Death by Powerpoint – The next instalment

Communications, Creative, MarketingComments (0)

1) Be yourself!

PowerPoint is well equipped with tools to help you make your presentation interesting. But here’s the thing – you DON’T have to use them all. Some of them are downright irritating to the audience and can make you look less than professional. Use the ones that complement you. Here are some key things to look out for:

  • Don’t automatically go for a PPT theme. Make sure its right for you, your audience and your subject matter before you adopt one.
  • Not always possible but try to get away from using Microsoft Office’s default fonts, Calibri and Cambria. They can definitely underwhelm your audience
  • To bullet or not to bullet… Sometimes bullet points are great but they can be really overused. Think before you bullet
  • Recent PPT defaults include a small shadow on all shapes. Remove this shadow if it’s not actually needed. Also, don’t leave shapes in their default blue.

2) Size matters

The PowerPoint default slide size is usually fine, however if you are speaking at a conference or big meeting you should definitely check. Often large screens, plasmas and other custom built areas can be a longer narrower shape and your presentation will be seriously distorted. Here’s how you can customise the shape of your PowerPoint. WARNING – Resize your slides before you add any objects to them or the dimensions of your objects will become skewed

  1. In the top-left corner, choose “File.”
  2. Select “Page Setup.”
  3. Type the height and width of the background you’d like, and click “OK.”
  4. A dialogue box will appear. Click “OK” again.
  5. Your background is resized!

3) Edit early

It’s much easier to edit your PowerPoint template before you start your presentation – this way, you don’t have design each slide by hand. Here’s how you do that.

  1. Select “Themes” in the top navigation.
  2. In the far right, click “Edit Master,” then “Slide Master.”
  3. Make any changes you like, then click “Close Master.” All current and future slides in that presentation will use that template.

4) Alignment = Awesome

Having properly aligned objects on your slide is the key to making it look polished, professional and generally fabulous. Use PowerPoint’s tools to help you look awesome and don’t waste hours trying to do it manually.

How to align multiple objects:

  1. Select all objects by holding down “Shift” and clicking on all of them.
  2. Select “Arrange” in the top options bar, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  3. Choose the type of alignment you’d like.

How to align objects to the slide:

  1. Select all objects by holding down “Shift” and clicking on all of them.
  2. Select “Arrange” in the top options bar, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  3. Select “Align to Slide.”
  4. Select “Arrange” in the top options bar again, then choose “Align or Distribute.”
  5. Choose the type of alignment you’d like.

Design Tips

5) Format is fab

Format menus allow you to do fine adjustments that otherwise seem impossible. To do this, right click on an object and select the “Format” option. Here, you can fine-tune shadows, adjust shape measurements; create reflections, and much more.

Although the main options can be found on PowerPoint’s format toolbars, look for complete control in the format window menu. Other examples of options available include:

  • Adjusting text inside a shape.
  • Creating a natural perspective shadow behind an object.
  • Recoloring photos manually and with automatic options.

6) Get in shape

PowerPoint’s shape tools are flexible and powerful. PowerPoint provides the user with a host of great shape options beyond the traditional rectangle, oval, and rounded rectangle patterns, unlike even professional design programmes like Adobe Creative Suite.

The shapes also include the highly functional and user friendly Smart Shapes function, which enables you to create diagrams and flow charts quickly and professionally. Let your audience see a clear visual expression of what you are trying to say – often far better than a bulleted list or paragraph of text.

7) Customise it

When you create a shape, right click and press “Edit Points.” By editing points, you can create custom shapes that fit your specific need. For instance, you can reshape arrows to fit the dimensions you like. And they wont look sucked or squashed.

Another option is to combine two shapes together. When selecting two shapes, right-click and go to the “Grouping” sub-menu to see a variety of options.

  • Combine creates a custom shape that has overlapping portions of the two previous shapes cut out.
  • Union makes one completely merged shape.
  • Intersect builds a shape of only the overlapping sections of the two previous shapes.
  • Subtract cuts out the overlapping portion of one shape from the other.

These tools ensure you’re in great shape and your presentation looks slick and individual.

8) A healthy crop

Besides creating custom shapes in your presentation, you can also use PowerPoint to crop existing images into new shapes. Here’s how:

  1. Click on the image and select “Format” in the options bar.
  2. Choose “Crop,” then “Mask to Shape,” and then choose your desired shape. Ta-da! Custom-shaped photos.

9) Present websites within PowerPoint

If you want to show a website in a PowerPoint there’s a better option than just having a link and opening a browser.

Third party software that integrates fully into PowerPoint’s developer tab can be used to embed a website directly into your PowerPoint using a normal HTML iframe. One of the best tools is LiveWeb, a third-party software developed independently.

By using LiveWeb, you don’t have to interrupt your PowerPoint, and your presentation will remain fluid and natural. Whether you embed a whole webpage or just a YouTube video, this can be a high-quality third party improvement.

Unfortunately, Mac users don’t have a similar option. A good second choice is to take screen shots of the website, link in through a browser, or embed media (such as a YouTube video) by downloading it directly to your computer.

Process Tips

10) For fonts sake

One constant problem presenters have with PowerPoint is that if you want to make your presentation look better with a different font it can be a disaster. If you have to present from a different computer or have to send it somewhere for approval and the presentation computer just doesn’t have the same font files installed – you’re in trouble. If you’re using a PC and presenting on a PC, then there is a smooth work around for this issue. Unfortunately when you involve Mac systems, the solution is not optimal – see section 11!

Here’s the trick: When you save your PowerPoint file (only on a PC), you should click Save Options in the “Save As …” dialog window. Then, select the “Embed TrueType fonts” check box and press “OK.” Now, your presentation will keep the font file and your fonts will not change when you move computers (unless you give your presentation on a Mac).

11) Save your slides as JPEGs

In PowerPoint for Mac 2011, there is no option to embed fonts within the presentation. So unless you use ubiquitous typefaces like Arial or Tahoma, your PPT is likely going to encounter font changes on different computers.

The most certain way of avoiding this is by saving your final presentation as JPEGs, and then inserting these JPEGs onto your slides. On a Mac, users can easily drag and drop the JPEGs into PPT with fast load time. If you do not use actions in your presentation, then this option works especially well.

If you want your presentation to appear “animated,” you’ll need to do a little tinkering. All you need to do is save JPEGs of each “frame” of the animation. Then, in your final presentation, you’ll just display those JPEGs in the order you’d like the animation to appear. While you’ll technically have several new slides in place of one original one, your audience won’t know the difference.

An important consideration: If your PPT includes a lot of JPEGs, then the file size will increase.

12) In bed with multimedia

PowerPoint allows you to either link to video/audio files externally or to embed the media directly in your presentation. You should embed these files if you can, but if you use a Mac, you cannot actually embed the video (see note below). For PCs, two great reasons for embedding are:

  1. Embedding allows you to play media directly in your presentation. It will look much more professional than switching between windows.
  2. Embedding also means that the file stays within the PowerPoint presentation, so it should play normally without extra work (except on a Mac).

Note: Mac OS users of PowerPoint should be extra careful about using multimedia files.

If you use PowerPoint for Mac, then you will always need to bring the video and/or audio file with you in the same folder as the PowerPoint presentation. It’s best to only insert video or audio files once the presentation and the containing folder have been saved on a portable drive in their permanent folder. Also, if the presentation will be played on a Windows computer, then Mac users need to make sure their multimedia files are in WMV format. This tip gets a bit complicated, so if you want to use PowerPoint effectively, consider using the same operating system for designing and presenting, no matter what.

13) Hard fact

Between operating systems, PowerPoint is still a bit twitchy. Even between differing PPT versions, things can (and do) change. One way to fix these problems is to make sure that you have the right hardware, so just bring along your own computer when you’re presenting.

14) Be natural

In many presentation situations, there will be both a presenter’s screen and the main projected display for your presentation. PowerPoint has a great tool called Presenter View, which can be found in the “Slide Show” tab of PowerPoint 2010 (or 2011 for Mac). This includes an area for notes, a timer/clock, and a presentation display.

For many presenters, this is a real help. You never want to make the PowerPoint seem jilted or unnatural, like its just a pile of notes for you. Use the Presenter View option to help create a more natural presentation.

Pro Tip: At the start of the presentation, you should also hit CTRL + H to make the cursor disappear. Hitting the “A” key will bring it back if you need it!

In the end

PowerPoint and similar slide applications are powerful flexible tools that should not be underestimated. They rock – especially when you use them to their full advantage.


» Communications, Creative, Marketing » Death by Powerpoint – The next...

February 2, 2015

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