Online meetings are more and more common these days. They save the cost and time of travel. You can set them up without much notice, compared to the hassle of arranging travel for people in far-flung locations to come together. You can use these meetings to sell, discuss, and collaborate.
Often, you’ll want to show some PowerPoint slides during the meeting. You need a way to allow attendees to view the slides and you need to be able to control what they see. That is, you need to be able to manage which slides they see and when, so you can synchronize the slides with what you are saying.
The way I see it, there are 3 ways you can show slides online:
- Desktop sharing: You use a service that lets you show what’s on your computer. You get a link which your attendees use to see what’s on your desktop. You can show anything on your computer, not just the slides.
- Uploading to the cloud: You use a service that lets you upload your presentation to their server. You get a link which your attendees use to see what you uploaded. You can’t go into Normal view or show anything else but the slides.
- Streaming: PowerPoint’s Broadcast feature fits into this category.
Perhaps the most common way to meet online with slides is online meeting/webinar software, such as GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar or WebEx. Together, they have a large part of the market. I use GoToWebinar a lot myself. There are many other similar services, both less and more expensive. I’m still looking for a reasonably priced webinar product that lets me show live video of the speaker to more than a few people. (Update: I’ve since found Zoom, which I love.)
Each service is different, but basically, you sign up for an account. Then you can start or schedule a meeting. You get a URL to give to attendees. At the time of the meeting, you start the desktop sharing and people who have logged in can see what is on your computer. Many of these services include the audio component so that you can simply speak into a microphone attached to your computer and attendees can hear on their computer’s speakers. Desktop sharing is most flexible when you need to do software demos, show people web pages, and so on.
Adobe Connect Pro has great features but is extremely expensive when you have more than 25 attendees. Up to 25 attendees is $45 – $55 per month. In fact, you can’t even buy the product for over 25 employees from Adobe; they use third-party vendors.
Skype allows for desktop sharing. With a premium account, you can share your screen with up to 10 people.
Join.Me by LogMeIn is free for up to 10 users (including the presenter). It worked well in my tests.
Uploading to the cloud
Some systems let you create an online meeting by uploading the presentation to a server. You get a URL to give to meeting attendees and then start presenting. Attendees see the slides as you go through them. You often need to set up a separate arrangement for audio, such as a teleconference service.
SlideRocket is an online PowerPoint alternative (and there are others). You can create the presentation in SlideRocket or import a PowerPoint file. There is an online meeting option. After clicking the link for your saved presentation, click Meet, then click Meet again. Then click Create New Meeting and you’ll get a URL to put in your invitation. Include the date and time, of course. When the time comes for the meeting (which can been right away), click Start Meeting. People who click the link you sent will see the presentation as it runs. One feature that seems to be unique is that the presentation can include sound within the presentation (not live). And the presentation can include hyperlinks. What’s more, it’s free.
MightyMeeting lets you upload slides and present from a smart phone or iPad. MightyMeeting has a variety of plans for different size meetings.
PowerPoint’s Broadcast feature
PowerPoint’s free Broadcast feature is available in PowerPoint 2010 and 2013 from within PowerPoint. You can access the Broadcast feature in a couple of ways:
- Press and hold the Ctrl key and c lick the Slide Show view icon
- Go to Slide Show tab, Start Slide Show group, Present Online, Office Presentation Service
You’ll see this dialog box:
If you want to allow attendees to download the presentation, you can check the check box marked with the red arrow in the image above. Then click Connect. You’ll get a link to share with attendees and can copy or email it. Then click the Start Presentation button. Your presentation goes into Slide Show view. Click through the slides and your attendees will see the slides as you display them.
If you switch to Normal view (I pressed Alt + Tab to do so), you’ll see a new tab with tools for presenting online.
I found that the PowerPoint Broadcast feature worked well, but it has some limitations:
- Slide transition are all shown as Fade transitions
- There’s no audio, whether sounds that you inserted or narration
- You can’t add ink annotations
- Hyperlinks don’t work; attendees just see the last slide. (This isn’t desktop sharing)
- Your attendees can’t see video
What do you use?
I know that there are many other tools available. Please leave a comment and share you experience with online meeting tools.