Creating multimedia presentations used to be difficult and expensive. Not anymore. Today all it takes is a digital camera and a PC equipped with Microsoft PowerPoint. Here are some basics:
Pick a subject. To increase referrals, compile an end-of-project "memories" CD, with crew interviews, clips of the client's family, and critical project documents. Other ideas: sales presentations featuring customer testimonials and training presentations with expert installers.
Assemble a digital tool kit. Today's digital still cameras also capture 15- to 20-second short audio/video clips, eliminating the need for a video camera. You'll also want an inexpensive flatbed scanner to convert paper photos and documents into digital and some software to track all the clips and stills.
Compose the presentation. PowerPoint is as easy to use as a word processor. Starting with a theme, drag and drop video clips and stills into PowerPoint "slides." Drag the slides into the order you want, then add captions or built-in effects.
Burn a CD. You'll need a CD-ROM drive for this. Once complete, PowerPoint lets you make a "pack and go" CD presentation that will run on any computer.
Upload to the Internet. If you have a Web site, PowerPoint can convert your presentation into Web pages in a few clicks. Over time, create an online library of your multimedia presentations.
As a footnote, there are some other reasonably priced tools for helping create these presentations: Paint Shop Pro ($99) and PhotoShop Elements ($99) for image editing; ScanSoft PaperPort ($90) for document management; and Adobe Acrobat ($199) to generate PDFs. --Joe Stoddard, a technology consultant to the construction industry, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.