Where can I get free photos for PowerPoint?

August 29, 2012

Free photos!Boring PowerPoint’s for chumps, and by now we all know that photographs can really elevate a presentation. What they can also elevate are your expenses, because royalty-free photographs can run into some money depending on how many you include.

Some people think that images they find online are free because they are, well, online. This is wrong, and in many cases it is a breach of copyright law to use photos you find online without paying for them. Unless you are given explicit permission, whether it is granted to you in writing or if you have purchased a license, you shouldn’t use photographs you’ve found on the Internet in your presentation. You have to dig deeper than a simple Google image search.

This doesn’t mean there are no free images available to you. On the contrary, there are many ways to get free photographs for your PowerPoint presentations or for personal use that won’t land you in Copyright Court.

  • MorgueFile is a “public image archive by creatives for creatives” that offers thousands of free images.
  • Stock.xchng has a robust search engine and the ability to create lightboxes (collections of photos) which you can share with others.
  • Wikimedia Commons is a vast collection of photographs, many of which are in the public domain. This means that the copyright has expired and you can use the photos freely. Other images are offered under the Creative Commons license, which means that you must “attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.” This is usually as simple as putting the phrase “Image © 2012 Joe Smith via Wikimedia Commons” on or near the image in your presentation. Scroll down the screen to determine what the copyright situation is for each image you find.
  • Use your own pictures. How many of us have a smartphone that can take pictures? OK, you can put your hands down; I can’t see you anyway. If your smartphone takes high-resolution photos then why not use some of these in your presentations? Or you could use your digital camera for better resolution. Images of clouds, grass, city streets, traffic signs, and any number of subjects are just a click away. And you can submit your own photos to MorgueFile or Stock.xchng if you want to share the wealth.

One big caveat

You knew that the other shoe had to drop sometime, right?

Photographs of people require special consideration. If it’s impossible to tell who the people are, such as in a blurred image of a crowd, a hand holding an object, or a foot kicking a ball, then you don’t have to worry. But photographs of identifiable people require a model release — written permission from the subject of the photograph to use the image for commercial purposes (e.g., your PowerPoint presentation). You can get into legal trouble for using a person’s photograph without their explicit permission, especially if your use implies their endorsement of your product or idea.

Stock photography companies take care of obtaining model releases, but there’s not much governance on the free photo sites. If you’re using your own photographs, the same rule applies: get a model release or don’t use pictures of identifiable people.

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How to magically destroy your marketing efforts

August 6, 2012

Magician's hatMarketing is all about leading your customers and prospects down a clear path that leads to their purchasing your product or engaging your services. There is little room for ambiguity in marketing since you have people’s attention for such a brief moment in time. Your marketing messages—PowerPoint presentations, websites, social media, or any other marketing vehicle—should always clearly state what you want people to do and the benefits to them of doing it.

I recently saw an egregious example of mixed messages that made me doubt whether the person involved was really interested in his continued employment!

I was having breakfast at a diner in my town when another patron overheard me talking about the local newspaper. He introduced himself as a sales rep from that paper and talked to me a little bit about my business. He then handed me his business card, a typical black-on-white number with raised printing.

As I was reading the card, I could feel printing on the reverse so I turned it over. I expected to see more details about his job or his employer. Instead, it was a completely different business being advertised. You see, our man is also a part-time magician, so he thought he’d combine his moonlighting gig with his day job on a single business card.

“Your boss must have been impressed,” I quipped and he replied that the publisher was really angry but had let it slide. He then chuckled and told me about a magic show he’d just performed at a day camp. After the performance, who should he see stroll by but the publisher! She saw him in his magician’s outfit and knew that he wasn’t out selling ad space for her paper.

There are several lessons we can learn from this:

  • You should have one consistent marketing message. To use a PowerPoint example, think of how confused your audience would be if after your closing slide you showed one last slide that advertised your side business. How much respect would you lose in that moment?
  • Always reinforce your brand. It’s crazy that the publisher didn’t make this guy throw away the two-sided cards and pay for a reprint with just the newspaper job information. One card, one business. Period. Here’s the PowerPoint tie in: you decide that your corporate template is too boring so you change the colors around. Now your deck doesn’t look like your other marketing materials, and that inconsistency can be jarring to your audience.
  • Concentrate on your core competencies. We all know that a jack of all trades is a master of none. To build trust that we know what we’re doing, we need to focus on what we do best. A newspaper advertising sales rep who promotes his own business during his sales calls obviously doesn’t have my best interests in mind. In a presentation, you must tailor your message to your audience. If your company does five different things but the audience is only interested in one of them, concentrate on that one thing. Mention your other abilities in passing, but focus on what’s important to your audience.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you. If you are invited to present for one reason (“Please tell us the results of advertising in your newspaper.”) then use that time to promote a different business entirely (Magician for hire! Parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, you name it!), you won’t make a good impression because nobody likes a bait-and-switch.

It’s incredible to me that anybody would have the gall to hand out business cards like this. I suspect that this fellow’s job could “vanish right before his very eyes” if he doesn’t straighten out quickly.


Slideshark: Cloud-based PPT tool for the iPad

August 3, 2012

Slideshark on the iPadWith the current popularity of tablet computers in general and the iPad in particular, it makes sense that eventually it would be possible to show a PowerPoint presentation using one. Our pals at Brainshark makes this possible with Slideshark.

Once you’ve downloaded the Slideshark app, you can sign up for a free Slideshark account, which comes with 100Mb of storage space (using the link will get you and me both an additional 25Mb of storage!). There are also paid subscriptions which give you more storage space and features.

Presentations uploaded to Slideshark live in the cloud and can be downloaded as needed onto an iPad. This means that you can present from an iPad even if you don’t have a WiFi connection—a real bonus, in my experience.

An iPad can be used in a small setting with one or just a few people or a large room using an iPad/VGA adapter cable to connect to the projection system. Although the iPad has been around for a while, not many people are using them for presenting so you might get some points for being cutting-edge.

Using Slideshark is very easy; you just scroll through the presentation by swiping your finger across the screen. There’s also a presenter mode that allows you to see your speaker notes while displaying just the slide view to the audience, so you still have access to your “cue cards” (Phew!) And by pressing on the screen, you create a “laser pointer” (a glowing red dot) that you can use to draw attention to certain areas of your slide.

Although Slideshark is very cool, I did find a couple of drawbacks. Fonts are limited to whatever’s commonly available in Windows, so if you create a preso on the Mac using some way-out font then it will revert to good old Arial in Slideshark. And any audio you’ve included in your presentation gets dropped when you upload to Slideshark.

Another interesting problem that came up when I tried to use Slideshark was that I learned that sometimes I need more than two hands. At the conference where I was presenting, they gave me a regular microphone, not a clip-on one. Since you need one hand to hold the iPad (I was using a case with a hand strap) and one hand to swipe through the presentation, that left me with nothing left to hold the mic.

Luckily, for this presentation I had triple-redundancy. I handed the AV tech a USB stick that had a PDF version of my presentation. Yes, I like the cool new stuff, but it’s always good to have a Plan B!


Egocentric PowerPoints fail the “WIIFM?” test

June 11, 2012

What's in it for me?The other day, a friend of mine wanted my advice on pricing the redesign of her client’s pitch deck, the initial presentation shown to a prospect to get hired. When I opened the presentation, my jaw literally dropped because it was an 11-page résumé in 16-point type sandwiched between a title slide and a closing slide. And the closing slide didn’t even have any contact information.

My friend’s client seems to believe something similar to the Field of Dreams maxim: “If you build it, they will come.” In his case it was “If I tell people how great my company is, they will hire us.” But this is a terrible approach.

When you focus entirely on your own qualifications, education, and achievements you’re not necessarily demonstrating your worth. Instead, you’re bombarding your audience with data about how great you are while ignoring issues they may be facing. The focus has to be on the audience and address the big question that’s on everyone’s mind: “What’s in it for me?”

In marketing we speak of “client pains” — problems the client has — and how to solve them. The best marketing addresses these pains directly (“Are you tired of paying too much for cable?” “Been in an accident?” “You could save over $475 on car insurance!”). It can be even more effective if you’re able to reveal pains the client didn’t know he had which could cause problems later on. By providing solutions to these pains, the savvy marketer positions himself as the only logical choice for the client.  Addressing and solving client pains is client-centric, not egocentric, which is what great marketing should be. What’s in it for me? You could save money, increase efficiency, live longer, be happier, lower your risk, etc. etc. etc.

To be fair, the client approached my friend because he recognized that his deck was unattractive. And as everybody knows, admitting you have a problem is the first step to overcoming it. But redesigning this deck would’ve been like putting lipstick on a pig because it was entirely presenter-focused.

What can help for this type of presentation when you’re trying to get someone to hire you based on your credentials?

  • Client testimonials: Ask satisfied clients to described how you helped them to save money, finish a task in record time, avoid red tape, etc. Would they rehire you? If so, quote them on it!
  • Highlight benefits of certifications: If you’re certified or trained in a particular specialty, how does that save your client money? Ensure the success of the project? Prevent rework?
  • Photos of completed projects: A picture speaks a thousand words.
  • Success stories: You don’t need full-blown case studies, just some anecdotes about how you helped your clients to solve their problems.
  • Relevant companies you’ve worked with: Focus on companies you’ve worked with that are similar to your audience’s.

Remember, the presentation is always about the audience, not about the presenter. Always focusing on the “What’s in it for me?” question will help you stay on track to create presentations that really mean something to your audience.

Your turn

Have you ever been to an egocentric presentation? What was it like? Have you ever delivered one?


Good presentations start with good scripts

May 31, 2012

ScreenplayA gentleman once asked me to provide a quote on redoing a PowerPoint presentation. He provided a link to the presentation, which included a voiceover narration.  I had to explain to him that he’d be unhappy with the results if I just did the cosmetic fixes he’d asked for. Sure, the presentation would’ve looked better, but it wouldn’t have made it a better presentation. Redesigning the presentation in its current state would’ve done nothing to address the basic problem: the visuals didn’t match the script.

The script is what you as the presenter are going to say when you’re up in front of the audience, or what your narration will be on a mobile presentation. Some people create PowerPoint presentations first then write the script to match the visuals. This is absolutely the opposite approach you should take. Think about how all movies start with a script. It would be absurd to shoot a movie without one. Just as it’s absurd to create a PowerPoint presentation before you write your script.

The script is what drives the PowerPoint visuals. It tells you what words, if any, to use on each slide and suggests images that would help to convey your message. It can also suggest the use of animation to emphasize or illustrate key points.

PowerPoint presentations should enhance good storytelling. And you don’t get good storytelling without a good script. So here’s a simple graphic to remind you of the correct four-step sequence you should follow when creating your next PowerPoint presentation:

PowerPoint process

Your turn

Do you write your script before you design your PowerPoint presentations? If so, how well has that worked for you?


Easily convert PDF to PowerPoint

May 3, 2012

I was on the Twitters today and came across a question from a person who wanted to know if it was easy to convert a PDF file into a PowerPoint. Actually, she wanted to know if it was possible to convert an “Adobe” into a PowerPoint. Don’t get me started…

Turns out there’s a website that’s free to use which does a decent job: convertpdftopowerpoint.com.

I tried it out on a couple of PDFs just to see what would happen. To be clear, these PDFs were never intended for presentation, so please don’t call me out for the text-heavy slides. If you cast your mind back to dinosaur days for a moment, you’ll remember that text-heavy pages are ideal for print, the original vehicle for these PDFs.

Here’s the scoop

The conversion is really amazing! The process creates editable text boxes and placed graphics, which is really cool. There were only three problems with converted files that I’d like to point out:

  1. Color Shifts: My first conversion was of a client’s PDF that uses a shade of Kelly green that transformed into lime green in PowerPoint. The same thing happened to my own logo, shown below. If accurate color is important to you, you’ll need to be careful.
  2. Font Shifts: My marketing one-sheet was created on a Mac using a purchased font. It converted to Arial in the PowerPoint, which is the expected result of creating editable text boxes. Again, for some people this will be important, but experienced PowerPoint users know that you either go with a standard Windows font on your presentations or you embed fonts if it’s really necessary.
  3. Solid Drop Shadows: Drop shadows changed from fuzzy and transparent to solid and opaque.

Bottom Line

convertpdftopowerpoint.com is a great starting point for re-creating PowerPoint decks from PDF files. If you have a bunch of text in a PDF that you don’t want to retype or want to transform a PDF graphic into something viewable in PowerPoint (watch that resolution, though), this is the utility for you.

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Free screen sharing for presenters (and everybody else, too!)

April 23, 2012

Screen sharingHow many times have you tried to explain something visual to somebody over the phone? It can be incredibly frustrating. Screen sharing is a great way to get your visual points across to people on the phone.

Screen sharing is allowing people to log in to see areas of your computer screen that you give them access to. Unlike a webinar using products like WebEx and GoToWebinar, it’s not possible to record a screen-sharing session for later viewing or to use a moderator to field questions from the audience. But it’s a great way to walk someone through a presentation or to offer a down-and-dirty webinar. Here are two free screen-sharing options for you to try.

FreeScreenSharing.com

FreeScreenSharing allows you to customize the login area with your own logo, photo, and contact information. Another nice feature is being able to designate certain windows on your computer to be off-limits and to show only what you want to be seen. FreeScreenSharing also offers a chat area for IMs.

Participants need to download software to make FreeScreenSharing work, so be sure to allow time for them to do so if you use this product.

Although FreeScreenSharing provides a conference call number, it doesn’t record the call. But they have another product, FreeConferenceCall, which allows you to record the conversation and download it for later use.

Join.me

Join.me allows people to log in to your screen-sharing session via a website without having to download additional software. You can have a conversation using your computer’s microphone and speakers (hands-free fun!) and there’s a chat area.

Use FreeConferenceCall if you want to record the conversation because it’s not possible to do so using join.me.

Unlike with FreeScreenSharing you cannot designate private windows on your monitor, so people will be able to see everything you’re doing. So don’t be goofing around on the Web or sending email while you’re sharing your screen because everyone will know it.

My Experience

I have used both of these products and have found them invaluable for explaining visual concepts and for online collaboration.

The customization and setting off-limits areas capabilities of FreeScreenSharing are good to have. The first time I used it with a client I didn’t account for the setup time of his having to download software, though, but after that things went well.

I like the immediacy of join.me for quick discussions; people just go to their website and log on to the session without downloading software. But although it’s billed as cross-platform I couldn’t get join.me to work on my Mac, just my VMware PC. I sent email to join.me about the issue and a technician contacted me shortly afterwards. He logged in to my Mac remotely and set me up with join.me for the Mac. Great customer service! I haven’t used the chat or online conversation tools yet.

Your Turn

Have you ever used screen sharing to facilitate a phone conversation? What tools did you use and how did it go?


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