Among the things he likes best is the ability to quickly show the most important and relevant slides to an executive who might not have time to sit through the whole presentation. "I can jump around a PowerPoint presentation, and it looks seamless to the viewer. All of my presentations don't go 1-2-3-4-5," he said. The presenter's control panel for the tool lets him hunt for the next slide he wants to show behind the scenes without making it look to the viewer like he is fumbling to find the right one, he said.
ClearSlide is part of the new breed of online presentation tools that are challenging WebEx and GoToMeeting with collaboration that works without plug-ins and simplifies the process of scheduling meetings or holding impromptu ones. Other examples include SlideShare's Zipcast service and LogMeIn's Join.me.
[Are new sales tools gimmicks or gotta-have-its? For a look at one of the latest upgrades for sales pros, see Salesforce.com Chatter Gets Smart.]
ClearSlide also bears some resemblance to SlideRocket, the online presentation tool acquired by VMware in April. However, SlideRocket includes a full Web-based presentation authoring environment, although it also supports importing PowerPoint slides. ClearSlide assumes its users will start with a PowerPoint, PDF, or other document that they upload into the system. It also includes screen sharing, which SlideRocket does not. Those are just some of the trade-offs.
The bigger difference from these other tools is that ClearSlide was specifically designed for use by sales teams and sales managers. Salespeople can give a live pitch using ClearSlide with a call or conference call, or they can send a prospect a link to view the presentation on their own time. Like SlideRocket, ClearSlide provides analytics to track whether an emailed link was ever clicked on and, if so, how much time the recipient spent with the presentation. The ClearSlide analytics can also be used to let managers see which of the slides a salesperson is actually using, or spending the most time with.
"We want to give a sense of how is this team performing and where can improve, while also giving marketing a sense of how effective is this content," ClearSlide CEO Al Lieb said. Lieb was a co-founder of Evite, which is also where he met ClearSlide co-founder and COO Jim Benton. ClearSlide has been building its business relatively quietly for the past two-and-a-half years, but recently raised an $11 million round of funding to promote the service more widely.
Benton said they don't believe what salespeople need is a new presentation creation tool, like SlideRocket. "Salespeople traditionally live in PowerPoint, but they want an easy way to deliver it," he said. "Sales reps need to think on their feet and overcome objections," so the ability to mix and match content on the fly is important, he said. ClearSlide was also designed to let them switch from presenting slides to sharing their screens or sharing a website, he said.
Fernandez said he learned about ClearSlide partly because the service uses Rackspace hosting, but he became a faithful user because he believes it makes him more productive. Previously, he had been a big user of WebEx, but he occasionally ran into cross-platform issues such as presenting to a customer who uses Linux. As a more browser-native app, ClearSlide avoids most of those issues.
More importantly, Fernandez said, ClearSlide suits the way he works. "I've stopped doing a customized PowerPoint for every single client. Instead, I have a comprehensive deck of about 50 slides. The ability to use one slide deck and then switch around slides seamlessly has been the biggest gain for me in terms of productivity."
In addition to Rackspace, ClearSlide counts Expedia, Dow Jones, and W Hotels among its customers.
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