Whether they're for clients, customers or colleagues, visual presentations are an unavoidable part of doing business. For years, Microsoft PowerPoint has been the standard bearer of slide presentation applications, but several Web-based alternatives have emerged.
For the most part, the alternatives offer similar functionality to PowerPoint, sometimes more, sometimes less. One obvious advantage to Web-based presentations is that they're stored in the cloud, eliminating the potential for nightmare scenarios involving lost or corrupted thumb drives.
If the traditional slide-by-slide-style presentation doesn't quite cut it for you, there's Prezi, which works a bit more like one giant virtual whiteboard containing your entire presentation. Instead of flipping through slides, the viewer is zoomed in and out of the appropriate portions of your Prezi presentation, creating a much more animated and visually-appealing experience.
Check out this example:
SlideRocket is a collaborative, Web-based application with a really nice-looking UI (hint: it's not a visual clone of PowerPoint). Presentations made with SlideRocket can allow users to comment and answer polls in real time and its user analytics can offer hints as to the effectiveness of one slide versus another. It integrates with third parties like Google Docs and Flickr, which is great for pulling live data and content.
This is one of those Web apps that looks and feels like it's running on the desktop. 280 Slides has been compared to Apple's Keynote, which isn't a shock considering both of its founders used to work for Apple.
Sliderocket is less about collaboration and more about making slideshow presentations easy to create and share with others. Like most of its competitors, it supports importing and exporting documents to and from PowerPoint. Best of all, it's free.
Google Docs Presentations
Not unlike the rest of its cloud-based office suite, the presentation builder for Google Docs is more or less a simplified clone of Microsoft's offering, but it remains a pretty solid alternative. It supports all the basics: adding text, links, graphics, videos to slides, drawing shapes, presenter notes and playback of the presentation. One limitation is that the full-screen presentation is not actually full-screen, but rather it launches a new browser window without the buttons and toolbars.
Zoho has its own answer to PowerPoint in the form of Zoho Show. Like Google Docs and others, it offers the standard functionality, but this one goes a step further by including live audio chat with presentees. It doesn't yet support exports to PowerPoint, but does enable users to import presentations from PowerPoint or OpenOffice.