When someone says "presentation tools," what's the first thing that comes to mind? For most people, it's likely Microsoft's PowerPoint. Although PowerPoint is worthy presentation software, the world of presentation-making is a vast one that extends beyond the creation of slides. From tools that help tell stories to those that make sharing and collaborating a breeze, there are a plethora of resources that can help small businesses master business presentations.
Here are 13 business presentation tools that can help you create better presentations, become a better presenter and truly engage with customers and audiences.
1. Digital whiteboards
Take your presentation up a notch with digital whiteboards, also known as electronic whiteboards. This interactive display connects to a computer — using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth USB or serial port cable — and mirrors your screen. Unlike regular screen projectors, digital whiteboards keep your audience engaged with features touchscreen capabilities and the ability to annotate, draw and highlight using a pen. You can also click on links, as well as play multimedia content. Some examples of digital whiteboards are Google Jamboard, Microsoft Surface Hub, MimioBoard, Cisco Spark Board and Promethean.
Ready to make an awesome business pitch? Check out Pitcherific, a pitch training tool that aims to help startups and job seekers prepare better pitches. Simply choose a template, indicate how long you want your pitch to be and start writing. Pitcherific will then help you practice and perfect your pitch so you can convey your ideas as convincingly as possibly — without the need for slides. The tool also makes sure you stay within your targeted time limit overall and for each part of your speech. Other features include the ability to set audiences, create multiple pitches and templates specifically designed for pitching to investors.
The best presentation tools let users showcase their ideas beautifully without all the tech work. Visme is a cloud-based presentation maker that lets businesses create a wide range of presentations quickly and easily. This include slides, infographics, wireframes, product demos and even banner ads. Simply choose a template, then use the drag-and-drop editor to add content and customize the presentation's look and feel. Visme presentations are fully responsive to desktop and mobile devices and can be shared online, embedded into a site or blog and downloaded for offline use. Visme is free for up to three projects and starts at $7 per month thereafter. [See Related Story: 36 Ways to Make a Killer Business Presentation]
Text- and chart-based presentations can be rather plain. Add some Web 2.0 flavor with Projeqt, an online presentations creator that turns boring slides into dynamic experiences. Users can create presentations from scratch or spruce up outdated PowerPoint presentations with all types of new media, such as live tweets, blog feeds, interactive maps, streaming videos and other rich, real-time Web elements. Projeqt presentations are also fully accessible by any user or viewer, as they are compatible with most major browsers, are viewable on mobile devices and can be embedded on any website. Projeqt is currently free to use when you register with your email address or log in with Facebook or Twitter.
5. Google Slides
Cloud-based office apps are all the rage — and Google won't be outdone. Google Slides, a presentation app offered by the productivity suite Google Drive, is a robust, collaboration-friendly PowerPoint alternative that's accessible via any Web browser. In addition to creating presentations, users can share and edit their work with anyone on their team in real time — for instance, during a meeting or videoconference. Google Slides is completely free to use with a Google account.
There's presenting, and then there's storytelling. Prezi is another cloud-based presentation maker, but its goal is to help presenters become "more engaging and memorable." Users can choose from professionally designed templates, a library of content, and a collection of images and videos to visually enhance their presentations. And like other cloud-based presentation makers, Prezi is accessible and syncable using any computer or mobile device for on-demand access. Prezi starts at $4.92 a month; the first month is free.
7. Haiku Deck
Haiku Deck, on the other hand, aims to help presenters inspire their audiences with high-quality backdrops and images (from Getty Images or a user's own collection) to create an emotional impact for audiences. And instead of boring stock charts, images can also be repurposed to create graphs and other elements to make up the content of the presentation. Haiku Deck also offers an assortment of professional designs and color schemes, eliminating the need for any design skills to polish and balance presentations. Haiku Deck is accessible over the Web or by using the Haiku Deck iPad app. It is free to use and includes six free themes.
If you work primarily with Mac and iOS devices, Keynote — Apple's presentation software — is for you. Like PowerPoint, Keynote lets users add images, charts, graphs and other visual elements to each slide. What makes Keynote different, however, is its seamless integration with the Apple ecosystem: Presentations are automatically saved to iCloud, allowing users to open, edit and share them anytime, anywhere on any Mac or iOS device. Similarly, the Web-based Keynote for iCloud gives users access to presentations on any of their Apple devices. Keynote is free for most recently purchased Mac computers.
When it comes to presentations, engaging your audience makes all the difference. Do something different: Create animated presentations and videos with PowToon. Instead of hiring a professional animator or purchasing expensive animation software, use PowToon, which offers an affordable and easy-to-use interface with all the animation tools that businesses need to create a wide range of animated content, including website presentations, product demos and how-to videos. PowToon is free for standard-definition videos and starts at $19 a month for downloadable, high-definition videos.
Ever wonder how people make those captivating "whiteboard" videos, where a hand holding a marker sketches out each part of the presentation? The hard way is to actually film an artist physically sketching out each individual slide, edit accordingly and then speed it up to the ideal presentation length. But no one has time for that. Take the easy route with VideoScribe: Simply choose your images, and VideoScribe will automatically create the whiteboard-style effect with a hand that "draws" them out throughout the presentation — no tech, design or programming skills required. VideoScribe costs $29 per month or $199 per year. A seven-day free trial is also available.
Looking for an audience? Look no further than SlideShare, a popular presentation discovery and sharing platform for slides, infographics, documents and more. Known more as a community than a consumer or commercial service, SlideShare lets anyone upload and share their content with colleagues, customers, followers and millions of SlideShare visitors. (A private sharing feature is also available.) It also includes several social media features, such as likes, comments and profile pages. SlideShare files can be embedded onto blogs and websites, as well as shared on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social networks. Accepted files include PowerPoint, PDF, Keynote and OpenDocument. SlideShare is free to use. A revamped Pro plan for business users is also in the works.
Webinars, webcasts and other virtual presentations require much more than slides on a screen. A voice-over narration is always helpful, but how about increasing audience engagement by simulating the in-person experience? Zentation lets businesses produce "high-end" presentations that combine slides and videos to recreate live presentations. It's a self-service platform, so users can create virtual presentations in three steps: upload a video of the presenter, upload the PowerPoint presentation and then sync the two files. Zentation is free for videos hosted on YouTube and Google Video. Paid plans for privately hosted videos start at $85 a month per presentation.
Need to share presentations across the Web? Check out authorSTREAM, a PowerPoint sharing platform that lets users easily store, convert and distribute PowerPoint presentations to a wide range of Web properties. authorSTREAM allows users to embed PowerPoint presentations as Flash slideshows on websites and blogs, upload them as videos on YouTube and share them as downloadable files for iOS devices. authorSTREAM is free to use with advertisements. Ad-free presentations start at $2.50 per month.