10 Presentation Tools for Technology Conference SpeakersTipsNew SpeakersExperienced SpeakersTools
You did it! Your proposal was accepted and you’re officially in the conference program. Now what?
If you’re like me, you’ve been to hundreds of presentations (maybe even more) and you know exactly what makes a presentation memorable: it’s either REALLY good or REALLY bad. Content aside, it’s the presentation of your material that makes the most impact to a room full of eager, yet, potentially overwhelmed, conference-goers.
I believe that everyone has the ability to develop an aesthetic and engaging presentation that will be remembered, so I’ve put together some of my favorite tools to help you do just that. But, if you’re not quite ready to begin your slide deck yet, first check out my Guide to Preparing a Conference Presentation.
Let’s start out by talking about some of the most widely-used presentation tools for all purposes and industries. Whichever one you choose, it’s important not to overload your physical presentation with text. If a viewer sees a slide packed with text, their instinct to read it all will kick in, and they will quickly tune the most important thing – you - out.
Slides and visuals should be used to present key takeaways and help your listener paint the picture you’re trying to create, not manipulate all of their attention. There is nothing more boring than a conference session that features text-packed slides on plain white backgrounds.
An oldie-but-goodie, PowerPoint, remains the most widely used presentation tool across the board. You’re probably familiar with it from your school days, and maybe you’ve spent a lot of time playing around with all of the fun effects that you can add in to make your presentation look a lot cooler than it actually was, while procrastinating on developing the actual content for your history presentation (I know I’m guilty as charged). Nonetheless, PowerPoint is a great go-to for conference presentations. It’s easy to customize and allows you to add photos, videos, charts, and more right onto your slides, bringing your project or data to life.
If you’re unfamiliar with Google’s suite of productivity tools, I highly recommend that you visit Google Drive and play around with creating documents, spreadsheets, and slideshows. The way these tools work is very similar to that of your standard Microsoft Office Suite, but they make collaborating, sharing, and getting feedback a whole lot easier.
Operating through your browser instead of existing locally on your computer, multiple people can be working on a Google Slides presentation simultaneously, making it the perfect tool for joint presentations. If you want to get feedback from a coworker or mentor, they can easily make suggestions and add comments to your work without actually altering it. Once you’re done, you can download the presentation to your desktop in many formats, including PowerPoint and PDF, or you can present directly from your browser, making Google Slides a versatile option.
Prezi isn’t your typical slideshow creating platform, but it is just as easy to use as PowerPoint or Google Slides and has been widely adapted over the last several years. Prezi is a great tool to use for highly visual presentations, allowing the user to depict one slide’s relation to the others, while keeping an eye on larger picture. It’s made for non-designers (just like us) and the templates are super easy to adapt for any audience.
For example, start out with a timeline or overview, and use Prezi to literally zoom in on each specific component of your project. In the sample above, the creator would move into details of the new collection, photos or videos of it, their target demographic, and the inspiration behind it, before returning to this main overview to visually depict how the specifics of the new collection were directly considered in planning for launch events and predicting trends. Prezi’s website has a lot of great video tutorials that I’d highly recommend if you’re unfamiliar with the platform.
For Your Code
As developers, a lot of what we will be teaching and sharing with others is code-based. As such, a number of great technologies have been created by people like us to help people like us showcase our new coding developments to others.
As a developer, I’ve always joked that my native language is code. GitPitch must have heard me, because they’ve created a slide deck building platform that operates entirely in my native language… and they have the tagline to prove it.
With their desktop tool, you can use Markdown & Git to create your slide content or take it a step farther with their Markdown Widgets that will help you add special and unique features to your slides. You can even demonstrate the way your code works step by step right inside of your presentation. By natively operating in a language that you’ve become fluent in, GitPitch allows you to build your presentations without the fuss of learning PowerPoint, Google Slides, or Prezi. Your slide decks can be exported into traditional means or presented right through their platform, adding to its utility and versatility.
Spectacle Code Slide
Similar to GitPitch, Spectacle also allows you to create slides entirely out of code and demo your code right inside of your presentation. That’s about where the similarities end, however, as Spectacle can run right inside your existing terminal, while GitPitch is a software you would need to download to use. Spectacle is a React.js library that allows you to use JSX or MDX syntax and gives you all of the tools you need to create a sleek presentation for free. It’s open-source information and their website, as well as several GitHub users, like JamieBuilds, can help you get started in Spectacle quickly and easily.
If you want to use a more traditional slide deck platform, like one outlined in The Basics section above, but you would still like to demonstrate your code, Glorious will be your new best friend. It’s the easiest way to create an animation of your code in action, giving your audience the evidence they need to prove that your genius idea actually works.
Let’s face it: You can show a block of code and swear it works all day, but without seeing it in action, no one is going to believe you.
If you don’t have code demonstrations that you need to present but you still want to create your slide deck in your native coding language, try MarkDeck. MarkDeck will take your files in Markdown format and turn them into an html5 slide deck, while showing the two side by side so that you can easily make adjustments and alter your slide design as needed. Slides follow a simple, standard format, making MarkDeck easy and frill-free for the no-nonsense presenter. It’s possible to create your own layout if needed, but it’s more difficult than in GitPitch or Spectacle. If you’ve never coded a slide deck before, MarkDeck in an excellent place to start and get your bearings before moving to something more customizable.
If your presentation’s content would be enhanced by using a variety of plugins like animated bullet points or backdrops, hash routing, or touch interaction, Bespoke is just what you need. Its minimal design and modular presentation library foster the ability to highly customize your work, offering over 75 different plugins. You can find a Bespoke.js generator here, and can customize it to meet your needs.
To Add a Little Something Extra
So, you’ve finished your slide deck and your content is amazing, but it’s lacking some pizazz and you need to spice it up. Have no fear, the next two tools are here to rescue your presentation from drowning in the deep end.
I like to think of Canva as the graphic design mecca for non-graphic designers. Tools and templates within Canva allow you to create beautiful, professional-quality graphics, banners, and images without the complexity of Photoshop or InDesign. It’s a great tool to use to do something as basic as adding text over an image or as complex as using stickers to create an animated graphic that will help illustrate your point.
Unsplash, Pexels, Kaboompics, & more
While we may have grown up with corny, painfully obvious stock photos gracing our teachers’ presentations and textbooks, it’s 2020 and our own presentations don’t need to follow suit. There are tons of websites out there that allow you download photos taken by real photographers for free under a Creative Commons license. Some of my favorites are Unsplash, Pexels, and Kaboompics because the majority of photos on those sites don’t look very ‘stock photo-esq.’ Remember, just because you can find an image through a Google search, it doesn’t mean that you can use it freely without consequence. Take the guesswork out of it and avoid a potential problem by using one of these sites to gather your images.
As you can see, there many tools out there to help you create beautiful slide decks that will keep your audience engaged and wanting more. While some of the tools outlined here are better for certain scenarios and presentation types than others, I recommend that you familiarize yourself with each of them and give them a try, as much of your decision on which tool to use will come from nothing other than your personal preference. Let me know which ones you like, which ones you don’t, and if you have other favorites over on twitter at @cfp_land.