Sunday, October 30, 2005

Presentations don’t need Bloatware*

* Bloatware
: Software that is composed of large, heavy files and which creates similarly large files as output.

Think of making an electronic presentation and, if using the ubiquitous Windows OS, one automatically thinks: PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is good, of course, very good. In fact, it’s so good, presenters often go overboard in adding sounds and special effects, turning a simple presentation into a three ring circus. Three Ring Circuses have their plus points, but those points don’t go down too well in a corporate setting.

Let’s face it. What do you need in a corporate presentation? Some slides to display certain tables and charts. Some slides to highlight the salient points of your talk. Some kind of transition between slides and some way to control the transition. That’s it. The other bells and whistles make nice selling points for the software, but use them in a presentation and you’re likely to send your audience home with bells ringing and whistles blowing in their heads, instead of what you want them to remember.

Ever think of using Adobe Acrobat? That’s right, the software you use to zip files across the Internet without having to face font-matching issues or long upload and download waits. Acrobat has a pretty nifty presentation feature, and the PDF you create is far smaller than a ppt file. As a test, I created a two-page presentation in Acrobat and, using the same graphics and text, created one in PowerPoint. The resultant ppt file was 45 K. The PDF? 11 K.

To make your Presentation

First create your PDF file, with a page size of 1024 x 768 pixels. If you don’t know how to do this, don’t panic. The next tutorial will tell you how to create a PDF file from Word.

Open the PDF in Adobe Acrobat Reader (use the latest, it’s free to download and use anyway. I use 5.0). Click Edit --> Preferences (or click Control+K). You’ll get a dialog box showing you various options and check boxes.

If you wish to have your slides advance automatically, check the “Advance Every” box and type the number of seconds you wish each slide to be displayed.

Check the “Advance On Any Click” box. (Even if you check the automatic advance option, it’s a good idea to keep this box checked too)

If you wish to have a repetitive presentation (such as at a kiosk at an exhibition) check the “Loop After last Page” option

Make sure the “Escape Key Exits” box is checked.

Below these options, you’ll see the Default Transition drop list. Random Transition is usually good enough, but if you prefer one type of transition, select that one. This is where PowerPoint scores over Adobe Acrobat, since you can specify specific transitions for each slide in PowerPoint, which you can’t do here. To my mind, it doesn’t really matter, though. Random Transition works fine for me.

Click OK.

To view your presentation, Go to View --> Full Screen (or press Control+L)

That’s it! Your presentation’s done!

You can use the [PageUp] and [PageDown] keys to move to the previous or next slide in the presentation.

Note: If you make your presentation this way to an open audience, you are likely to be approached afterwards by someone with suggestions to make your presentation better. He (it is almost always a he) will offer you kindly advice on adding bells and whistles. Then he will offer you his card, which will say he belongs to a design house. Smile at him and say thank you, then ignore his advice. He isn’t your target audience.

Disclaimer: The author has no affiliation with Adobe or Microsoft. All trademarks and copyrights are acknowledged.

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