SlideRocket raises bar in online presentations as startups challenge PowerPoint

As startups go after PowerPoint to make presentations more engaging, SlideRocket ups the ante by adding tools for communications and interaction.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive

As a journalist, I have been on the receiving end of more PowerPoint presentations than I care to count. Over the years, they've become blah - linear, static presentations that are no longer offering a visual supplement to a pitch but instead become more like the script for the presenter.

For more than a decade, Microsoft's PowerPoint has been the defacto computer software for creating and sharing presentations. But now, a handful of startups is looking to become the one to unseat the mighty PowerPoint by offering tools that take the presentations to the next level - incorporating in modern-day features such as cloud access, real-time updates and rich media.

Today, one of those companies - SlideRocket - is announcing a major update to its cloud-based presentations software, including a suite of new tools than takes the software beyond one that creates and shares presentations. The new features turn the software into more of a communications and market research tool that actually changes its role from a supplement to the viewer to a supplement for the presenter.

Here's what's new in SlideRocket:

Instant Response Forms & Polls: Allows feedback forms and customized surveys to encourage interaction between the viewer and the administrator, offering a deeper look at the viewer's opinions and encouraging them to engage in other conversations about the topic.

Collaborative Comments: Users can now post comments on the presentation itself, either as virtual sticky note to the presentation author, who can receive alerts about them, or as part of a broader group having an online conversation within the slide itself.

Enhanced analytics: Users get real-time insight into the viewers' engagement and interactions. Are they all clicking away at Slide 5? What are they all saying about Slide 9? Which slides are they most often sharing? It gives presenters an idea of what's working and what isn't.

Presentation Dashboard: A control center where a user can manage the presentations, set sharing preferences, collaboration settings and monitor the analytics.

I like what SlideRocket is doing here. They're not just changing the look of the slide by making it interactive but beefing up the tools to make that interaction matter.

And I'm encouraged that others - notably Prezi, SlideShare and Brainshark - are also challenging this space by bringing a unique approach. Prezi, for example, is less slideshow and more storyboard, a continuously moving board that hones in and out of key points and a unique enough approach that viewers (like myself) actually remain engaged.

Still, for now, SlideRocket has taken it to the next level - including the ability to take a live presentation, embed it into a blog or a Web page and turn it into an instant-feedback, instant-communications tool.

Check out SlideRocket's Presentation News Release of today's update news as an example. I would have liked to have seen SlideRocket incorporate some voice-over audio, in addition to some music, to play up the range of features. Plus, that music gets pretty annoying pretty fast. (Note to SlideRocket: a song like that may work for a 30-second iPod commercial but it really doesn't work for a couple of minutes of trying to pay attention to the slides.)

Hey, you opened the door to feedback.

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