When you’re creating a presentation, it’s a given that you’ll be up in front of people with it. Your presentation needs to make you look good, no matter what. Using the right tools is a crucial step to making sure you have a high quality presentation; using anything less than a modern presentation package may make your audience wonder if you’re going to pull out a slide carousel or transparencies at some point.
1. Microsoft PowerPoint
Whether or not you’re personally a fan of PowerPoint, it’s still considered the standard presentation software. Depending on where you’ll be presenting, you may be asked to transform your presentation into PowerPoint’s format as a condition of speaking. You have to be familiar with it, even if you rely on other presentation software most of the time.
Luckily, learning PowerPoint is easy because of how popular it is. There are tons of tutorials, including for converting between different types of presentation software and PowerPoint. There are also far more assets (like industry-specific templates and even designers willing to put together your presentation) for PowerPoint than other presentation software.
Created as Apple’s competitor to PowerPoint, Keynote offers similar features to PowerPoint. However, the software follows Apple’s design principles and tends to turn out visually appealing presentations, even when used by a presenter who has less design experience. The quality of the templates that come packaged with Keynote is such that it’s harder to come up with an ugly design (although not impossible).
Unless you’re already well-trained in PowerPoint, Keynote is likely the more user-friendly of the two — you’ll have to unlearn bad habits if you’ve relied on PowerPoint in the past and want to switch to Keynote. You should still be able to get up to speed with Keynote quickly even in that case, though.
Prezi has reinvented presentations: rather than relying on a slideshow the way PowerPoint and Keynote do, the web-based app lets you create multi-dimensional presentations with lots of motion. You can zoom in and out automatically, add media and create what amounts to more of a movie than a presentation.
It does take some getting used to designing presentations in Prezi, because you won’t need to design your presentation to progress straight through, as you do with a presentation deck. You can even skip around within your own presentation in Prezi, if you want to.
It may be surprising, but designing your presentation as a PDF can be the best option you have. You won’t have to guess what sort of software your presentation needs to run on if you transfer it to someone else’s computer — you can open a PDF on practically any computer, as well as on any mobile device.
You also have far more freedom in designing a PDF than you have in using standard presentation software. You will need to learn some design skills if you don’t already have them, but any type of design software can export to a PDF — as can most presentation software.
Learn Your Tools Well
No matter which presentation software you decide you prefer, invest some time into learning how to use it well. Every software has features that just aren’t obvious until you fully explore every menu. Those features are your opportunity to make sure that your presentation looks better than the competition.
It’s also worth investing in yourself: you want to make sure that you do your perfect presentation justice. You want to speak well and persuade your audience. Learning to present can be a crucial skill for anyone.