A travel company in the laptop of luxury
Orient-Express Trains & Cruises offers international luxury travel on four trains and a cruise ship. But until recently, this high-end travel service was using an unwieldy combination of slides and videos to sell itself. "When you have 80 to 120 slides, plus videos, organizing a presentation gets to be cumbersome and time-consuming," says Annette Kishon-Pines, the company's director of sales administration (North America). The time for a change had come.
Kishon-Pines thought her video sections were sufficiently impressive, but felt that the transitions between the slides and the video were often clunky. Furthermore, if she only wanted to talk about one train or exclusively about the boat, she would have to either rearrange the slides or quickly advance through slides of the other three trains.
She had heard of Atlanta-based Interactive Inc. and decided to take her material to the company for a new presentation. Her request was simple. "I asked for a presentation that would pull all the slides and the video into one," she says. But the end product also needed to be flexible, easy to navigate through and easy to use.
Interactive President Gary White decided to convert Kishon-Pines' pitch into a Microsoft PowerPoint presentation with the videos converted into MPEG-2 files. "To do that, we had to equip the client with a laptop that could handle full-screen MPEG-2 video," says White, who eventually went with a Sony PCG-F190 VAIO notebook.
For built-in flexibility, Interactive created an opening navigation screen with separate modules that could be clicked on to reach different areas of the presentation. A customization feature was also added in the beginning, allowing Kishon-Pines to type in the name of her client on the first screen for automatic placement throughout the presentation.
According to White, the whole package was built in PowerPoint with some extra touches thrown in from Adobe's Photoshop and After Effects and the tweaking of some Microsoft Visual Basic development code. Both Macintosh- and Windows-compatible systems were used to put the final presentation together, which was then burned onto a CD-ROM.
According to Kishon-Pines, the end result was well worth the effort. A first-time PowerPoint user, her initial presentation using the new CD took place in front of 100 incentive buyers and corporate end users. "I was using my new laptop and a projector. Afterward, people came up to me and said, 'Wow, you're really a pro at this.'"
Another added bonus is that Kishon-Pines no longer has to lug around her slide projector and an armful of videos. Now, all she carries to meetings is her notebook computer and, occasionally, a projector. If fewer than three people are involved, she simply shows the presentation on her laptop.
The folks at Interactive Inc. were equally pleased with the project because it convinced them that quality digital video can be used effectively in laptop presentations. "Gone are the days of watching a grainy little video in the corner of the screen," White says. With MPEG-2 and ever-faster computers, he notes, the prospects for effective, high-quality video have never been better.
* Julie Hill