Geospatial on a Budget 1: Presentations

March 23, 2016

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Editor's note: Welcome to the first installment of our monthly series, Geospatial on a Budget. Today we're going to take a look at two free and low cost tools that could enhance your message by improving the way you choose to share it.

So you spent all that time making amazing maps and solving problems…now what? How do you share your message?

Often we need to convey our findings to a greater audience, such as at a town meeting, to a board of directors or even to a roomful of students. What's the best way to show them what we've discovered?

We're all familiar with the slides of computer-based presentation software; we’ve seen them in all shapes, sizes and levels of boredom. We like PowerPoint just as much as the next person. It’s what we know, and it is possible to make interesting presentations with the tool, but in an age of connected data, the Internet of Things and wide-spread cloud computing, we might need more connected solutions for our presentations, as Forbes has discussed in various articles.

So, are there alternatives to those slides? Yes, indeed.

Two internet-based applications might tickle your map-loving heart: Prezi and Story Maps. Both applications offer a free, interactive experience for both presenter and audience.


I met Prezi not long after it was founded in 2009. According to their website, “Unlike slides, which literally box you in, Prezi gives you a limitless zoomable canvas and the ability to show relationships between the big picture and fine details. The added depth and context makes your message more likely to resonate, motivate, and get remembered, whether it’s your bread-and-butter sales pitch, a classroom lecture, or a TED Talk to the world’s foremost thinkers.”

While Prezi doesn’t have the map in mind as its star, it does embrace the power of graphics, perspective and scale, all popular topics with a cartographically-minded crowd. It’s an interesting idea that you would create an immersive graphic experience to make your point with scale, zoom and perspective — much like the maps that we all love.

You can use this service for free. There are also various subscription levels starting at about $5 a month, depending on the features that are most important to you.

If you're an educator, the free service allows you to enjoy the more advanced subscription features, and the graduated subscriptions are offered at a reduced rate.

Story Maps

These are centered around maps. Approximately five years ago, this initiative, with Allen Carroll at the helm, came to you from Esri.  What began as an alternative to the presentation functions on ArcGIS Explorer desktop and ArcGIS Online is now a multifaceted approach to sharing and collecting information. According to the website, “Esri Story Maps let you combine authoritative maps with narrative text, images, and multimedia content. They make it easy to harness the power of maps and geography to tell your story.”

While many things at Esri will pinch your wallet, this one won’t. With a free public account to ArcGIS Online you can make your own geographic story. Many of the templates come with step-by-step builders. For the coding-talented folks, you can start with the code and jazz it up. Start your Story Map journey on their how-to page. You’ll find a gallery of great examples and great information on telling your story effectively.

For educators, with your school's ConnectEd ArcGIS Online subscription, you and your students can be telling stories with maps. I found this tool helpful in my previous life as an English teacher, allowing me to give my students perspective on literature and more with maps, geography and data.

You can stay in the know about the latest developments on the Story Maps blog.

And if you still just can’t let go of those slides, here are some tips to make them most effective:

We’ll be back next month with more low or no cost geospatial tools. If you're using low or no cost tools, we'd love to share those tools and/or your experiences with others. Email us at


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