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Multimedia: how to make your point.

You're faced with making an important presentation to a client, your Ny boss or your board of directors. You could use an old-fashioned flip chart. Or, if you've got the time, you could even prepare photographic slides or acetate sheets and display them with an overhead projector in a dimly lit room. And, if you're very lucky, you'll make it through the presentation with only a few yawns from your audience.

But if you want your audience to sit up and take notice (and even be able to watch your presentation in a normally lit room so they can take notes), think multimedia--in full color and high-fidelity sound.

Multimedia is not tomorrow's technology; it's here today. It's not that hard to become quite proficient in creating multimedia presentations that will help you deliver a persuasive message with maximum impact and minimum effort. And, the multimedia software products on the market today are very affordable.

THE SOFTWARE SIDE

There are many presentation software packages on the market. They fall into three categories:

Advanced. Products that are loaded with features and are a little difficult to learn. The two leading packages in this category are Astound and Director.

Standard. Packages that include all the basic features plus enhancements and are moderately easy to learn. The category includes Freelance Graphics, Harvard Graphics, PowerPoint and Presentations.

Basic. Software that contains just the bare-bones utilities for the one-time user and is easy to learn. One such product is ASAP Word Power.

Exhibit 1, page 59, identifies vendor information for these products, and exhibit 2, page 60, rates each multimedia software package.
Exhibit 1: Multimedia Product Vendors

Product/company Telephone Internet address

 MULTIMEDIA SOFTWARE

ASAP Word Power 800-557-3743 http://www.spco.com/
Astound 888-4ASTOUND http://www.astound.com/
Director 800-326-2128 http://www.macromedia.
 com/spoftware/dms/
Freelance 800-343-5414 http://www.lotus.com/
 freelance/
Harvard Graphics 800-557-3743 http://www.spco.com/
Persuasion 800-521-1976 http://www.adobe.com/
 proindex/persuasion/
Powerpoint 800-397-8508 http://www.microsoft.
 com/mspowerpoint/
Presentations 800-772-6735 http://www.corel.com/
 products/wordperfect/
 cp7/

 PROJECTING SYSTEMS

Ask LCD Inc. 800-275-5231 http://www.ask.no
CTX 800-888-2012 http://www.ctxintl.com
Dukane Corp. 800-676-2485 none
Epson 800-GO EPSON http://www.epson.com
In Focus Systems 800-294-6400 http://www.infocus.com
Panasonic 800-726-2797 http://www.panasonic.com
Polaroid Corp. 800-662-8337 http://www.polaroid.com
Proxima Corp. 800-447-7692 http://www.prxm.com
Sharp Electronics Corp. 800-BE SHARP http://www.sharp-usa.com
Sony 800-222-7669 http://www.sony.com

 CLIP ART

Corel Corp. 800-772-6735 http://www.corel.com
IMSI 415-257-3000 http://www.imsisoft.com
Nova Development Corp. 818-591-9600 http://www.novadevcorp.
 com
Softkey Multimedia Inc. 800-227-5609 http://www.softkey.com
T/Market Co. 415-962-0195 http://www.clickart.com

 REMOTE CONTROLS AND POINTERS

Lyte Optronics 310-450-8551 http://www.laserlyte.com
Mind Path Technologies 800-736-6830 http://www.mindpath.com
Varatouch Technologies 916-331-6300 http://www.varatouch.com

 SOUND SYSTEMS

Bose Corp. 800-444-2673 none
Gateway 2000 800-846-2000 http://www.gw2k.com
Sony 800-352-7669 http://www.sony.com
Yamaha 800-492-6242 http://www.yamaha.com

SCANNERS
AGFA 201-440-2500 http://www.agfa.com
Microtek 800-654-4160 http://www.mteklab.com/
 flatbed.html
Pacific Image Electronics 310-214-5281 http://www.scanace.com
UMAX 510-651-9488 http://www.umax.com/
 scandir2.html
Visioneer 800-787-7007 http://www.visioneer.com
Exhibit 2: multimedia Software Packages

Multimedia Software Presentaion Multimedia Output
 Development Capabilities Capabilities

Astound Excellent Excellent Excellent
Director Excellent Excellent Excellent
Freelance Excellent Good Excellent
Harvard Graphics Excellent Good Good
Persuasion Very Good Good Excellent
PowerPoint Very Good Good Excellent
Presentations Good Good Good
ASAP Word Power Fair Fair Fair

Multimedia Software End of Use

Astound Difficult
Director Difficult
Freelance Fair
Harvard Graphics Fair
Persuasion Fair
PowerPoint Fair
Presentations Fair
ASAP Word Power Excellent


Let's look at the products in detail:

Astound and Director have advanced features not found in the other products. While the packages are well designed, the sheer numbers and types of available features make them more difficult to master. Some of their features include powerful animation, video, audio and editing capabilities. Both packages allow users to convert presentations for the Internet. They also include extensive clip art and template libraries designed by graphics professionals. In addition, they have many slide-transition styles--such as having images fade in and out--which give a presentation real pizzazz.

You also can create a run-time file that lets you show the presentation file on any computer--even if it's not loaded with that application software. Both packages come with excellent tutorials. They operate on both IBM-compatible personal computers (PCs) and Macintosh and provide an easy conversion between the two. However, because presentations that include unusual fonts and imbedded objects such as spreadsheets may encounter some conversion difficulties, it's wise to test a file on both computers to be sure no problems exist.

Director, the more sophisticated of the two, sells for about $850. Astound is priced at about $199.

Programs in the standard group (Freelance Graphics, Harvard Graphics, PowerPoint and Presentations) don't offer many advanced features, but they can create professional-looking presentations. Each has a variety of well-designed templates, presentation aids and clip art libraries. Their tutorials are helpful. The latest versions of these packages even offer limited animation, video, audio and Web-authoring capabilities. Importing Excel or Lotus spreadsheets is as easy as inserting clip art.

If you are a novice at multimedia software, you'll have to devote some time to learning how to use it--although not as much time as with the advanced packages. The standard programs are adequate for most presentations. However, if you give presentations routinely, you may soon outgrow their limited features and turn to the more advanced programs.

These software packages also allow your finished presentations to be converted into run-time modules or to be used in connection with a custom viewer provided by the software company. If you want to provide handouts of parts of your presentation, all the products have well-designed print features.

All three major office suites--made by Corel, Lotus and Microsoft--include multimedia applications. Corel Office 7 has Presentations, Lotus SmartSuite 97 has Freelance Graphics and Microsoft Office 97 has PowerPoint. Although the presentation packages are available as stand-alones, it is generally more economical to buy the entire suite

The cost for each stand-alone software package:

* Freelance Graphics: $330. The entire Lotus SmartSuite, which includes Freelance Graphics, sells for $370.

* Harvard Graphics: $290 (it is not included in any suites).

* PowerPoint: $280 to $300; between $470 and $545 for the entire Microsoft Office 97.

* Presentations: The product is not sold as a standalone. The fill. Corel WordPerfect Suite sells for $330.

If you need to use both an IBM-compatible PC and a Mac, consider PowerPoint; it's especially good in either computer.

ASAP is the newest package in this group. Its outstanding feature is ease of use. Even without training, most users can create basic presentations in just a few minutes. However, there is a trade-off between ease of use and customization. For example, the type of template you select determines the transitions you must use on all slides. If the presentation is very long, the viewers will soon tire of the repetitive transitions. Also, setting the color combination is easy, but placing clip art where you want it is difficult. While importing electronic spreadsheets is easy, too, customizing the look can be frustrating.

However, if you are a novice and prepare presentations only occasionally, ASAP may meet your needs. It costs about $90.

THE HARDWARE SIDE

Following are the hardware items you will need to stage effective presentations:

Computer. While these programs will run on a 486 computer, they generally demand more power and will operate more effectively on a Pentium with the following minimums: 133-megahertz processor with 16 to 32 megabytes (Mb) of random access memory (RAM) and an audio subsystem.

Projector. A great presentation shown with a poor projection system can be a disaster, so select a system with care. Exhibit 3, page 60 lists the things you should consider.
Exhibit 3: Projection System Characteristics

Characteristic Description

Resolution Sharpness of the projected image
Weight Portability
Backlit buttons Buttons with lighting source
Number of colors Spectrum of colors able to display
 on the screen
Response time Quickness of projector system to
 respond to commands
Rear projection Ability to reverse the projected
 image
On-screen controls Menu options are projected on the
 screen
Sound System Ability to provide sound
Multiple input sources Availability of more than one input
 source
Lumens Amount of light output from the
 projector system
Bulbs Light source

Characteristic Importance

Resolution Resolution is measured in pixels.
 Generally, higher resolutions provide
 sharper images and cost more.
Weight Generally, lighter weights are preferred
 to fond-the-road presentations.
Backlit buttons Backlit buttons are easier to find when
 the room is darkened for a presentation.
Number of colors Most projection systems support between
 1 million and 16.7 million colors. More
 colors are useful when showing the
 video clips.
Reponse time Quicker response times become more
 important when presentations include
 video or animation.
Rear projection Rear-projection capability allows
 projection from behind an opaque screen.
On-screen controls On-screen controls are helpful in a dark
 room when adjustments are necessary.
Sound System Built-in speakers alleviate the need
 for external speakers for many
 presentations. However, many projection
 systems have outputs to accommodate
 external speakers, should they
 be necessary.
Multiple input sources Multiple input sources allow users to
 freely switch between inputs such as
 VCRs and a computer during a
 presentation.
Lumens More lumens allow projections in
 larger, light-filled rooms to be seen;
 less lumens work fine in smaller,
 darker rooms.
Bulbs For many projectors, bulbs can be quite
 costly ($6-$500). Also, some projectors
 have space for a second bulb in case the
 bulb in use burns out during a
 presentation.


Until recently, liquid crystal display (LCD) panels were the most popular projection tool because they are lightweight, portable and reasonably priced ($2,000 to $5,000). However, LCD panels are dependent on the light and magnification from an overhead projector. As a result, the all-in-one LCD projector--which combines the panels and the projector--recently has become more popular. Also, LCD projectors have become more portable and less costly ($6,500 to $9,500) than they were in the early 1990s.

An alternative projecting system is a cathode ray tube (CRT) projector that has three image projecting guns (red, green and blue) to display a full-color image on a screen. CRT projectors are not portable and range in price from $9,000 to $120,000. Another option is to use CRT monitors (generally with a diagonal screen size of 27 to 35 inches) that are priced between $2,000 and $11,000. For the extra investment, CRTs offer higher resolution and better image quality than even the best LCD projector.

One of the most recent developments in multimedia projection is the plasma display panel (PDP). The image quality of a PDP is better than a high-end CRT. Also, PDPs are lighter, so they're easier to transport. However, their prices are quite high: While a CRT monitor starts at about $700, a 21-inch PDP (which offers the same viewing area as a 31-inch CRT) costs about $3,000.

Digital light processing (DLP) is another new technology that provides crisp, bright images in almost any environment. Their images are so bright there is little or no need to dim the light in the conference room. A low-end DLP system costs about $8,500, with high-end systems costing as much as $35,000. Prices may fall as the market for DLPs expands. This technology is certainly worth a look.

Another projection option is the use of a large-screen television, usually with a display of at least 35 inches diagonally. However, special equipment is needed to make a TV set accommodate a computer signal.

Clip art. Cartoons and photos can add humor, color, emphasis and creativity to a presentation. Although several multimedia software products include some clip art images, many users add additional art as needed. You can purchase a wide assortment of clip art for between $15 and $100. When purchasing it, consider the following

* Is it compatible with your computer system?

* Does it have online search features to allow retrieval of specific images?

* Does it include online image browsers to allow previews before inserting an image into a presentation?

* Is there a hard copy index to aid with clip art selection (especially if the clip art software does not have online search and image browser features)?

Scanners. If you can't find the right clip art you can create your own with a scanner, which can digitize any graphic: company logos, pictures of buildings and people. Inserting these and similar items can be as easy as inserting clip art.

The higher the scanner image resolution, the more expensive the scanner. When choosing a flatbed scanner, consider a 24-bit model. While most manufacturers offer a 30/36-bit color scanner for about $1,500 to $3,500, a lower resolution, full-color 24-bit scanner will meet the needs of most users and cost between $300 and $800. Most scanners include the software necessary to scan text and images. Several major manufacturers offer scanners that require a SCSI (small computer system interface) device driver and a card. Before purchasing such a scanner, make sure your PC has the right hardware to run a SCSI device.

If you don't want to invest in a scanner, a local printing and photo service business can scan a graphic for you and place the digitized file onto a disk.

Projection screens. There are two types of screen surfaces: white matte and beaded glass. A white matte screen produces less glare and therefore is easier on a viewer's eyes while a beaded glass screen provides brighter projection. Screens on a tripod cost between $ 100 and $400. Fast-fold screens with rear-projection capabilities cost between $450 and $750, and ceiling-mounted screens cost between $130 and $800.

Remote controls and pointers. Remote controls are useful because the presenter can move about the room without being tethered to the computer keyboard or mouse. Remote controls available with advanced features can direct highlighting, spotlighting and zoom. Some presenters find the use of a laser pointer also effective to draw attention to specific areas of a projected image.

Sound system. A sound system is important if any portion of a presentation uses audio. This could include audio from a compact disc, video recorder or the computer. Exhibit 4, above, explains several characteristics to consider when designing a sound system. Before investing in an additional sound system, check to see if your projector has a built-in audio system. Many projectors include speakers that may be more than adequate for presentations in small meeting rooms.
Exhibit 4: Sound System Characteristics

Characteristic Description Importance

Sound Card Computer hardware Many computer systems
 that allows the include a sound card that
 use of sound offers no more than 4
 watts of amplication per
 channel. If this is not
 enough, purchase an
 amplifier or speakers
 with built-in amplifiers.
Speakers Provide sound Speakers with built-in
 to audience amplifiers can plug
 directly into a computer
 with a sound card.
 Speakers are available
 that use the Dolby
 Surround Sound technology
 found in many theaters.
Amplifier Boots the signal For an office-size room,
 to the speaker amplifiers offering 10
 watts per channel should
 be sufficient. For a
 small conference room, 30
 to 40 watts per channel
 may be needed. For a
 large auditorium, up to
 100s of watts per channel
 may be necessary.
 Remember that the
 amplifiers must be
 compatible with the
 speakers.
Subwoofer Enhances low-frequency A subwoofer is a nice
 audio addition to a sound
 system when presentations
 include audio below
 150 Hz.
Mixer Allows multiple audio Mixers provide an input
 inputs (CD, tape deck, channel and a volume
 VCR, etc.) control for each audio
 input.


Now that you have the facts about presentation tools, experiment with one of the less complex products and see how you can perk up an otherwise flat presentation. You may quickly graduate to a more sophisticated package. And once you get good at creating presentations, you may find yourself anxious to step forward and present your ideas in graphic form. That could do wonders for your career.

RELATED ARTICLE: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

* IF YOU WANT TO PUT on a presentation that will engage your audience, turn to multimedia presentation tools. While many take time to become proficient in, they can deliver a message with lots of impact.

* YOU ALSO CAN CREATE a run-time file that lets you show the presentation file on any computer--even if it's not loaded with that application software.

* A GREAT PRESENTATION SHOWN with a poor projection system can be a disaster, so select a system with care. There are many different lands of projectors--from old standby liquid crystal displays to the newest plasma display panels and digital light processing designs.

* CARTOONS AND PHOTOS can add humor, color, emphasis and creativity to a presentation. Although many multimedia software products include some clip art images many users add additional art as needed.

* IF YOU CAN'T FIND the right clip art, you can create your own with a scanner, which can digitize any graphic: company logos, pictures of buildings and people. Inserting these and similar items can be easy as inserting art.

* REMOTE CONTROLS ARE USEFUL because the presenter can move about the room without being tethered to the computer keyboard or mouse. Remote controls available with advanced features can direct high lighting, spotlighting and zoom. Some presenters find a laser pointer also effective to draw attention to specific areas of a projected image.

SUSAN COOMER GALBREATH, CPA, PhD, is an assistant professor of accounting at Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, Tennessee. Her e-mail address is SGalbreath@TnTech.edu. JON A. BOOKER, CPA, CIA, PhD, is professor of accounting at Tennessee Technological University. His e-mail address is JonBooker@TnTech.edu.
COPYRIGHT 1998 American Institute of CPA's
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:business presentations
Author:Booker, Jon A.
Publication:Journal of Accountancy
Date:Feb 1, 1998
Words:2951
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