How To Move Beyond PowerPoint For Visual Aids

Sure PowerPoint is handy, but what else is there?
Sure PowerPoint is handy, but what else is there?
Image Credit: Todd Lappin

In most cases, when we give a speech we like to show up with some visual aids. When it comes time to make visual aids, I am more than willing to admit that I’ll turn to PowerPoint and get busy. Why not? I know how to use PowerPoint and I must have made about a million slides by now. However, the times they are a changing and this is impacting the importance of public speaking. Is it possible that either there are alternatives to PowerPoint that we should be considering or maybe PowerPoint has changed and we just haven’t taken the time to notice it. How can we move beyond PowerPoint?

PowerPoint Alternatives

When it comes to giving a speech, most of us get into a rut. We have one way of creating our visual aids and we tend to stick to it. We’ll take the time to work on our words and our delivery of our speech, but the visual aids are sorta a done deal. This is probably an oversight on our part. What we need to realize is that the world of visual aid presentation software is always constantly evolving. What it was a few years ago is nothing like it is today. This means that if we’re not careful, we may be missing out on a great opportunity to take our visual aids up to the next level.

In order to make sure that you are using the right tool to create the visual aids for your next presentation, prior to starting the process of creating your visual aids, you need to first use a “decision tree”. Every audience and every speaking situation is different. You are going to want to match your visual aids to the specific speech that you will be giving. For presentations that will be used multiple times and delivered to an internal audience, then using PowerPoint may be fine. If you need a more polished look and feel to your presentation, then Apple’s Keynote software package may be the way to go.

The number of new tools that are becoming available to speakers in order to help them create their visual aids continues to grow. Some tools like are designed to allow multiple people to work on a single presentation at the same time. Since keeps the most current version of a presentation available in “the cloud”, anyone can download the most up-to-date presentation at any time. Another tool is Prezi. Prezi is a direct competitor to PowerPoint and allows you to create fantastic presentations in which you can zoom in and out of a larger graphical image. Each of these tools is well suited to a different type of audience.

Say Hello To The New PowerPoint

We’ve all been using PowerPoint for so long that there is a good chance that we have not been keeping up with all of the changes that have been worked into the more modern versions of the software. One such change is PowerPoint’s ability to handle video files. Modern versions of PowerPoint can take in video files and then allow you to determine at what point the video start to play and at what point the video stops playing.

In order to make our visual aids more interesting, almost all of us add images and photos to them. However, more often than not the size, orientation, or colors of these images may not be right for your presentation. This means that you are going to have to edit your images as you add them to your PowerPoint presentation. In the past this meant that you needed to use a separate program to manipulate the image before you brought it into PowerPoint. However, modern versions of PowerPoint now include a complete set of image editing tools that allow you to make all of your needed changes within the program.

As part of a lot of our presentations, we like to leave printed material behind. Sometimes this material will dive deeper into topics that we covered. How to create this printed material is often a big question: should I use Microsoft Word, Microsoft Publisher, or something else. Somewhat surprisingly the answer more and more is turning out to be to use PowerPoint. PowerPoint gives you a great deal of control over where you text and images go and who’s in front and who’s in back. This allows a presenter to create a printed document that reflects well on the presentation that they have just given.

What All Of This Means For You

As presenters we realize that our audiences are showing up to hear what we have to tell them. However, more and more our presentations are using visual aids to help us connect with our audience and maximize the benefits of public speaking. A lot of us use PowerPoint to accomplish this, but perhaps we are not fully considering what other tools are available or what new features have been added to PowerPoint.

When it comes time to create the visual aids that we’ll use as a part of our next presentation, all too often we just fire up PowerPoint and start creating slides. What we need to understand is that times have changed and there are now a number of different tools that are available for us to use when we are creating visual aids. Before starting to create anything, we should consider our audience and how the presentation is going to be made. We need to use a decision tree to pick the right tool for the job. PowerPoint has evolved over the years. Modern versions of PowerPoint support the processing of video files, images and photos, and can help us to create high-quality printed documents.

The words that we use during a presentation will always be the key to our ability to connect with our audience and to get our message across. However, visual aids can play a supporting role in any presentation and make our job easier. In order to create the best visual aids possible, we need to understand that new tools are available to us and that PowerPoint has a wealth of new features that we can now use. Next time you are going to be giving a speech, take time to decide how you can make the best looking visual aids.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: When should you use PowerPoint and when should you use Prezi for creating your visual aids?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Welcome to the 21st Century! Even as we enter into what appears to be an almost all-digital age, it turns out that the art of being able to give a speech to an audience is still in high demand and people still appreciate the importance of public speaking. What we need to learn how to do as speakers is to find ways to merge the high-tech times that we are living in into our speech in order to make them even better. Since we all now carry a cell phone or tablet with us no matter where we are headed, perhaps it is high time that we take a look at the most useful apps that a speaker can download to these devices.