Everyone in the business world is familiar with PowerPoint: it’s served as the industry standard for corporate presentations for 30 years, and continues to excel as one of the central apps in the Microsoft Office and Microsoft 365 suites. Its strict focus on slideshows makes it easy to use, and its integration with the broader Microsoft ecosystem gives it great versatility.
But what if there’s a reason why PowerPoint isn’t ideal for a given business presentation? Perhaps there’s a need to find a different style, in which case all other slideshow-based tools on the market must also be ruled out. This is where Microsoft Sway comes in, making it possible to create professional presentations that look and feel unique.
In this article, we’re going to lay out what Microsoft Sway is, how its presentations (known as Sways) work, why it’s worth using, and how it adds value to Microsoft packages. Let’s begin.
What is Microsoft Sway?
Previewed in 2014 and released in late August 2015, Sway is a presentation program that’s accessible for free to anyone with a Microsoft account. Where something like PowerPoint requires extensive effort to produce a decent presentation, Sway makes ease of use and accessibility a priority (much like Power Automate does for automation).
Its presentations are known as “Sways” and are stored in Azure within United States data centers currently to be accessed from web browsers or mobile apps. This makes them unavailable for offline access or distribution, but convenient in typical business scenarios (particularly since they can be edited on the fly).
What a Sway involves
The slideshow format functions through distinct segments, toggled manually or automatically. Sways work differently: they flow smoothly from start to finish through scrolling, scaling to suit the devices used to access them.
There are various templates available, with each one providing a layout, image sizing, a colour palette, and some placeholder content to be swapped out. If none of the templates is perfectly suitable, the core design elements can be manually altered as required.
With the design elements chosen, the next step is to add content. While it’s easy enough to add text, there’s a strong focus on visual content — and in addition to uploading images, a user can import live content from sources such as social media networks or cloud storage drives. This allows the content of a Sway to vary depending on when it’s viewed, which can be good or bad.
There’s a strong comparison to be drawn between Sways and social media stories, and it’s possible that it influenced them as they only started to enter the mainstream in 2017 (with Instagram Stories having been released in 2016, a year after Sway). They’re particularly good for telling brand stories or offering interactive reports with elements that can be expanded.
When a Sway is finished, it can be shared with anyone through the internet — even people without Microsoft accounts can access it provided the privacy setting is configured correctly.
Why this is worth using
Though the PowerPoint presentation style may well always be the standard in the business world, there are types of presentation — like those we already noted — that can work better in the Sway format. It’s certainly useful to have the option of giving a presentation that the viewer can easily replay on their mobile device at their leisure.
Most notable, though, is how quickly a decent Sway can be produced. There’s no need to spend time figuring out slide transitions, getting things in order, or carefully tweaking layout elements. A Sway creator can simply import all their content, make a few alterations as needed, and finish. It’s ideal, then, for cases in which a conventional business presentation would take far too long.
How it’s useful for resellers
Perhaps the best way for an IT reseller to frame Microsoft Sway is as an overlooked and underrated utility that can bring a lot to social media and marketing departments in particular. Despite having been around since 2015, it’s never come close to getting the kind of attention that PowerPoint commands — but that’s unsurprising since it’s a free tool with a niche purpose.
Operating entirely in the cloud, and making it easy to build presentations to properly showcase everything from social media metrics to YouTube videos, Microsoft Sway is a limited but valuable addition to the familiar Microsoft lineup. Making mention of it when useful will only serve to strengthen the case for the full range of Azure-powered cloud utilities.