NiftyClicks: SmartDraw, SitePal, Coupons, Zentation

By Andrew Lock | Posted August 31, 2009

Andrew Lock

SmartDraw

SmartDraw is the only software that allows you to create every kind of visual--more than 70 different types--including flowcharts, timelines, org charts, mind maps, floor plans, marketing charts and more.

SmartDraw's web site serves as a valuable resource to professionals in every industry with in-depth information on how to create and use every type of visual, as well as insightful articles on how to use visual communication to boost profits and increase productivity company wide.

SitePal

Although not strictly a free resource, SitePal does have a free trial, so you can experience the service for yourself.

SitePal enables you to create speaking characters (animated characters with a human voice) without any technical knowledge whatsoever. It’s worth noting that a number of marketers have massively increased conversions by using this technology. No one really knows why, but why argue with the results, right?

Step 1:

Visit www.TrySitePal.com and click on the ‘demo’ button on the left hand side to get a hands on demonstration of how to create a new character using the online system.

Step 2:

There are five steps to creating a character:

  • Choose a model
  • Accessorize the model
  • Choose a background
  • Add audio
  • Add a function to the player
  • As you can see, it’s very straightforward.

Step 3:

When it comes time to record the audio, there are five options:

  • Use text-to-speech converter (audio will not sound completely natural because it’s computer generated, but it’s pretty good).
  • Use a microphone attached to your computer and record the audio directly to the SitePal system.
  • Record the audio professionally then upload the WAV, MP3 or WMA file to the SitePal system. I recommend JohnMelley.com for a versatile male voice. Tell John I sent you, he’s a great guy.
  • Dial a supplied telephone number and speak the audio through the phone (not recommended because the quality is not great).
  • Visit the SitePal voice talent store and have them find a suitable professional voiceover artist to record the audio for you.

Step 4:

When your video is ready, you can send it via e-mail (for free), or you can embed it in your Web site using the supplied code (you’ll need to register an account).

RetailMeNot

Dedicated to the frugal shopper, RetailMeNot.com is a must-bookmark site offering online coupon codes, printable coupons and tips for saving money when shopping online or offline, all year round.

Zentation

Zentation is a really great resource. I was looking for a long time for a tool that could combine PowerPoint presentations with video, online. I’m talking about a webpage where the viewer can see slides next to a video, and the slides change in time with the video content. Think of the possibilities! I finally found a tool that not only works well, but it’s even free (currently).

Step 1:

Zentation.com
Zentation.com
(Click for larger image)
.

Visit www.Zentation.com and select one of the sample presentations on the homepage (about half way down. You’ll be able to see how a finished presentation looks, and what the system is capable of. Then, click on the text link at the top that says ‘sign up for free’.

Step 2:

Enter your email address, your choice of password (twice), your name, postal code, country, and check the box to agree to the terms and conditions (if you agree). Submit the info.

Step 3: On the confirmation screen you’ll immediately see a sample presentation, and a button to create a ‘new presentation.’ Click that button.

Step 4: Enter a name for the presentation, and a description (to remind yourself about the content later). Then, choose a level of service (free, or the paid option). I suggest starting with the free level until you’re comfortable with the service. Click ‘start’.

Step 5: In this step, you’ll be asked to specify the location of your video, so you’ll need to upload it to YouTube or GoogleVideo, then specify the URL. When you’ve pasted the URL code, click ‘check video’ to make sure it plays okay within Zentation. Click on ‘next step’.

Step 6: Select the powerpoint presentation from your local hard drive, and click ‘upload ppt’ (max size of 30Mb which should be fine). It’ll take a few minutes for the system to process your slides.

Step 7: Now you’re ready to sync the slides to the video. Click ‘edit’ next to the presentation, and then enter times during the video where you want each slide to appear.

It’s a straightforward process. When you’re done, click the text link that says: “Done? Click to View Presentation.”

Andrew Lock is a self-described maverick marketer and the creator and host of Help! My Business Sucks, a free, weekly Web TV show full of practical marketing tips, advice and resources to help small businesses "get more done and have more fun."

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!


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