By Adrian Booth

When you are running a business you need to use everything at your disposal to give you the edge on your competition by confirming to potential and existing customers that they are dealing with a professional outfit that can be trusted with their business.

This is particularly true when it comes to making presentations; you are being judged on the quality and standard of how you project your company through your personal presentation style and your presentational materials.

So for anyone who needs to make presentations, the good news is that Microsoft has updated the universal presentation program PowerPoint as part of Microsoft Office 2010, and the new version should help you get results. There are lots improvements designed to help small businesses shine, and with a little practice, compete on a bigger stage with companies that have access to far greater resources.

So what’s new and different? Here are just some of the key features which are being welcomed by the small business community.

For a start, they’ve increased the flexibility of how we create and share presentations by giving us the ability to edit simultaneously online with colleagues in different locations. That’s attractive to anyone lucky enough to work from home, and makes tight deadline situations much easier to manage. You can by divide-up the task, then let the person making the presentation edit to the length and style they are looking for.

Once you’ve posted your presentation online, you can access and edit them anywhere with an internet connection, using the PowerPoint Web App. It even works on a Windows phone.
PowerPoint presentations can be also be broadcast live to remote audiences, whether or not they have PowerPoint installed if you have Windows Live ID.

Quick Styles is a very welcome addition for enhancing the look and feel of your slides by creating templates which offer consistent colour schemes and layouts, which once created, can be shared with everyone in the office. You can even run your logo throughout your slides, which is great for affirming a corporate feel for your business.

The SmartArt feature helps you produce quality diagrams, themes and layouts, to further enhance your presentation, and improved image editing now offers colour saturation and temperature, the ability to remove backgrounds, an advanced cropping tool, and much more.

If you want to embed video in your presentation, clever new media tools enable you to edit video files, add fades and effects, and even trigger animations.

Screen capturing is another welcome addition, allowing you to grab an entire screen to paste into your presentation. Great for IT training, or indicating data trends from Excel.

You can also save presentations as PDFs, making them easy to email, so even people without PowerPoint on their PCs can now enjoy them. And so it goes on....

Of course there’s a lot more to a successful presentation than a brilliant tool for developing and sharing visually interesting slides.

By trial and error and by taking careful note of what you think works well with other people’s presentations, you can gradually improve what you do.

Think about the pace of your presentation, and try to work with your audience, notice how they react to what you are saying. Where appropriate, a little humour goes a long way. Above all, don’t overload your speech or your slides with too much detail.

For more information on how to deliver the best sales proposal download Microsoft’s useful guide here

Watch the video below featuring Gill Le Fevre, IW Online Services Product Marketing Manager at Microsoft UK, explaining how Office 365 addresses the challenges that small businesses face.