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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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?


Great Design Goes Mainstream

June 4, 2012

Place settingFor the past several years, I have been working with people who share my conviction that the same design principles that are used to create award-winning websites, compelling logos, and stunning point-of-purchase displays can and should be used in PowerPoint presentations. This viewpoint isn’t commonly shared; the majority seems to believe that PowerPoint is nothing but a necessary evil that must be suffered through like some kind of horrible rite of initiation. These people are missing out on a powerful design trend: the mainstream acceptance of good design.

We are surrounded by increasingly sophisticated designs without necessarily being aware of it. Think about how easy it is to order just about anything under the sun from Amazon.com. Their revolutionary website sets the bar for great user experience. Industrial designer Phillipe Starck’s work for Target changed the way mainstream America believes even such mundane items as dustpans and trash cans should look. When Apple introduced the iMac in 1998, with its translucent case and bold blue accents, it smashed the paradigm that personal computers needed to be housed in beige boxes.

For some reason, this increased design sophistication doesn’t always carry through to a company’s PowerPoint presentations. Tired sales reps and harried admins are still banging out text-heavy, bullet-pointed borefests in much the same way they did in the late eighties when PowerPoint first hit the market. The only difference now is some of the “cool” animation effects and clipart available in PowerPoint 2010. But presentations can be made much more effective with great design. And the public is increasingly demanding great design.

Welcome to the Era of Design proclaims the headline of a recent blog on Forbes.com by Adam Swann, head of strategy at gyro. This article talks about how design is becoming mainstream, affordable, and expected in today’s marketplace.

In an era of design, bad design really stands out as being, well, bad. Today’s innovators stay ahead of their competition by ensuring that great design is carried out in all aspects of their marketing mix.

Your turn

What role does design play in your business?


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?


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?


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