Thursday, August 18, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Saving money on technology purchases

According to retail statistics, this time of year is now more popular for technology buying than Christmas. The back-to-school purchases for those heading to high school or college/university often include technology such as computers, software, tablets, and smartphones. Our kids have been using PowerPoint in school since grade 3, so we know how important technology is in schools today. Since we are all looking for ways to save money when making these large purchases, this article is about legitimate ways to reduce how much you spend when making technology purchases.

Computer manufacturers have recognized the importance of getting students hooked on their brand early, so a number of them offer special educational stores as part of their offerings. Apple has an educational part of their website that offers discounted prices on many computers and tablets. The discounts are also available in their stores. Dell offers a student centre where you can save on their laptops and desktops. Check with your preferred supplier to see if they offer discounts for students, and ask retailers what offers may be available at the store.

Software vendors also offer discounts in different ways. Microsoft, Adobe, and other vendors often offer student pricing through retail stores, or offer special student versions of software. If your son or daughter is attending a college or university, the computer store or book store on campus often will offer some of the popular software at drastically reduced prices for student use. Some even offer these discounts through online services where you can download the software after providing a valid educational institution e-mail address. Sometimes buying the software you need with the computer can save you money as well.

For any of these technology purchases, look for non-cash ways to pay. Converting loyalty points or airline points is a popular approach. We have converted airline points into gift cards for a retailer and then purchased the technology at the store using the gift cards. You may also be able to convert these points into gift cards for a mall that allows you to use the gift card at any store in the mall, even Apple stores. Look at the web site for the points programs that you belong to in order to see what your options are.

You also may be able to get discounts because you belong to a club or association. Many associations have negotiated discounts with certain suppliers, including technology companies. Sometimes the association or club gets a percentage of the discount as a bonus, so you help them out as well. Check the member benefits area on the web sites of the clubs or associations you are a member of to see what discounts might be available.

Because technology costs so much, some people are tempted to download software illegally or use other means to acquire what they want. You don’t need to take those routes. By taking some time to investigate what discounts are available, you can save from a few percent to over half on some of your technology purchases. Some of these discounts are available all year long, not just at this back-to-school time of the year, so you should keep these ideas in mind no matter when you purchase technology.

Monday, August 08, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Presenting from someone else’s computer

In my workshops it is common that participants ask about what they need to take into account when they must take their PowerPoint presentation to another computer on a USB drive instead of using a laptop. It may be that the room they are presenting in has a fixed connection between the projector and a computer in the room, they don’t have a laptop, or they want to travel lighter and use the equipment they know will be in the room. Today’s article gives some best practices when presenting from a different computer.

First, make sure you have created your slides so that you minimize the chance of things looking differently on another computer. Ask what version of PowerPoint the computer has and save the file in the format for that version (this is especially necessary if your version is more recent than the version on the computer you are presenting on). Use standard fonts that will be on all computers, like Arial or Calibri so your text appears the way you designed it. Make sure you have inserted photos using the Insert – Photo function instead of copying and pasting from a file list since this can cause problems especially when moving between Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint.

Next, you want to make sure you have all the files you will need. While the latest version of PowerPoint does a better job of embedding some multimedia files, they are usually only linked and you must make sure they are with you for the presentation to function properly. Files you have hyperlinked to, such as word processor documents, spreadsheets, or PDF documents, will need to be copied on to the USB drive as well since they are never embedded in your PowerPoint file. The best way to make sure all the files come with you and work on the other computer, is to place all files in the same folder before any of the linking or embedding happens during the creation of your slides. Then you can just copy the whole folder to the USB drive and copy the folder to the other computer.

Other items that you want to remember to bring include your remote control so you can change slides from anywhere in the room. I use the RemotePoint Navigator from Interlink Electronics and it has served me well for many years. It plugs in to any computer and doesn’t require additional software, so it is easy to take with you. Make sure you have all of your speaking notes, introduction, and a printed copy of your slides as well. You can have these in paper form or saved on your tablet device (I’ve been saving copies on my iPad and it has been working well).

When you get to the room to present, copy your files from the USB drive to the room computer. Check that everything works by going through all slides and checking that linked files come up properly when activated. If the USB drive fails, which is unlikely, but does happen, you will also want to have the files available online. You can e-mail the zipped folder to yourself as an attachment and access your webmail to download the files, you can sync the folder with an online storage service such as Dropbox and retrieve the files if needed, or you can copy the files to your smartphone and connect the phone as a drive if it has that capability.

By designing your slides with portability in mind, following practices that help ensure linked files will work, taking your reference notes, and having a backup, you give yourself the best chance of success when you have to take your PowerPoint presentation to another computer to present.