Want to Make Great PowerPoint Presentations?

4 tools to help make your PowerPoint slideshows amazing

Continuing the recent trend of PowerPoint in the news, I stumbled upon an article in USA Today that provided some tips and advice for designing more engaging presentations. While the advice was good, for me, more dos and don’ts aren’t really helpful. Having moved beyond the basics, I’m looking for cool techniques and new tools to augment my PowerPoint designs and help me take them from good to great. Ideally these tools are easy to use and help me to create better-looking, highly effective content more quickly – and free is always good, too.

If you’re like me and you’re always on the hunt for free and easy ways to amp up the volume to 11, I’ve found the following free tools are a great place to start.

Tool #1: Oomfo for Charts & Graphs

Sometimes you can’t avoid a data-driven presentation and making nice-looking charts & graphs in PowerPoint is more than a bit tedious for those of us who don’t excel at Excel A powerful PowerPoint plug-in, Oomfo walks you through the process of creating charts, step-by-step — but it does so in a way that’s supportive for chart newbies and graph geeks alike.  Why should you care about how your charts look?  Because data-driven presentations are rife with “Death by PowerPoint” potential and your audience needs the visual clarity Oomfo’s pre-built graph and chart designs provide.

Take this quick video demo from Oomfo to get started with creating your first chart.

Tool #2: Wordle for Text-Heavy Slides

Much like data-heavy slides, occasionally it can be hard to avoid creating a text-heavy, boredom-inducing slide and sourcing for the perfect stock image to tell the story just isn’t practical.  In those instances don’t default to bulleted lists!  Use all those words to your advantage and build a word cloud to act as an artful backdrop to your presentation.

First, check out this short video to get started with Wordle.

Then, watch this short Screenr I put together with some ideas for how to add more emphasis to your word cloud using PowerPoint’s picture tools and animation effects.

Tool #3: Screenr for Software Demos & How-Tos

In the growing arena of free screen capture tools Screenr is the best of the best.  With Screenr you can quickly and easily do screen captures with audio for use in a blog, website, or in PowerPoint.  Here’s a quick demostration on how to use Screenr:

And here’s how to embed a screenr in your PowerPoint:

Tool #4: Cacoo for diagramming or flow charts

Not all of us have (or know how to use) Visio and creating flow charts with individual drawing objects in PowerPoint is painful.  Thankfully there’s Cacoo – a fast, fun drawing tool for building diagrams, wire frames, and flow charts collaboratively or on your own.  I’ve played around with several other nice collaborative diagramming tools like Creately and Gliffy, but Cacoo’s intuitive interface seals the deal for me.

See for yourself.  Check-out the following tour of the Cacoo interface and then visit their website to sign up for a free account and play around with the tools. When you’re done creating, you can save your diagram to an image file format and then drop it into PowerPoint.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like some of these from the Mindflash archives:

What free or low-cost tools are you using?  Share your ideas with us and leave a comment.

Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training. When her skills aren’t being tested by her children, you’ll find her helping others to develop their own training design muscles.

Trina Rimmer


  1. Simon Lewis

    Can I add a couple more things? For me it’s more important than any tool.

    Keep your slides minimal both in design and in quantity
    If you can say it, don’t display it
    Record yourself when giving the presentation and podcast it

  2. Crystal G

    Great stuff you got here! Thanks so much!

  3. Anne Marie

    Great post with some really neat tools – thanks for sharing these! 🙂

  4. Andrea G

    really helpful! thanks for the tips!(:

  5. Ekaterina

    I can suggest iSpring Free PowerPoint add-in to convert PowerPoint presentation to web-friendly Flash format.

  6. Greg

    I use http://www.asktheroom.com for polling the audience when giving a talk. I find it helps keep them awake.

  7. Dear Blake, thank you for providing us with a down to earth aaporpch to Power Point. I believe some presenters are actually addicted to PP presentations; almost like a security blanket. I have been in sessions were the presenters ask a question to the public and at the same time they are showing the answer in the featured slide. If the presenter is so attached to a PP is not even worth spending the time with the presenter; the only thing I can think of is if I can get a hold of the presentation rather than have someone read it to me. A PP is a great tool but if abused, it takes center stage diminishing the importance and impact of having the opportunity to interact with an expert.Thank you so much, again for encouraging presenters to embrace their talents and leave behind the brain drain of a PP.Ana.

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  1. […] simple videos for free that can be used as an addition to your training material. There are even add-ons and tools out there for the old standby, PowerPoint that will allow you to beef up your presentation. […]

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