Presentation Technologies for Your 2006 Budget

By Heather Baldwin

You’ve just received your 2006 budget and it includes $20,000 to upgrade your sales team’s presentation gear. Everyone is excited about the possibility of at last getting rid of their clunky, five-year-old projectors, but they’re also left with a host of questions: What else should be purchased? What’s hot in presentation technology right now? What are presenters finding most useful? Most importantly, what are the right technologies for your team? Those are some of the questions we put to Jack Stewart, northeastern sales manager for Hitachi Software (www.hitachi-soft.com), who recommends companies looking at portable presentation technology purchases consider these must-have items.

Projectors. The projector/laptop combination is the foundation of most sales reps’ presentation gear. If you’ve owned a projector for two years or more, it’s time to take another look at this basic item. “You’ll be astounded at the changes in the market,” says Stewart. “For the same money you spent on your last projector, you can make a considerable upgrade.” Projectors are lighter, brighter, smaller and quieter than ever before. Many SVGA units now sell for less than $1,000, so even if you have a limited budget it’s worth taking the time to explore this fundamental piece of gear.

Whiteboards. Like all technologies, interactive whiteboards are getting smaller, lighter and more powerful. There now are desktop versions of interactive whiteboards that, like their larger brethren, allow you to feed the output of your whiteboarding sessions to a laptop where you can save it, email it, print it and so on. “The smallest whiteboard panels are 15 inches diagonal and plug directly into your laptop. Now you have a second monitor screen that you write on with a pen,” explains Stewart. “With larger audiences you can take the output of the panel and feed it to a projection device.” Hitachi’s most popular portable whiteboard is the T-17SXL, a pen-driven, SXGA -resolution, 17-inch LCD model that weighs about 15 pounds. Hitachi’s smallest, more portable model is the T-15SXL, which weighs 8 pounds.

Bluetooth tablets. Need to demonstrate a software program? Bluetooth tablets such as Hitachi’s BT-1 can be used to annotate presentations and run computer applications in meeting rooms. While looking at the projected image or plasma display the presenter can move about the room with the pen-on-tablet interface to run any application. It’s a lot like using a desktop mouse and feels natural for writing notes and performing other operations with the pen input device. Want to give prospects a chance to experiment with your software? Stewart says you could equip a room with four or five of these devices for less than $1,000.

Audience response systems. One technology that’s great if you present to large audiences and that has come a long way in terms of size and affordability is the audience response system, such as that produced by Quizdom (www.quizdom.com), says Stewart. ARS technology helps presenters engage the audience and gather information about audience members through multiple choice questions. For example, a presenter might ask a large group about their biggest challenge with their current CRM system. He would offer four or five possible responses and the audience would press the correct button on their ARS device, displaying the aggregate result on the screen. “ARS systems really are tiny now,” says Stewart. “The whole kit is about the size of a small laptop bag. They’ve worked the bugs out and the prices are as low as some of the lowest-price projectors.”