Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Save Time Making Your Presentations, Use These PowerPoint Tools

At Rick Altman's Presentation Summit, I've met many professionals in the presentation industry who are helping to make presenters' lives easier and their presentations better. One of them is Microsoft MVP Steve Rindsberg of PPTools, who saved my webinar—and my sanity—a few weeks ago.

At the end of February, I had just finished prepping my presentation for PresentationXpert's webinar series. My slides were finished (just in time) when I received the request to resize my presentation from 4:3 to 16:9 proportions for the webinar. I was certain I'd be up to the wee hours of the morning resizing my slides and fixing any issues with the graphics. Then my lovely, smart wife suggested I download Steve's Resize tool. I was able to re-proportion my presentation in seconds with only minor cleanup to the slides. It saved me hours and gave me time to relax—a foreign concept in our world. ;)

I was so excited with the ease of using Steve's product that I wanted to interview him for our blog to learn more about his other PowerPoint tools.

You are the owner of PPTools and creator of some of the most innovative add-ins to help PowerPoint users get the most out of this software. What led you to start this type of company? 
In all honesty, I’d have to say sloth. Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sloth is its daddy. I get bored easily, especially when I have to perform the same set of repetitive steps over and over. Two, maybe three times is about my limit. After that, I start looking for a way of making the computer do the grunt work instead of me. If it seems like the kind of grunt work other people are likely to be bored with too, I figure I have an audience for a PowerPoint add-in. Once the add-ins are in the user’s hands, they always come up with great ideas for expanding/improving them. That’s one reason all the add-ins have free fully-functional demos. Users will try them out, then send email along the lines of “Hey, great tool. It would be perfect if only it could ….” And I have an idea for a new feature. And so they grow.

What tools built into PowerPoint do many users overlook but that you find essential when creating slides and/or graphics? 
I still create slides and graphics fairly often in PowerPoint but I’m probably the wrong person to ask this question of, since my main interest is finding tools that AREN’T built into PowerPoint, but should be. And then building them. Still … I’d say the most overlooked tools would be the format painter tools (especially the Pick Up and Apply Object Style eyedroppers, the ones that MS hides until you customize them onto the QAT or a ribbon), the selection pane, and the Combine Shapes tools.

Your products include tools that resize presentations, export slides and presentations as high-resolution images, merge data from spreadsheets, and many other useful add-ins. What tool is your most popular? And what tool do most recommend for presenters? 
At the moment, Merge is the most popular of the PPTools add-ins, but nearly anyone who creates presentations can save time by using one or another of the StarterSet add-in tools. And hey, StarterSet is free. Or for a few bucks more, you can enable a bunch more of its handy tools. And ShapeStyles is like format painter on megasteroids. Anyone who needs to produce slides that match branding specs or who needs to quickly fix up slides from multiple users/sources so that they match a set of standards is working far too hard if they don’t have ShapeStyles.

Is there an add-in you are developing or about to release that you can share with our readers? 
I’m working on a highly user-configurable graphics library add-in that’ll work for both individual customers and at the enterprise level. And on a kind of reporting tool that’ll tell you what media files are included in your presentation, how large they are, whether they’re linked or embedded and a host of other useful information.

As a Microsoft MVP, do you have any advice for presenters on how to improve their slides? 
Visit the sites of my other PowerPoint MVP colleagues! Buy their books. They’re the ones I turn to to learn this kind of thing.
Those are just my top five. I can’t list them all, but there’s a fairly complete list of current and past PowerPoint MVPs at http://www.mvps.org/links.html#PowerPoint And of course my newest discovery: http://www.billiondollargraphics.com.


Geetesh said...

Great interview -- thanks Mike and Steve.

Peggy Duncan helps you spend less time working but get more done. said...

ImageExport just does it for me. I use PowerPoint to create postcards, flyers, and other collateral. Going from PowerPoint to high res pictures is a must-have. Thank you Steve!