Looking at a PowerPoint alternative

By Kevin Cork | November 14, 2017 | Last updated on September 21, 2023
3 min read
Data infographic set
© macrovector / iStockphoto

Part of providing value to clients is presenting information clearly, visually and concisely. Many advisors rely on PowerPoint for such presentations, but there’s another option out there.

Microsoft has launched a cloud-only presentation app called Sway. It allows you to create a web-ready presentation quickly, either from scratch or using an imported Word document, OneNote document or PowerPoint presentation. The new presentation can then be customized with photos, PDFs, videos and sound.

How Sway works

It’s best to think of Sway as an automatic, lightweight PowerPoint package. It doesn’t have the customization capabilities of PowerPoint, but instead substitutes broad thematic changes. For instance:

  • you can have a photo fly into the slide, but you cannot set its speed, direction or size, or otherwise animate it;
  • you can choose to have the slides scroll sideways or scroll down, but doing so automatically reformats the page; and
  • font and paragraph formatting are limited.

While these constraints make Sway less flexible than PowerPoint, Sway is still functional enough to present financial data to a client.

Sway can quickly convert a Word document, for example, into a professional-looking presentation. The presentation itself can be easily reorganized and new styles can be applied with built-in animation to scroll through photos or PDFs. Sway files can also be exported into Word documents or PDFs.

We use Sway for:

  • our introduction to prospects,
  • our financial planning presentations and
  • our annual portfolio reviews.

When we’re explaining our financial planning services to prospects, for example, we create one slide to explain the commissions we collect and a second slide to show our fee-based option. Each slide has points to consider and an accompanying photograph or chart. These slides were created automatically, and photos can be searched, added and edited—with limits—right within the app.

Further, there’s an auto-create feature that allows you to create a rough draft based on the topic you search. This is unlikely to provide all the information you need on the topic, but it’s an excellent starting point that can then be revised.


There’s no cost to access the app, but I found one key limitation. The presentations you produce can only be shared from the Sway website, by providing a client with a unique web link. The presentation can be seen just as easily from a computer as from another device, but some clients may be uncomfortable having their personal information displayed on the website. To deal with that concern, we don’t use identifying information like last names or account numbers, and we archive our client Sway files as PDFs offline after they have been available for two weeks.

Despite that limitation, Sway allows an advisor to quickly create, edit and personalize unique, engaging presentations, which is especially important for the relatively dry material that advisors and planners usually create.

Sway alternatives

Apple’s Keynote and Google Slides offer the same import capabilities as Sway, but require you to spend considerable time customizing, automating and formatting presentations. Evernote, Adobe and other programs have presentation modes, but don’t appear to have the same level of animation and customization as Sway.

Kevin Cork

Kevin Cork , CFP, is President of TheAbsoluteGroup.com and a best-selling author.