowerPoint is corporate karaoke. Prezi is the most dynamic communication tool currently in existence. A mediocre Prezi blows away the best PowerPoint presentation, plus Prezi has 3 huge advantages: 1) it’s cloud-based, 2) Prezi and the iPad were made for each other, and 3) it’s so much easier to use than PowerPoint there’s literally no fair comparison. It’s rare when an application comes along that’s so superior to everything else in its class that it literally makes all its current competitors instantly obsolete, but that’s exactly what happened when Prezi launched in 2009, and the updates released since then have combined to create a near perfect piece of software. Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself and see how in 5 minutes or less almost anyone capable of non-linear thought can be creating presentations far better than most have ever seen.

  32. Ezitoc

    I use beamer. It is not the fastest way but I love latex and how the finel output looks. All I need is an USB drive and a PDF viewer.

  33. Bart Opiola

    How to Geek: Why don’t you have up arrows and down arrows on each comments so we can judge and rate them without actually having to type anything???


  34. lefty

    Prezi is ok if you want to “wow” them and don’t have actual content to get across. Be careful though, people over use the novelty and leave views motion sick.
    If you want to present information and then actually reference it – powerpoint ftw.

  35. Luke Storry

    Always used to use Powerpoint with a dual screen “Presenter View”…
    But now my favourite is an awesome online tool called Prezi, with which you make a giant pinboard or mindmap, and zoom in and out of it for the actual presentation… sounds strange, but if you see it in action or use it, you will love it!! so nice, expecially in the middle of a series of boring stock standard Powerpoints!

  36. Bishop James ifeelgod Brown

    I like to be able to edit within webinars (where I am primarily teaching) So I like a good presentation pointer that allows me to annotate areas of slides while presenting.

    It is not as pretty but VERY effective in highlighting what is important

    In Him,
    JMb <

  37. Rich

    Ovation. Drop dead astounding, but no longer available. Was made by, who were sold to Adobe, who supported it for a short while, then stopped support.
    This presentation software blows audiences away!

  38. Danny Maramba

    I totally agree with Doug Harding’s first two lines. Add to that a well-prepared presentation (about 4 drafts otherwise it’s overwrought). Needless to say, you must also enjoy your presentation thoroughly and that it should benefit your listeners for it to be remembered for a very long time.

    Occasionally, I print my presentations on tarps–saves me from clicking and scrolling–at times when I really need to deliver a message home really fast.

    No setting up, no looking for outlets, no fumbling with wires and extensions.

    Just unfurl and roll-up later.

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