Being able to show your presentation slides without sharing your screen has become the new baseline cool of online meetings, and a handful of hardware and software tools will help you avoid “big slide, little head” syndrome and connect more with your audiences.
Not Quite There: Zoom Advanced Slide Share (Free)
When you start sharing your screen in Zoom, click on the Advanced tab to see the option to “Share Slides as Virtual Background.” You’ll be promoted to upload your slide file, and your video self will float on top of the slide background. As of this writing, though, it’s still in beta, and it’s not “super important presentation” quality yet. Here’s why:
- Your attendees may not be able to see your special effect if they’re not running an up-to-date version of Zoom from their laptop or desktop. You’ll just be trapped in the rectangle-by-square old view.
- Zoom converts your slides into images, so your animations, movies and audio are gone.
- If you stop sharing for a few then go back to it, you have to upload again and start from the first slide again.
- Zoom will use a virtual background to make you float above the slides. If your background is not virtual green screen ready, your hands may disappear.
Full-On Wow-Factor: Prezi Video (Free to $15/month)
Remember Prezi? It’s that dizzying PowerPoint alternative where your slides zoom in and out. In late 2019, Prezi introduced a phenomenal new feature… the ability to lay those slides over your video so that your points appear as a transparent overlay.
Prezi Video is one of the easiest and most stable ways to share your slide points without having to share your screen. You download the Prezi Video software and choose it as a camera option for your online program platform. You can either upload your slide deck to turn your slides into images (again, no animation) or choose one of their hundreds of templates. The free version is fully functional, but the $15/month investment is worth it to upgrade the features.
Hall of Fame Speaker Colette Carlson said she learned the basics of Prezi Video in a 20-minute call with her Nerdy Best Friend (that’d be me). Carlson is known for her hilarious skits, and she loves having the ability to switch among Prezi’s three views: just the speaker, just the slide and the slides with the speaker. “There has yet to be a client during a pre-conference dry run who doesn’t automatically say, ‘Oh wow!’” Carlson said. Like all things technical, Prezi Video can have hiccups, so she always prepares backups.
Work-Around: An Extra Monitor (Starting at $300 or so)
Some speakers have upped their game by putting a good-sized second monitor behind them. This is a great option if you have an extra flat-screen TV around. You’ll have to play around with the size based on your office layout. I went with a 42” basic Amazon Fire TV for about $250, then purchased a quality rolling stand for about $75. You’ll also have to adjust your monitor to make the slides crystal clear and the screen glare free. And if your slides have audio, you’ll need a solution to handle that.
You also may want to simplify your slides so there’s no small print. Certified Speaking Professional Laurie Guest, a customer service guru and incredibly funny speaker, stopped using her 50” monitor because readability was an issue. “When people are joining from tablets or phones, they weren’t able to see my slides clearly. I think a second monitor is better for image slides or just a few words.”
Advanced Hardware: ATEM Mini Switcher (Starting at $300)
Hall of Fame Speaker Marilyn Sherman, aka the Front-Row Girl, said she wanted to transition “seamlessly from slides to just video depending on the story I’m telling or the point I’m trying to get across.” She purchased the ATEM Mini for about $300 that plugs into different devices that she can switch among. Marilyn runs her slides from a laptop and uses an external camera, connecting both through her switcher.
Advanced Software: Virtual Camera Options (Free to $32/month)
You may have heard the quirky names of virtual camera tools: Ecamm, OBS and even one called mmhmm. These tools let you build “scenes” on their platforms. These allow you to put yourself in front of your slides, add sound effects, play videos, share portions of your screen and much more, all without touching the “share my screen” button. Some users stop at the video-over-slide stage. Others incorporate multiple cameras, different backgrounds and professional looking overlays to make their presentations look more like a produced TV show. And then there are the obsessed users like me who spend 15 hours to create a 15-second animation with a sound effect. Here’s a breakdown of some of the top tools:
- OBS Studio is a free tool with a bare-bones interface that lets you create all kinds of advanced scenes if you’re patient enough to learn it.
- ManyCam is a solid low-priced solution (starting at $27 a year on sale). You can create a handful of scenes and use multiple cameras.
- Mmhmm (free to $99/year) was developed by the founder of Evernote. It has a fresh interface and is relatively easy to use. Right now the Windows version is in beta.
- Ecamm (Mac only, $320/year for the webinar-friendly version) upgraded my presentations further than I ever imagined. With help from the fabulous Ecamm community Facebook page, I’ve been able to create entertaining, interactive presentations that always lead attendees to ask, “How in the world are you doing that?” I have multiple cameras, multiple microphones, standing/sitting scenes, sound effects and even little GIFs of me that pop up to say “WOW.” But I work several hours a month on the new effects, so Ecamm is not necessarily for speakers who want to keep things simple.