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Microsoft’s PowerPoint is a powerful tool for those who give presentations. All too often, however, audiences endure endless bullet points with the same tired backgrounds. Here’s a guide to not only keeping your audience awake when the lights go down but also warming them up to your argument. Creating a compelling presentation is not all that difficult, as long you use the right resources. There are a number of small programs, called plug-ins, that make the program more powerful. Perhaps the easiest place to start is sprucing up the slideshow template itself. One of the best one-stop shopping sites is Crystal Graphics ( www.crystalgraphics.com). The company’s PowerPlugs line of plug-ins provides thousands of polished title and body slide sets, including more than 2,000 with animated elements. They’re organized into six CDs, one for each color group, and are currently $49 individually or $289 for the complete set. Once installed, you can access these templates just like you would any other within PowerPoint. Crystal Graphics also offers three-dimensional plug-ins to spice up your title. A volume from the “PowerPlugs: 3D Titles” series contains 30 animated three-dimensional title slides and costs $49. You can access “3D Titles” from PowerPoint’s “Insert” menu. You simply need to enter your title and subtitle text watch them spin and morph into infinity. For more professional slide headings within your presentation, try Crystal Graphics’ “PowerPlugs: Headings,” a set of graphical headings that blend in well with your slide background. (There are two sets; each costs $39.) If you want to wow your viewers with 3D slide manipulation, try “PowerPlugs: Transitions.” There are two collections (each $59) that converts slides into 3D objects and then applies dazzling transitions using imaginative effects. The company’s Web site has plenty of samples available for previewing. PowerPoint is not built on whirling dervishes alone. A chart can often tell a compelling story, too. Three D Graphics’ Amigo 2000 can render television and newspaper quality charts that don’t have that lower-end “boxy” appearance. It’s available from www.threedgraphics.com as a download for $99, or a shipped CD for $124. Naturally, there’s a “PowerPlugs: Charts” module as well, for $99 from Crystal Graphics. Before buying these packages, make sure that your computer will support them. For smooth sailing, some 3D-rendering packages require a faster processor and an adequate 3D video card. As an example, Amigo 2000 works best with an “OpenGL” 3D video card for its highest level of effects. If your computer is old or low cost, you may find that your presentation looks choppy during these animated effects. Some versions of Windows also may need the latest version of DirectX, Microsoft’s free set of multimedia and 3D support. The latest version is available for download at microsoft.com/directx. Three-dimensional templates and effects also use up a lot more hard drive space: They generate substantially larger slideshow files, which can make them more difficult to e-mail. If your budget is more constrained, there’s a number of low-cost resources on the Web. First, Microsoft’s own site includes good clip art images organized into galleries. “Design Gallery Live,” located at dgl.microsoft.com, is free for PowerPoint users. You can search for and download static and animated clip art, sounds and photos. For a $99 per year subscription, TemplateCentral.com offers unlimited searching and downloads of templates, images and fonts for a variety of programs. Finding various sounds for PowerPoint is as easy as using your favorite Web search engine. However, you’ll want to make sure you have permission to use them in your presentation or on your Web site where it may be posted. One last tip: A stunning slideshow won’t save you if you haven’t fully mastered presentation skills or the underlying subject matter. While it’s quite tempting to create a multimedia blitz presentation, you’re much better off showing some restraint: You don’t want your audience to focus more on the next fancy transition or video clip than what you’re actually saying. PRESENTATION RESOURCES Presentations Magazine ( www.presentations.com) Presenters University ( www.presentersuniversity.com) PowerPointers ( www.powerpointers.com) Wilder Presentations ( www.wilderpresentations.com) A Bit Better Corporation’s PowerPoint Tips & Tricks ( bitbetter.com/powertips.htm) A Bit Better Corporation’s PowerPoint Resources ( http://bitbetter.com/powerlinks.htm) Jeffrey Beard is a legal technologist with Milwaukee’s Quarles & Brady. His e-mail address is [email protected]. Bridget Lueck, Quarles & Brady’s visual presentations and database specialist, assisted in the preparation of this article.

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