By Joe Stoddard. Big corporations use multimedia presentations in their marketing efforts as well as to train employees and salespeople. But say the word multimedia to a typical builder, and images of video crews, production studios, and whopping costs will pop into his head.

What if you could do the job inexpensively using common tools you may already own? Norm Seff, a Lutherville, Md.-based CRM consultant to home builders (, says all you need to create great multimedia presentations is a flatbed scanner, a digital camera, and a personal computer with a few common software programs.

Seff's software of choice for presentations is Microsoft PowerPoint because it's so versatile and easy to use. Other useful programs include Adobe Acrobat ( to convert paper and electronic documents to pdf format, and imaging software like Paint Shop Pro ( or Adobe Photoshop for tweaking still images.

The best digital camera to get is one that takes not just still photos but also 15- to 20-second, full-motion video clips with sound. The clips can be saved in standard avi format, then loaded directly into the presentation.

Production builders can use these simple tools to create sales presentations that include testimonial clips from happy customers and a virtual tour of the latest neighborhood, complete with an interview with the local school principal. For custom builders, Seff suggests creating a "project presentation" to document each project. It should contain vital project documents, still images of product selections, and video clips featuring construction milestones and interviews with subs and project managers. The builder can save one copy and give one to the homeowner.

Joe Stoddard is a technology consultant to the building industry. You can reach him at

1) Plan. Gather video clips, still photographs, and other copy. Plan how you will arrange them in a presentation.

2) Build. Use PowerPoint's drop-down menus to insert full-motion and still elements into the presentation. Use the program's built-in tools to add scene transitions and animation as well as captions and other text.

3) Distribute. Copy the presentation onto a self-running CD that can be distributed conventionally.

4) Post. If appropriate, use PowerPoint to convert the presentation to HTML format. Upload to your Web site.