Off the Shelf

A new program aimed at pumping up presentations provides too much text and not enough action

As president of a sales-force-automation company, I'm always looking for ways to improve presentations. Not only do my staff and I make our own sales pitches to potential customers, we also help our customers train their sales people. So naturally I was intrigued when I heard about Power Presentations.

It's clear that Power Presentations was written by someone who understood the sales process from real-world experience. I'm certain that if I absorb even a portion of its valuable reference material--what people like in a presentation, the approaches that elicit the best responses, and so forth--I will have profited from it. In particular, I appreciate the package's Techniques section, which deals with crucial problems like stage fright, controlling restless groups, and preparing the room to minimize potential disruptions. In addition, anyone who speaks before groups must learn to deal with individuals who demand attention. The Interruptions section provides a handling-a-stage-hog button that links you to more text about that problem.

And there's more text--and more. That's where Power Presentations falls short of my expectations. It uses the Microsoft Windows Help system to lead you from one level of informative text to another, but it stops short of demonstrating how to take that information and turn it into a usable presentation. No matter how many levels deep you click, it gives you nothing more than expository prose.

I'd hoped the package would help me develop a new presentation on the GoldMine software my company implements for corporate sales forces. I have successfully used interactive business-plan-development software in the past, and I had assumed that Power Presentations would lead me through a similar step-by-step process using templates and examples. But rather than integrating its remarkable reference materials with a systematic, interactive presentation builder, the program provides a single Speech Planning Worksheet--one page with blank boxes awaiting content. How are users supposed to translate the program's recommendations into actual speeches, exhibits, and slides?

All told, Power Presentation is, unfortunately, more of a reference tool--a virtual book--than a presentation-building application.

The Product
Power Presentations, from Brody Communications Ltd., Elkins Park, PA (800-726-7936;; $24.95), software for preparing and delivering presentations

Jeffrey Epstein (, president of BOSS Systems Inc., a five-year-old sales-force-automation company in Chicago

386DX or higher with Windows 3.1x or Windows 95, 4 MB RAM, Microsoft Word 6.0, VGA display