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?


How to make a PowerPoint presentation mobile

April 17, 2012

Laura on an iPadNowadays, we’re no longer restricted to delivering presentations in person. With webcasts, on-demand viewing, and sites where you can upload decks and video, your message can be seen by a vast audience without your having to be there. Here are some tips on how you can make the most of mobile presentations.

Send your decks to people who ask for them

No.

When people ask you to send your PowerPoint files to them, what they’re really saying is “I want to be able to view your presentation at my own convenience.” And there are much better ways of allowing people to do this than releasing your source files.

For more information, please read Why you should never send your PowerPoint decks to people who ask for them

Export your deck as a video

PowerPoint 2010 makes it easy to export your deck as a video. In the File tab on the ribbon select Save & Send then Create a Video. You can set automatic timing for animations and slide transitions so that your presentation advances automatically. You could even record your voiceover and custom audio and insert the audio files into your deck, timing everything so that they play when they need to. Then you email the video file to people, put it on your website, or post it to…

YouTube

Uploading your video presentation to YouTube is a great way to get exposure for your message. Creating a YouTube channel gives people another way to find out about what you have to say and can help to position you as a thought leader on your particular subject. Plus, it’s easy to see how many times people have watched your video and which ones are most popular, allowing you to create more content to meet the demand.

Brainshark

Brainshark (for companies) and MyBrainshark (for small businesses and individuals) offer a means to create videos of your PowerPoint files without the bother of setting up automatic timing and coordinating audio with video. Brainsharks, as these videos are called, are used by many companies in a variety of ways: training, sales, tutorials. You can create free or pay-per-view Brainsharks, which could become a nice revenue stream if you are a trainer.

You upload a PowerPoint deck then add your voiceover using a phone, a microphone connected to your computer, or by uploading prerecorded MP3 files. While you’re speaking, you view each slide and click through the animation as you go along just as if you were presenting live, and you can re-record the audio as many times as you want. You can add music to your Brainshark, selecting from among the many free music clips they offer or uploading your own.

It’s also possible to add video to Brainshark, either by uploading video files or embedding them in your deck.

As if this all weren’t cool enough, Brainsharks can include clickable links to websites or your email address and can also include polls.

But wait, there’s more! Once you’ve created a Brainshark, you can upload it to your website or post it to YouTube.

Your turn

Have you ever used one of these methods to present remotely? How did you do it and was it a success?


Why you should never send your PowerPoint decks to people who ask for them

April 9, 2012

Sending PPT by email

How many times have people asked you to send them your deck, either after or (worse) instead of your presentation? On the surface it seems like an OK idea. It requires minimal effort and we don’t want to appear rude by saying no. And it’s a common enough request, so why not, right?

Don’t do it.

The minute you send your deck to someone you lose control of how they experience the presentation.

Presentations aren’t about the slides, it’s all about the presenter: how she’s dressed, the tone of her voice, the excitement she generates, her interaction with the audience. The deck is just a backdrop to the speaker, supporting key messages. Take away the presenter — the most important component of the presentation — and much of the impact is gone.

The presenter’s biggest job is to guide the audience through the story so that they arrive at the inevitable conclusion she wants them to reach. That’s why presenters use remotes to advance their slides, to control when information is revealed. When you send your deck to someone, all of that timing is lost and the viewer has a number of ways to display your slides, some of which are better than others. All of the suspense and big reveals get lost in the Slide Sorter view.

Animated slides can present problems, too. Complicated animation can make slides look really awful in any view but Slide Show. And viewers might breeze through the animation just to see the effects play out, rather than absorbing your message with the timing you provide during your live presentation.

As a good presentation designer you’re putting all your text and bullet points into the Speaker Notes, right? So if you send your presentation out, then the person who receives it has to know enough to look at the Speaker Notes to understand what’s going on. And if your slides have a minimalist look that you’ve spent a lot of time to achieve, it will all be ignored when the viewer decides it’s easier to simply read your notes.

Then there’s the fact that PowerPoint files are source documents which means that they are editable. What if someone decided to use your deck as the basis of one of their own?

Early in his speaking career, Brandon Dunlap of Brightfly, a Seattle-based computer security consultancy, was asked by the organizers of a conference to send them the PowerPoint file of his presentation. “I was just starting out, and I didn’t know any better, so I did it,” says Brandon. “Turns out the conference organizers put everyone’s presentations on USB sticks, which were given to all the attendees.”

The following year Brandon presented at the same conference. He was approached by one of the previous year’s attendees and was dumbstruck when that man told him, “I gotta thank you, man! I got your presentation at the last conference, and it was great! I’ve been using it all year, you know, spreading your message.”

“Now when people ask me to provide my deck I give them PDF files of the Slide View,” reports Brandon. “Since my decks are just a backdrop to what I’m saying, they don’t have a lot of text and bullet points. All that’s in the Speaker Notes, so my deck can’t be presented by anybody else and I maintain control of the message.”

All of this sounding good? Still want to send out your presentations?

When somebody asks you to send them your deck, what they’re really saying is, “I want to view your presentation when it’s convenient for me.” The good news is that there are several ways you can create a presentation that not only can be viewed anytime and anyplace, but which can be created in such a way that you control how your message is delivered. And isn’t that why we present in the first place?

Next: How to make your PowerPoint presentation mobile

Your turn

Have somebody ever asked you to send them a deck? If you did, did this act come back to haunt you later or did everything turn out all right?


March Slide Makeover of the Month

March 30, 2012

This month’s slide comes from Design Dispatch subscriber Bob Carpenter of BidRx. His company wants to become the eBay or the Priceline of the pharmaceutical business. By logging on to BidRx, people will be able to get competitive pricing on their prescription medicine and save a bundle in the process!

Before

BidRx slide: before

There are some pretty compelling data in this table to support Bob’s assertion that people will save money by using BidRx, but this layout makes it hard to find. Tables are usually a bad idea to show an audience because with so much to analyze you lose people’s attention.

There’s a lot of extra information in this table. Showing the prices down to the penny might be accurate, but it clutters the table and doesn’t help to show the overall trend that BidRx’s prices are lower than Medco’s. And is it important for people to know the exact dosages of each medicine?

The biggest takeaway from this slide is that consumers stand to save up to 86% on this prescription. That’s a huge discount and is the key value proposition. So why is it so tiny and at the very bottom of the slide?

After

BidRx slide: after 1

The first thing I did was to change the title of the slide. I like to think of slide titles as headlines, so they should be attention-grabbing and interesting. Next, I presented the data as a column chart, which makes it easy to compare Medco’s prices against BidRx’s.

The color choices I made are deliberate. In a financial setting, red = bad, so I’ve set up Medco as the “bad guy.” The BidRx columns are blue, a soothing color associated with health care.

The second image is what the slide looks like after the animation. I don’t want to leave it to chance that the audience will understand that BidRx’s prices are lower, so I tell them and I circle the amount people will save.
Next, I created a second slide to call out the even greater savings that could result from a competitive bidding situation:

BidRx slide: after 2

I copied the chart from the previous slide, then animate the bars going down on two of the medicines and point out the lower prices with green arrows. Then the same summary box appears.

Want to get your own slide makeover? Design Dispatch subscribers each receive a free slide makeover, a $100 value! The Design Dispatch is your monthly guide to great PowerPoint.

Sign up for the Design Dispatch today!


Are you a PowerPoint Ranger? Be proud!

March 28, 2012

Poor PowerPowerPoint patches of honorPoint. This stalwart workhorse has been around for over two decades, supporting business presentations and facilitating communication for millions of people. But are they grateful? No, quite the contrary! You have people all over Twitter complaining about Death by PowerPoint and a snarky business owner who specializes in Cheating Death by PowerPoint (that would be me).

In the armed forces, it’s considered an insult to be called a PowerPoint Ranger, the military equivalent of a police officer being called a Desk Jockey. How does one hold one’s head up high in the face of such mockery? Why, by wearing that insult as a badge of honor, of course! And Jim Placke makes it possible.

Jim Placke’s NBC Links is a website devoted to “providing easy access to information related to chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) warfare, defense, and domestic preparedness.” Though the site design harkens back to an earlier time, it is a current, exhaustive listing of sites from all over the world.
But Mr. Placke isn’t all about business; he’s got a great sense of humor. Hidden among the hundreds of links is the one I want you to know about:

Click here for PowerPoint patches

Here’s where the magic happens.

From “PowerPoint Ranger” and “Slide Monkey” tabs to patches proclaiming your hours of PowerPoint service, there is something for every PowerPoint afficionado(a) on your gift list.

Don’t be put off by the old-school site design and ordering methods — this is for real! I ordered the patches seen in the above photo and received them within a week.

If you or someone you know is a beaten-down Slide Monkey, reward all of that hard work with one of these fine patches!


Six reasons you should pay for PowerPoint design

March 12, 2012
A very ugly PowerPoint slideI make a lot of prospecting calls to tell people about my presentation design services and to ask for their business, so I hear many variations on “We don’t want any,” such as, “We already have a template,” “We do all of our PowerPoint in house,” and “My admin takes care of that.” Maybe you are thinking along the same lines as you read this. But sometimes it can be beneficial to look for a presentation design specialist outside one’s organization. Here are six good reasons why:

1. Your time is valuable.

Do you change the oil in your car? I don’t. Sure, I might save a few bucks doing it myself, but it’s much more convenient for me to bring the car to the shop. They perform this service all day every day and have developed work processes to speed things along quickly. Even a simple job like this might take me two hours, including finding all the proper tools, doing the actual work, and locating a place that will take the used oil.

If you don’t use PowerPoint all day every day, there are probably a few things that hold you up, that take a while to figure out. The thing is, every minute that you spend working with technology you’re not thoroughly familiar with is a minute you’re not making money for your company. You hire specialists for other business areas, why not presentation design?

2. Good design communicates ideas better than poor design.

I’ve worked with a lot of people who are professionals in their respective careers. They are really good at what they do and they know their stuff, as is evidenced by the wealth of text and data they stuff into their presentations. But slides full of text, bullet points, busy charts, and complicated tables require an audience to spend too much time sorting through information and not enough time paying attention to the presenter. Even the best ideas get lost in the confusion.

Presentation designers can transform boring data into effective infographics, find and use photographs that do a better job of communicating than bullet points, and ensure that your deck looks like the rest of your marketing materials, thereby strengthening your brand.

3. You don’t want a bored audience.

How exciting is a slide full of text? It’s like watching paint dry, right? Loading up slides with text might make it easier to remember what to say, but it’s miserable for the audience. They’re too busy reading slides to listen to the presenter or, worse, they’re seething because they know how to read so they resent this huge waste of their time.

Do you think a roomful of irritated people will want to fund a venture? Buy a product or service? Attend a class? Probably not.

4. Designers have created the other components of your marketing mix.

Logos, websites, catalogs, data sheets, business cards, uniforms, vehicle graphics, brochures…these are all components of a company’s marketing mix. All of these were likely created by professional designers to create a cohesive brand. By using off-the-shelf PowerPoint templates and default colors, you introduce a jarring element that detracts from your brand and can make you look unprofessional.

5. Well-designed presentations make you look better prepared.

Presenters who read off of their slides are viewed as time-wasters who don’t know what they’re talking about. If you were presenting and the power suddenly went out, would you be able to continue? Do you know your presentation so well that you could keep talking? You should.

6. Other companies are doing it.

Smart companies invest in their marketing to create cohesive brands and messaging. Al Gore didn’t design his own slides for An Inconvenient Truth, they were created by a presentation design agency. And I’m guessing that Steve Jobs didn’t create his iconic presentations himself.

Professional presentation design gives you an edge over your competition. A presentation designer can create a stunning deck using the latest techniques of animation, video, and audio enhancement. The designer can also let you know when less is more.

Your turn

Do you create your own PowerPoint presentations or do you hire out? What about your keynote, annual meeting, and conference presentations?


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