Friday, April 17, 2009

On-demand Presentations

Working with teams all over the world and being used to share my presentations for them to use, I am often confronted with the request to share with them what I say during the presentation. It is difficult to get everybody on the phone at the same time and walk them through the material. Also, they end up using things at different moments in time and may have forgotten what we discussed when I walked them through the material. So, finding a good tool to record voice and synchronize with PowerPoint slides has been one of my objectives for quite a while. I do know you can record narration with PowerPoint, but if you want to listen to it, you need to download the whole file. So a “streaming” approach was what I was looking for. HPIM5617

Over the years I have been experimenting with many tools. Some only worked with a Microsoft Streaming Server, which I did not have access too, others took a long time to download prior to start, others did not support features of PowerPoint 2007, others did not synchronize well, or left long blank periods in between two slides, others made extremely large files etc. Some seemed to do everything I needed, but cost several hundreds of US$, and the trial version did not really allow a thorough test.

May quest may have reached an end, as I found a small plug-in for PowerPoint 2007, called ISpring. At this point in time, I only tried the free software component and frankly, it seems to work like a dream. It converts PowerPoint into Flash, and my 16 minute trial presentation takes about 11.4MB. The production is extremely simple. Using PowerPoint narration, the audio is recorded and the timing of the slides is set. Once that is performed, a plug-in module, labeled iSpringConverter, allows the production of the flash files. Three files are created, one of which is an html file to link to for playback. As I mentioned it is extremely simple and works well. And on top of that it is free. The only drawback is that the iSpring logo appears in the control menu. To get rid of that, the Pro version, currently at 199 US$, is available.  It’s simple and it works.