This morning, I began a search to see what new, innovative options there are for presentations. After doing a search, I found many blog posts touting alternatives to boring presentations, but all of them listed presentation websites and software whose only real stray from PowerPoint was the name of the website or software itself.
This blog post aims to give folks an alternative to presentations using websites which are not laid out like and serve nearly the exact same purpose as PowerPoint. You won’t see Haiku Deck, Prezi, or Powtoon here – although they are all good, free resources, they are still basically a slide show. Yes, even Prezi is basically a slideshow that has exploded and landed in whatever array you choose.
The six tools I have selected here meet the following criteria:
1. They can deliver customized content
2. They allow for incorporation of websites and video
3. They do not have default settings that encourage us to simply recreate our presentation on its platform
4. They are all free and web-based
5. They allow for easy sharing
Bonus if they also allow for downloading so that a presenter won’t be stuck with nothing in the event of internet connectivity issues.
In no particular order, here are my top six picks:
1. Thinglink – Thinglink is a classroom favorite of mine. Its simple interface and rich functionality makes it suitable for teachers, students, and administrators to deliver information. As a presentation platform, simply upload a picture relevant to your presentation, then create touch points which you can use to pull up additional websites and media. Your audience will not be subject to text-heavy slides and you will not have to click through slide after slide to jump ahead or back in your presentation. This is important because we all need to be flexible in our delivery, according to our audience, and as speaking guru, Kevin Honeycutt taught me, you should always have more content in your presentation than you will realistically be able to cover so that you keep your audience wanting more. Adding text to a Thinglink being used for a presentation also gives your audience information to review after your session is over.
2. Symbaloo – This website is basically a visually interesting bookmarking site. Teachers can use it in the gamification of their instruction, for self-guided learning, or simply providing useful links to their students. As a presentation tool, Symbaloo’s simple design in pages called webmixes allows for a presenter to pre-load every link they will be visiting during a presentation and eliminate the need for slides with hyperlinks. As with Thinglink, Symbaloo’s webmixes are shareable, so audience members can return later to review the information. I learned from web guru, Steve Dembo, that innovation exists when something is being used for something other than its intended purpose. Using Symbaloo to link to a selection of documents, images, videos, etc. that you have stored in the cloud can be one of those innovative uses.
3. LiveBinders – This tool is unique in this list because it has been created with presentation features in mind, although it meets my criteria because it isn’t a slideshow. LiveBinders allows you to create a virtual binder of information. You can link to websites, embed video, or create your own pages within the binder. Of the five in this list, I have used LiveBinders most often for my presentations. As with the others, I can share a link to the LiveBinder I created for that topic and my participants can use it during my presentation for any audience response items I’m incorporating. After the event, they can return to it for reference. I enjoy adding pages to the LiveBinder as we go through the session and will often continue to add additional information after-the-fact, so that the binder becomes a dynamic resource my audience can use for as long as they wish. An example of one of my presentation LiveBinders is this one I created for a BYOT session. You can see that I used Symbaloo as the starting point for this presentation, then linked to the LiveBinder from there.
4. Infographics – This choice isn’t a specific website, although there are plenty of options out there, including Piktochart, Infogr.am, or Smore. The concept of using an infographic as a presentation platform is desirable because of the potential for it to be smooth, succinct, and useful as a standalone resource. Creating an infographic with the high points of your presentation can be visually interesting and useful as a poster in a classroom. Although I normally don’t use an infographic by itself for a presentation, I do use one as a piece of my presentation (you can see an example of that in the Zoho section, next).
5. Zoho notebook – Zoho notebook is another favorite classroom tool of mine. Students can log in using their Google account, which means one less login for them to remember, and the notebook can store literally anything they may want to store. Books can be created with numerous pages, embedded websites, videos, audio, and text. Zoho can even record video and audio for you. Once a book is finished, it can be published to the world, or individual pages of it can be shared. As a presentation tool, Zoho can be one location for a presenter to compile all of the information they will be using during a presentation, along with any files, websites, or other information they may want to share with audience members. The published version works much like a book and its clean look is just my style. One big, big drawback is that it only works 100% of the time in Internet Explorer. In Firefox, you can often get it to work by clicking on a page. In Chrome, it often just doesn’t load websites and images. This is a huge drawback which hopefully will be resolved. Here is a presentation example I created for a presentation I will be doing next week (be sure to open it in IE!).
6. Timeline JS – As I sat down to write this post, I intended to stop at five, but then I remembered this gem. Designed to be a timeline creator, I immediately saw its potential as a presentation tool the first time I discovered it. One of the really cool features of Timeline JS is that it uses Google spreadsheets to create the timeline. There is an easy-to-use template to download from the website. Just place all the info you would like to have on your timeline in the spreadsheet (incorporating video and other media is as easy as putting a link in the media column). Timeline JS will use the link to your spreadsheet to create a visual representation of the information within the spreadsheet. Presenters can think of the timeline as the agenda for the day, with rich media quickly available.
All of these tools are free and easy to use. All of them can be shared to an audience. Some of them do have the ability to download for offline use. All of them should help you to think outside the slide and create stimulating presentations your audiences will appreciate.