One thing entrepreneurs do often is present their ideas to others. Whether they're selling their business services, pitching investors, or explaining their product, it seems the 'deck' is something common to almost all start-ups. Some presentations are text heavy, some use graphics effectively, some tell good stories and others are boring. Almost all of them are done in Microsoft's PowerPoint.*

One thing about PowerPoint is that it once you send a slide deck away, it's not possible to know who has looked at your deck, for how long, and how much attention they paid to it. As companies start to share these presentations internally, and different people contribute to them, and different versions start circulating. Inevitably, someone has the wrong version of a slide, perhaps with the wrong graphics, an older pitch, or worse, an older pricing sheet.

A company called SlideRocket has offered to fix these problems, with the release of the newest version of their web-based tools. CEO Chuck Dietrich told me he 'Saw that businesses had 2 kinds of communication – email and presentations. Email is for higher volume, lower value communications. People use presentations for high value situations where they need to convince or educate customers. According to our research, 750 million people make presentations every year.' The company has been around since 2006.

SlideRocket's offering imports a standard PowerPoint deck, or lets you create your own presentation using their web-based tools. Once imported into the system, slides are placed into a library where anyone with permission can access and add to them. Slides can be shared between presentations, and updating a slide in the library can update it in all presentations that use it. So, a graphic designer could update a logo or graphic look and all presentations would update at the same time. Teams can collaborate on creation of slides, leaving messages or comments on the slides.  (Employees with permission can create their own personalized versions so different presenters can have different styles of selling, etc.) Presentations can be printed or saved as PDFs for customers.

More importantly, presentations can be shared online, where customers can be encouraged to leave comments. Sales teams can see the comments and respond to customers. Polls, forms and branching choice slides can also be created. A real-estate firm could create a presentation that asks if the customer would rather see apartments or houses and the choice the customer makes jumps them to the appropriate slides. As a lead generation tool, this is also useful, since the company gets statistics on the length of time people spend with a presentation, which slides caused people to respond, and so on. The marketing possibilities are intriguing. Presentations can also include sophisticated animation, and live Internet data, including Flickr pictures, YouTube videos, and Twitter feeds.

At Zendesk, a Leading provider of web based customer support software, Product Marketing Manager Roxana Siu uses SlideRocket presentations as part of educational webinars for customers and prospects. While they're using Citrix's 'GoToTraining' product for the actual webinars, all the slides are shown from SlideRocket, and there's only one version of the presentation - the most up to date one. 'When people can't make the webinar,' Siu told me, 'we keep the recording, but we can also send them a link to the presentation. We can see how often people are looking at the presentations, how much time people spend on each slide, and who is looking. This helps us see which webinars are in demand, what topics are interesting to customers and lets us follow up on leads.'

Most small businesses will pay $24 a month for the service. There's a free trial, and enterprise pricing is available for larger organizations.

Are you using more advanced presentation tools? Let us know in the comments.


*(Disclosure: as a former Microsoft employee, I have some MSFT stock in my retirement account.)