(Re)Discover OpenOffice.org Impress

I think OOo Impress is a fine piece of software.

It imported my old PowerPoint slide shows without complaint. It does basic animations and slide transitions. I can even push my slides out to HTML code, as Flash or as a PDF, as an added revenue enhancing bonus to audience members, if I so choose.

So why don’t people use it?

After enduring countless conference sessions and vendor demonstrations, I think there’s a couple of reasons for the lukewarm uptake of Impress. Make sure to comment if you have a different view.

Presenters Aren’t Using Linux and Open Source

Lots of presenters are not Linux or Open Source users. Marketers, sales people, executives, and non-technical business types generally use whatever tool is issued to them, namely a Windows laptop and the standard issue Powerpoint.

Sure, some of the tech speakers use OOo Impress for their presentations. Most likely, they also have a very current version of Linux running on their laptop, too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an OOo Impress slide show on a Windows laptop. Have you?

That’s a real shame, especially if you’re working for a company that sells Linux or Open Source products and services. Let’s get going here, it’s basic Credibility 101. Do the customers know the difference?

Business Presenters Haven’t Switched To Multimedia Yet

Video, audio, photographs, light shows, and so on are taboo in modern “professional” presentations. PowerPoint is supposed to be neat bullet points, pleasant slide transitions, and maybe a few animations. Complex or complicated graphics are also a no-no. Those are too distracting for the audience and will take away from your message.

Don’t tell that to K-12 educators, people on the motivational speaking circuit, or the news media. Those presenters deal in vivid colors, flashy animations, attention getting sounds, and descriptive pictures. Audiences get into the presentation because they are a fast paced, extravaganza of sensory perception, WITH a message.

Maybe quite a few presenters just haven’t made the switch from simple four line slides to multimedia yet. I realize that the executives and business people may not have the time, inclination, or creative flare for that type of project. Many times, they also don’t spend the time evaluating their performances, then wonder why their audiences aren’t roaring with excitement. Shock and awe, in a multimedia sense, might just be the ticket to capturing the adoration of your paying customers. Well, and along with a worthwhile message, of course.

Multimedia is exceedingly easy on the KDE desktop. Start your Impress slide show on desktop number one. On the same desktop, load your video into MPlayer. When you come to the slide where you want to play your video, use the Alt-Tab combination to swap between your slide show and the video. On another desktop you could have some cool bumper music ready to go in XMMS, for use before and after the slide show. Use the mouse or the Ctrl-Tab key combination to swap between the desktops to cue the music and start/end the slide show.

Many Are Reluctant Participants

Lastly, I guess people are still very uncomfortable up on stage.

With that discomfort comes a reluctance to overcome the fear of trying anything out of the ordinary, including OOo Impress. Everybody can tough out reading the bullet points in a PowerPoint show. Unfortunately, the unmistakable lack of passion for the subject, occurs at all levels and can really hurt business.

A refreshing and enlightening way to get over that fear is to join a Toastmaster club. Get in one that meets weekly and has a strong leadership team. Then make sure to attend regularly. Watch out, you might even begin to look forward to the excitement of being up in the spotlight and hearing the applause at the end of your performance. Never mind that they clap after anyone speaks, whether you are great or completely bomb. Toastmasters are about encouragement, education, and leadership. It is an outstanding organization and may even change your life. I was in Toastmasters for six years, held various leadership positions, and made some lifelong friends.

Once people get over that fear of speaking, maybe they can concentrate on putting their real passion into their show… and venture out into unknown territory… like pushing the limits of presentational excellence, using OOo Impress.

I consult with people on their presentation needs. Give me a call if you need coaching or help setting up that next “big” show. You’ll find valuable tips scattered throughout my presentation oriented articles. Also, make sure to pick up Point & Click OpenOffice.org. I wrote the Impress chapters as a co-author.

Rob Reilly is a consultant, trend spotter, and writer. He is a contributing editor for Linux Today. He advises clients on portable business computing and presentation technology integration. You can visit his web page at http://home.earthlink.net/~robreilly.

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