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by Reid Goldsborough

There's only one thing worse than sitting through a boring presentation.

Giving one.

You don't need to have the presence of a Ronald Reagan to give captivating presentations. Just ask anyone who has used a personal computer program such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Corel Presentations to jazz up a talk or demonstration.Visual aids not only provide spark, they can also help impart substance. If I were using presentation software right now, I'd cook up a few eye-popping charts to show that visual aids increase the chances by 43 percent that your audience will be persuaded to accept your position, according to a University of Minnesota study, and they improve retention by up to 38 percent, according to studies at Harvard University and Columbia University.

If you have one of the popular office software suites, you've got the basics covered. Microsoft PowerPoint is included in the standard and professional versions of Microsoft Office 97 (though not in the small business version), Corel Presentations is in Corel WordPerfect Suite 8, and Freelance Graphics is in Lotus SmartSuite 97. But you don't have to stop there. Programs such as Astound go the extra yard in providing splashy multimedia effects, and ActivePresenter makes it child's play to put a presentation on the Internet or your company's intranet. You can use either program by itself or in conjunction with market leader PowerPoint.

You can leverage the Internet not only for publishing your presentations, but also for help in creating them. Microsoft's Web site, for instance, provides a host of starter documents, or templates, including those for finance, planning, human resources, sales and marketing, time management, and training. They're free for registered users.

Using templates -- all the major presentation programs have them -- goes a long way to helping you look your best up there in front of everybody. But you can still benefit from having a grounding in the principles of good presentation design. Here are some points to keep in mind.

Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of the book Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway.

He can be reached at reidgold@netaxs.com or http://members.home.net/reidgold
This article © by Reid Goldsborough

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