How-To Geek

What You Said: Your Must Have Presentation Tools

Earlier this week we asked you to share your must have presentation tools and tricks; read on to see how your fellow readers jazz up their presentations and keep things flowing smoothly.

Image by VectorOpenStock.

Several readers favorites PowerPoint alternatives to break out of the PP doldrums. Kaitlin writes:
An amazing tool! Enables you to create really dynamic zooming presentations, on one big canvas, with no slides! Wow-effect guaranteed.

If you were reading down the comments thread and not quite sure if you wanted to check out Prezi, Dan’s passion for the presentation tool might push you over:

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.

On the hardware side of things, Mike is definitely a guy who has seen the horrors of the presentation wars and lived to talk about it:

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.

Finally, if you’re looking for a presentation medium where you have total control over the content and format of the slides, you may want to take not of TheFu’s comment:

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.

You can read more about S5 here. If you’re in the market for a cheap no-name clicker pen, you can pick one up for $12 here–we’ve been using this cheapie model for some time and have definitely gotten our twelve bucks worth.

For more tips and tricks, check out the full comment thread here.

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 09/21/12

Comments (7)

  1. franco09

    What hardware would you use if your work in a place that is actually able to get work done??? (read: no Mac products!)

  2. SoL

    @ franco09 : Even if your sentence read, ” What hardware would you use, if you worked in a place that was actually able to get work done?”, it still wouldn’t make very much sense.

  3. Lisa Wang

    Problem is, no matter how creative you are, my teachers would then ask us to send them the powerpoint files. They seem to think the only tool in the world to create presentation is Powerpoint, thus we’re all required to make the materials in .ppt or .pptx

  4. hamncheese

    Lisa, why not send them the URL of your presentation if it is made online? Ask them first if it is acceptable to do this. Most teachers are pretty willing to change a few things if students are willing to ask.

  5. TheFu

    Any public institution that requires an expensive 3rd party app be used for assignments that is not the core purpose of the class – needs to get a beat down, IMHO. Clearly, a “Photoshop” class would need an expensive copy of photoshop, but for a “public speaking” class, the tools used are secondary.

    Our publicly funded organizations, especially schools and governments, NEED to demand and accept only open standards based data. The program that created it doesn’t matter. These are ODF files – . For a presentation style file, “.odfp” is the normal extension.

    Proprietary data formats need to be rejected by our public organizations. Anything with a trademark or copyright connected to the file format needs to be rejected. We all need to demand open data in all data exchanges.

    Of course, if you are at a private school or in a private company, they can set the file standard to be anything they like. It is only the public sector that concerns me.

  6. Scott

    As an IT professional running AV for corporate meetings for over 10 years now, I would advise the following:

    1. Read the directions and find out what the show AV wants. If they want PowerPoint, give them PowerPoint. In my experience nearly all business presentations are still given in PowerPoint.

    2. If you insist on using Apple, tell the AV staff beforehand, and make sure you have the proper adapters. I cannot tell you how many times Apple people didn’t bring the proper adapters. In the Apple world “it just works.” In the real world, you need adapters.

    3. Never ever ever rely on the Internet or WiFi at a conference venue. Meeting rooms in hotels are infamous for charging $500 to $1000 and up PER DAY for Internet access in the conference rooms. If you rely on anything web based, and you want to show your presentation, you will have to pay it. If you have an air card or phone-based hub, be aware that coverage in big conference hotels is often very spotty and/or slow. It is much better to be self contained, such as having a stand alone PowerPoint presentation, backed up on a thumb drive.

    4. If you have video, make sure it is embedded properly. This is the thing that most often goes haywire in presentations. If you are not sure, talk to the AV guys and run it with them beforehand. Don’t hand us your presentation seconds before you hit the stage and blame us if something goes wrong.

  7. Lovare

    Lisa Wang is SO right. Instead of go with the times and use some innovational software, teachers and some employers are too much stuck to the Powerpoint. Tho I think tool still ok and easy to use. I decided to switch to more powerfull software that can export to Powerpoint. So I’m creating my esseys and presentations in one program (I use Conceptdraw software and then, just with the mouse click I can save it to MS Word, Powerpoit etc. to share with the rest.
    Big deal for those who need to make presentations remotely is Skype. I’m showing my presentations via Skype (I broke my thigh), it works with ConceptDraw easy and fast irrespectively the internet speed. All the participants can view and discuss in same time. Priceless option for me.

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