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4 Powerful Tools to Improve Your Presentation

Your presentation is your value-add. It is how you are representing yourself and your ideas to the world. There’s no escaping the effort required to create a great presentation. There’s no shortcut (learning the ins and outs of structuring and writing a presentation can help).

But there are tools that can help.  That can make the process of creating great content easier, more efficient. That can assist you in being the very best you can be.

Here are 4 enterprise-grade presentation tools to assist you with the process of creating a great presentation, so you can focus on the content.

think-cell

think-cell belongs to a family of programs called PowerPoint add-ins. PowerPoint add-ins are supplemental programs that add custom commands or custom features to PowerPoint.

think-cell is a high-end add-in that focuses on helping create great looking charts and graphs. The company was founded by alumnus of McKinsey and the add-in has been designed from the ground up to help simplify and automate many of the tedious aspects of slide production. Today think-cell is a go-to tool within top consultancies like McKinsey, BCG and Bain and the company has nearly 500,000 users.

You can think of think-cell as a tool to help eliminate some of the complexity and tedium of creating great looking charts in PowerPoint. Making PowerPoint do what you want it to can become complicated once you start trying to create more complex charts and graphs. think-cell helps automate much of the tedium.

How it works

think-cell offers a wide array of services, though most center around graphing and charting.

think-cell excels at automating the creation of specific graph types that are difficult or time consuming to create normally within Excel or PowerPoint. Graph types such as Waterfalls, Gantts, and Mekkos can be made in minutes. Anyone with a lot of data-heavy visuals will treasure its time-saving properties.

All charts are created within PowerPoint, using the PowerPoint charting engine. You are not creating images which cannot be edited later. Instead, think-cell charts are PowerPoint charts, and you can leverage all the advantages of creating native PowerPoint charts, such as linking data directly to Excel documents.

One of the real strengths of think-cell is how it automatically deals with labels, visual annotations, and growth calculations – all of which can be difficult to manage normally within PowerPoint. Users only type in their text, and the tool sizes, stylizes, and positions it automatically.

Ultimately though, it is seeing it in action which brings the full power of think-cell to life.  Have a look at this video:

Outside of graphing features, the agenda tool effortlessly creates a “table of contents” slide that automatically reflects its location within the slideshow, as well as outlines the slideshow as a whole.

It’s also worth mentioned that think-cell can convert graphs from Microsoft Visio or Microsoft Project to PowerPoint. Moreover, users without think-cell can still edit and modify the values in think-cell charts.

Final word

The beauty of think-cell is that it’s a time-saver. Even PowerPoint whizzes (especially?) will admit it makes things easier. If you make a lot of data-driven charts, think-cell is a godsend.

think-cell is not cheap. They purposefully are targeting the corporate market, so you can’t even get a single license – a minimum of 5 is the smallest order size, and that will cost 198 euros per license per year.

If you have a team that spends a lot of time working in PowerPoint, it will be money well spent.

You can try think-cell for free here.

Office Timeline is a PowerPoint add-in that specializes in creating timeline and project schedule charts. And they have a free version!

What it does

Office Timeline focuses on creating Gantt and timeline charts.

Perhaps the strongest advantage Timeline has, aside from its price, is the smooth and professional visuals of its graphs. They certainly don’t look like they came from a free downloadable add-on.

How it works

Office Timeline is less about problem solving, and more about shortcuts.

The Timeline Wizard lets you make timelines with ease, in the same fashion as think-cell. Simply plug in the variables, and the add-on does the rest: outlining key milestones, calculating task durations, tracking progress, and calculating percentages of completion. These automatic functions make it a great tool for project managers and other timetable keepers.

Admittedly, Office Timeline is a simple tool and can’t compete with the complexity and richness of MS Project. But that’s part of its appeal. Most timeline projects aren’t involved enough to use a fraction of MS Project’s capabilities; something smaller like Office Timeline is more suited for the average timeline.

Final word

Office Timeline does what it says on the tin – it creates timelines. And it works great. True to its pledge, it lets users easily create impressive-looking timelines that go a long way towards organizing tasks and keeping projects on schedule.

It is, however, limited in what it can do. For more advanced features you will have to upgrade to the Plus Edition, which costs $49 for Individual License and $99 for the Business Pack. With the Plus Edition you receive additional templates, milestone and task shapes, flexibility in how you display dates and other enhancements.

Download the free version here.

As corporations aim to reduce their office footprints and satisfy employee needs to work when they want and from where they want, the role of knowledge management has intensified. This holds true for employees that create and use presentations as finding the right slide at the right time can provide a huge boost to productivity.

TeamSlide is a slide management solution with a PowerPoint plug-in that enables incredibly easy access to your library of slides. With TeamSlide your organization can share and find slides from within PowerPoint, helping improve collaboration without disrupting your workflows.

What it does

Over time, as presentations are built, refined, and rewritten, across organizations, critical slides take on a life of their own. They become living and breathing creatures that evolve over time. They get separated from each other, modified to meet specific requirements and even the templates change over time. Employees need to be able to find the specific slide that meets their requirements and reflects the latest available firm-wide knowledge.

Corporations increasingly need to ensure that their employees are sharing a consistent message when it comes to content and brand. As a result, TeamSlide has developed a slide management solution to support collaboration.

TeamSlide ensures that everyone, regardless of role or department, can quickly access presentation slides without rummaging through archives, flipping through old decks, or emailing requests. It also safeguards against the usage of out-of-date slides, inconsistency in visual style, or last-ditch attempts to hastily recreate slides.

How it works

TeamSlide (along with the necessary plug-in) allows you to find and share slides without ever leaving PowerPoint. The TeamSlide pane opens up on the right side of the PowerPoint window, where you can conduct Google-like image searches without losing access to your current presentation. The search reveals preview images of all the matching slides, and inserting a slide into your presentation is as simple as clicking the preview.

Uploading and sharing slides is just as simple – simply right-click any slide for the options. This feature isn’t limited to slides, either; graphics, videos, icons, charts, etc. can all be shared through PowerPoint.

In the background, the TeamSlide server, which can sit in the cloud or on your servers, can be managed through an easy web-browser interface. You can set up libraries and manage user access rights. It has a host of features that help you quickly bring content online, allow you to set the color scheme to match your branding, and enable integration with your content and security systems. Most important, TeamSlide’s functionality allows it work within your knowledge management workflows.

Final Word

If you work with presentations on a regular basis, TeamSlide can increase productivity and improve output quality.

For teams that work with presentations on a regular basis, a slide management solution can help increase productivity and improve output quality. With better access to your PowerPoint content you may be able to sell more effectively, align branding across your firm, and improve knowledge capture. TeamSlide is a premier slide management offering and may be a good fit for your organization.

TeamSlide costs $12.50 per person per monthly.

You can sign-up for a free trial here.

Poll Everywhere is not a PowerPoint plugin but is, instead, a helpful app used for both compiling data before the presentation, and directly engaging the audience during it.

What it does

Poll Everywhere is not strictly a presentation tool. Its main function is as a polling app – users can poll large numbers of people (how large depends on the payment plan) and receive feedback in real time. The results are then graphed automatically.

For live business presentations which are presented to large groups, this polling functionality can add a lot to your presentation.

Poll Everywhere allows a presenter to ask their audience a question, collect answers in real-time and graphically show the results of their question in PowerPoint.

The audience literally watches their responses get compiled in real time.

How it works

Poll Everywhere collects poll answers in three ways:

SMS texts – Smart phones, dumb phones, candy bar phones… anyone who can text can contribute to your poll
Twitter – pick a hashtag
Web – Respondents answer through the web via the poll’s web page at PollEverywhere.com
You can ask open-ended or multiple-choice questions. You can engage people all over the world, or in the same room. You can customize the style of the graphs.

The benefits to presentations, though, are most interesting. You can, for instance, ask your audience to vote on an issue, even writing-in new choices ‘on-the-fly’. Think of moderating a brainstorming session, where you write in everyone’s ideas and put the issue to a vote, with the entire process displayed cleanly in PowerPoint in real time, culminating in a picture-perfect graph.

For polling alone, there are plenty of other data-collecting tools, including the industry leader Survey Monkey. The reason we are talking about Poll Everywhere instead is because this is about presentation tools, and Poll Everywhere integrates better into PowerPoint. (Survey Monkey only offers PowerPoint exports with a professional plan.)

All you need is the PollEv Presenter add-on, and you can directly integrate your graphs into PP, even with the free account

Final word

While not applicable to every presentation, Poll Everywhere is nonetheless a powerful tool when the circumstances warrant it. Keeping the audience interested in what you have to say is one of the greatest challenges of a presentation – live polling can be particularly effective.

The free version is somewhat restrictive, as it is limited to 25 responses. Poll Everywhere runs on a tiered, monthly pricing system depending on the number of responses.

Polls with 50 responses per poll only cost $19/month, 500 responses per poll cost $500/month.

Try Poll Everywhere for free here.