Building slideshows with FrontPage
That's crazy, stupid -- or both
The prospect of using Web-authoring software as a presentation program strikes some presenters as intriguing. But others find it an absurd idea from the get-go. A query to SpeakerNet News, an online resource for more than 2,700 professional speakers, elicits a variety of reactions, including plenty of cogent arguments against monkeying with the presentation status quo.
"For the last year and a half, I have been using my browser to run presentations," says Ken Braly, co-editor of SpeakerNet News, and a San Jose, Calif.-based speaker and consultant on technology issues. "The caveat is that these presentations have been on how to do great Web sites. I've created slides with bullet points, some graphics and, for example, links to lots of actual Web sites -- which I've downloaded to my hard disk. For this sort of presentation, using a browser is ideal. And yes, it does allow a presentation to be posted on a Web site afterward.
"What I have not done," he adds, "is use a browser for a general, non-Internet presentation. While the browser makes setting up interactive links a breeze, desktop presentation programs like PowerPoint and Astound are far richer when it comes to such things as color and graphic capability and multimedia features." Material from either program, he notes, can be posted to a Web site either as-is or converted to a PDF file.
For Christie Mason, online project manager for Managers Forum, Dixon, Ill., the specific rather than the generic tool is at issue. "I've detested FrontPage for so long that even though the new version is adequate, I still can't bring myself to use the product," she asserts, noting that parts of the program contain proprietary scripting that is incompatible with some versions of Netscape and other browsers.
"My preference is Dreamweaver 3," she offers. "You can set it so that it only offers features that are compatible with Netscape and Internet Explorer and you can use layers and animated GIFs. And it has a function that will import Word files and correct the code that Word puts into its HTML SAVE AS option. Presentations need to be organized, but they don't have to follow a preset, linear format. With the HTML approach, my presentations can be organized as a collection of modules that I can choose as needed. It also makes it easy to reuse the same module in different presentations."
Working in this way, she notes, has had an interesting effect on her own preparation activities. "I've noticed that I'm now frustrated with printed materials because they lack the interactive qualities of a Web page," she says, "so I find myself brainstorming in Word, then using Dreamweaver for developing the final presentation."
Positioning objects on the screen is simple with PowerPoint but may be less so in an HTML program. For example, objects can't be placed on top of or in front of other objects as easily, he points out.
Clicking on a specific onscreen location to move to the next slide is a different interface than simply hitting the advance or back button on a linear remote. Regardless of the variations possible, that adds complexity to a presentation environment in which simpler often is better. "And the presence of the moving cursor provides an unnecessary distraction to the audience," he contends.
Those issues led Jeanette Cates of TechTamers in Austin, Texas, to abandon a brief flirtation with nonlinear presenting. "I tried the Web-page approach but stopped using it because, to control it, you have to click on links," she recalls. "When I'm presenting, I'm not close to the computer, nor do I want to try to control an airmouse. I just want to click and have the next slide appear."
The most important point, says Rosemary, is that the presentation system -- any presentation system -- is only a tool. "You still have to carry the seminar with your speaking ability and the content you provide," he emphasizes.
No argument there.