Delivering Effective Presentations with OpenOffice.org's Impress
As a Linux techno-guru, you recently have been volunteered to give a talk at a high-profile industry conference. Your stomach starts to churn as you realize that you might have to learn Microsoft PowerPoint. Oh, the humiliation! Fear not, OpenOffice.org Impress runs on your Linux box. Think how calm you'll be in front of all those people knowing that your trusted old friend Linux is right there at the other end of your wireless mouse.
Technical presentations are about transferring knowledge to the audience. The content is the show, you are the showman and the presentation technologies are the showbiz tools. Laptops, graphics, projectors, lights and presentation software all serve to organize the show and focus audience attention on the content.
As a techie myself, I know that technology is a siren call to be explored and fiddled with. We have to resist the temptation to tweak for now, though; we have a show to put on. Here, I discuss the basics of building a slideshow with OpenOffice.org Impress and a few ways to get your show organized. Then, I throw in a few power tips, so you will look like a pro in front of your adoring audience.
The OpenOffice.org Impress package lets you quickly construct and deliver an electronic slide presentation. With it, you can add graphics, make handouts and convert your slides to Web pages. It can do all the jobs needed to put on a great presentation. You simply add your content and personal style.
Loading OpenOffice.org Impress onto your Linux machine is simple. You might have OpenOffice.org already installed. Otherwise, go to www.openoffice.org and download the latest version; version 1.1 is around 77MB. The .gz file can be unzipped and put in its own directory. Then, run the setup file, fill in the blanks and you're ready to go.
You don't need a 3.0GHz laptop to run Impress. It runs fine on old 166MHz Pentium desktops with an 8MB video card and KDE or FVWM2 X window managers.
Fire up OpenOffice.org Impress and take a spin through the program. Let's first look at some basic functions and then come back and get our content organized. The easiest way to start a new presentation is with the AutoPilot feature, which provides a basic beginning framework. Graphics, text, animation and formatting can be added after you enter your content.
To build a presentation, click File→New→Presentation. In the next window, select Empty Presentation and then click Next. This next window lets you choose backgrounds. Click Next for a window that lets you choose slide transitions. Our first presentation doesn't have any transition effects and is controlled manually by the Page Up/Page Down keys or the mouse, so click Create. The Insert Slide window should appear here. It lets you select the slide layout. For our first sample, use the layout style named Title, Graphic, Text. Highlight that layout, click OK and watch your first slide appear (Figure 1).
This first slide offers you a place to enter your slide title, a picture on the left and your bullet points on the right. Using the default font size, the bullet point area forces you to work with only four or five lines. That's good because many experienced presenters put too much information on a slide. Use the slides and bullet points for a prompt and tell the story in your own words. By doing so, your audience sees you as an expert who thoroughly knows the subject.
The exercise of creating the first slide should take about 5–10 minutes. I intentionally went through the entire process because I wanted to get you right into the Impress program. Knowing how to build a basic slide provides you with the understanding necessary to organize your talk and build subsequent slides.
Forget about outlining your talk on paper; use Impress itself. Brainstorm your ideas logically, using the titles as main topics, each topic being a new slide, and put three or four bullet points under each topic for the details. You can rearrange and edit them after you've laid out all the material.
Adding a slide is easy. Start by clicking Insert→Slide. Select the type of slide and then click OK. Your slide shows up on the screen, and you can enter text or whatever you want. To duplicate the last slide, click Insert→Duplicate Slide. Now you're ready to add some text. Click the Text icon on the upper-left edge of the main Impress design window. Move the cursor to the slide and left-click a location. Now, type in your text. You can move the text to another location by dragging the middle of the text box. To resize the text, highlight and choose a new size in the point size space, at the top of the design window.
Adding graphics is equally as easy. Click Insert→Graphics, and select the graphic file to use. Click OK and the file is pulled into the slide. Resize the graphic by grabbing a side and moving the edge. To move the graphic, grab it in the middle and reposition to the desired location.