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Getting the most out of PowerPoint


Presentation management strategies to improve efficiency and creativity of PowerPoint presentations.

Struggling to start? Overwhelmed by options? If you’ve ever had difficulty developing a presentation, the solution may be as simple as “organization”. By organizing your thoughts, your workspace, and your PowerPoint “universe”, your next presentation can come together quickly and easily. Here are some strategies to make your presentation management easy and fun.

Content first, then visuals

Believe it or not, PowerPoint can cripple the creative process by sidetracking the content-focused developer into tinkering with its features and technicalities. One of the best ways to avoid this “Paralysis by PowerPoint” is simply tostop using it! That’s right, walk away from it, and go to a quiet place to write your core message/speech and presentation objectives…distraction free. When you’re ready, return to PowerPoint to type in your notes andthentackle the graphics. Sometimes, the mere focused transcription of your notes into PowerPoint can serve as as catalyst for additional creative development and propel you forward.

Directory Structure and File Saving/Naming Tips

Nothing improves presentation development efficiency more than well-organized directories and logical file names. Rather than dumping all your files into one huge folder- which makes it hard to find things- use your folders/ directories more like a file cabinet. By logically arranging your files by client, project, or theme, and then further delineating the structure (see graphic), you pave a road for quick and easy access…for you and others.

Another helpful strategy is to save your file every few hours with an incrementally higher file name (draft1.ppt, draft2.ppt). This way, you can develop your presentation but have an earlier version to refer to if needed, or if the program crashes. File organization should be a continuous activity- a state of mind- and not something just done once in a while.

Extemporaneous delivery of your speech

Just do it.  If you’re stuck on what to say in your presentation, just start talking and see what comes out. Extemporaneous deliver is often a good way to develop the core messages of you presentation without relying on PowerPoint. People often know more than they think they know about their topic, and by just talking off the cuff (as a development strategy), it can be surprisingly effective. Get a group together of your peers and have someone take notes as you start presenting on the fly…and watch it all come together.

Save time with keyboard shortcuts,toolbars, & right mouse

Power users of PowerPoint (or any computer program) frequently rely on keyboard shortcuts to improve their efficiency. Rather than using the menu for all your functions, push yourself to learn the keyboard shortcuts. Instead of using the mouse to select cut and then paste, simply use Control X and Control V. Many other shortcuts exist.

Additionally, the right mouse button will always bring up alternate menus- in any program. Push yourself to use it and challenge yourself not to fall back on the easy to find menus. The right mouse can shave time off your development!

The Hype of Hyperlinking

Most people look at a presentation in a linear (start to finish) manner. But sometimes while talking, it may not be necessary to cover all the slides in the presentation, especially if you’re under a deadline. That’s where hyperlinking helps. You can create your presentation overview slide as a main menu, with links to the respective slides and sections. Then simply click to the individual slide sections and then back to the main menu. It takes more time ,but is definitely worth the extra effort, as your presentation will look much more polished, and you’ll be working with the audience to create a more interactive expedience.

Presentation Librarian: Presentation management software

Presentation Librarian turns your collection of PowerPoint® files, media files and business documents into a searchable knowledgebase of digital assets. The program’s advanced data management system automates the storage and retrieval of corporate knowledge, giving users across the enterprise access to a searchable library of current information via the internet or their local area network.

What Is PowerPoint


How to PowerPoint:  A general overview of the market’s leading presentation graphics

All you PowerPoint users out there…did you ever think about the history of this cool presentation program?  Or even What is PowerPoint?!  I started using PowerPoint back in 1995, but it’s origins date back to 1987, when it was origainlly called “Presenter”.  It’s come a long way.  And this article shares the history and fundamentals of everyone’s love-it or hate-it presentation program, Microsoft PowerPoint.

What is PowerPoint?

PowerPoint is a presentation graphics software tool. It provides users the easy ability to create professional-looking presentations. PowerPoint provides editing, outlining, drawing, graphing, and presentation management functions, in one convenient software package

PowerPoint History

The original version of PowerPoint was created by Thomas Rudkin and Dennis Austin of a company called  Forethought.  The first release in 1987 was called “Presenter”, designed for the 4 year old Macintosh computer.  It was soon renamed “PowerPoint” becausea of to problems with trademark and copyright issues.   In August, Forethought was bought by Microsoft for $14M and became Microsoft’s “Graphics Business Unit”, which continued to focus further on the software .

PowerPoint improved dramatically with PowerPoint 97. Prior to PPT 97, presentations were linear, and always proceeded from one slide to the next. PowerPoint 97 allowed users to create transitions and special effects in a non-linear movie-like style.

PowerPoint 2000  introduced a clipboard that held multiple objects. And then there was the Office Assistant, whose frequent unsolicited appearances in PowerPoint 97 as a cute animated paperclip annoyed many users. 

PowerPoint Operation

PowerPoint presentations consist of a number of individual pages or “slides”. The “slide” analogy is a reference to the slide projector. Slides may contain text, graphics, sound, movies, and other objects, which may be arranged freely. PowerPoint, however, facilitates the use of a consistent style in a presentation using a template or “Slide Master”.

The presentation can be printed, displayed live on a computer, or navigated through at the command of the presenter. For larger audiences the computer display is often projected using a video projector. Slides can also form the basis of webcasts.

Animations in PowerPoint

PowerPoint provides three types of movements:

  1. Entrance, emphasis, and exit of elements on a slide itself are controlled by what PowerPoint calls Custom Animations
  2. Transitions, on the other hand are movements between slides. These can be animated in a variety of ways
  3. Custom animation can be used to create small story boards by animating pictures to enter, exit or move.

PowerPoint’s benefits are debated.   Its use in classroom lectures has influenced investigations of its effects on student grades and performance compared to lectures based on overhead projectors or traditional lectures.  The effect on audiences of ugly PowerPoint presentations has been described as Death by PowerPoint.

Social impact of PowerPoint

Although PowerPoint has benefits, many argue that PowerPoint has had a negative impact on  society.  Some large companies government branches use PowerPoint as a way to brief employees on critical issues.  But opponents of PowerPoint say that reducing complex issues to bulleted points is detrimental to the decision making process; in other words, because the amount of datain a presentation must be consolidated, watching a PowerPoint presentation doesn’t provide  enough detail to make a truly informed decision.

For more information on PowerPoint and it’s benefits and examples, visit www.presentationteam.com

Allstate Presentation - After

Insurance Giant Breaks Away from the Template for a Captivating Presentation


The story of how an Allstate insurance agent redesigned her boring PowerPoint presentation into a captivating presentation to help her shine at a big convention.

AllstateLaura Harris, a top-selling agent for Allstate Insurance, was recently asked to present to 250 people at an upcoming conference on how to build a winning insurance agency.  Unfortunately, her PowerPoint presentation lacked the punch and professionalism needed for this talk.  Harris turned to The Presentation Team to add some sizzle to her slideshow.

Create a simple PowerPoint template in Photoshop

We started by choosing a creating a simple template in Adobe Photoshop with an angled line set against a textured blue background from a image library.  We copied and pasted the text fom the old PowerPoint presentation and it automatically adapted to the look and feel of the new template and master layout. 

Use lots of full-screen graphics instead of a template

Next, we turned our attention to instances where we would use full-screen graphics in place of the template.  Our plan was to use the standard template for text-intensive slides and use full-screen graphics for the other slides.  We rationalized that the full-screen images would be a fresh departure from the static template, while keeping the fonts and color scheme consistent. 

We selected our graphics from four volumes of stock images from Digital Vision and Photodisc.  Each graphic was imported into Photoshop where we resized them, performed image adjustments (lightness/hue/saturation), and placed them behind the white title-bar layer.  Each image was then saved as a JPG file with a name reflective of the slide’s title.

Don’t import the background photos…assign them as background images

Back in PowerPoint, we integrated the new full-screen graphics not through the import photo feature, but rather assigning it as a background graphic (format >> background >> select picture).  This allowed us to lock the photo in place and we could turn it on and off when printing.

In the original presentation, some slides were crammed with multiple messages and extra content.  We broke these messages out to span across multiple slides, adding relevant graphics and white space as needed.  This approach ultimately improves the presenter’s pacing and delivery.

Use images that broadly relate to the concept

BEFORE  AFTER

Allstate Presentation - Before 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Allstate Presentation - After 1
The list of goals presented on this slide are crammed together without any delineation, and there is no focal point. The dartboard effectively conveys the concept of “goals” while providing ample space for text.  The text has been spaced evenly with key words capitalized for emphasis.

Varying font size can emphasize a point

BEFORE AFTER
 Allstate Presentation - Before 2  Allstate Presentation - After 2

 

The slide’s single message screams, “Read me!”  But does the bigger type really mean the core idea of this slide will be communicated?

 

 

A handshake graphic from a stock photo library provides a fine image for the slide’s concept.  The text has been split into two different-sized blocks and each is introduced on a mouse click with a “Zoom-in “letter by letter” animation effect.  This simple text effect illustrates the slide’s main point nicely. 

 

Reduce the image brightness to improve readability

 
BEFORE AFTER
 Allstate Presentation - Before-3

 Allstate Presentation - After 3a

 

 

 

 

 

The original slides looks cluttered, because six bullets and a quotation are competing for the audience’s attention.

Allstate Presentation - After 3b

 

 

  We split this single page into two separate slides.  The first slide carries the bulleted list against a stock photo.  We decreased the brightness and contrast of the original image in Photoshop to make the text more readable for the audience.  The first slide then dissolves into the second slide, which showcases the quotation on the same image background.

The result was a gorgeous new template with high-impact photos taking center stage.  The full-screen breaks from the template aided in piquing the audience’s interest at key points.

Before-3

Building Academic Excellence: Persuading with PowerPoint


College president uses dynamic PowerPoint to persuade Board of Directors to build a new college campus.

Warren County Community College is a small local college in rural upstate western New Jersey, approximately 90 minutes west of New York City. In February 2010 the college president, Dr. Will Austin, was called on to speak to its Board of Directors about the importance of expansion and growth through a new campus in Phillipsberg.

The Board was skeptical and critical about the costs and necessity of a new campus. So Dr. Austin called on The Presentation Team to collaborate with him to develop a focused and compelling PowerPoint presentation to get the 8-Member Board to see the value of the new campus. We worked on an open-ended hourly rate to create a 61-page PowerPoint presentation to support Dr. Austin’s 2-hour talk.

Contemporary Light and Open Presentation Design 

The visual design of the presentation needed to be professional, clean/light/open, and easy-to-be-read from the back of the meeting room. The presentation redesign involved…

  1. Our design strategy focused on using a professional template (title and body masters), that we created several months earlier for a previous project. That light grey template reflected Warren County Community College’s professionalism and brand/identity, while integrating elements of education and community. The template also used a maroon title font, the same color as the school’s logo.
  2. Clean and professional imagery/graphics (portfolio, schematics, people, concept art, etc.), eliminating white backgrounds on scanned art and charts to create a transparent and open look.
  3. Clutter-reducing techniques and presentation strategies to create a “cleaner” look with greater effectiveness.
  4. Clean and conservative slide transition effects (fades and wipe effect).
  5. Professional fonts/typography to ensure consistent playback on different computer systems.
  6. Consulting and collaboration to help Dr. Austin to further develop and present new ideas.
Before After
Before-3 PowerPoint-Slide-Example3-Warren-County-CC
The original slide featured a line graph showcasing the projected increase in enrollment. The line was red (reflecting negativity/loss) and set against an orange background. The font was small and difficult to read, and the horizontal lines added minimal value. Our revised slide featured an area graph. But rather than a flat color, we integrated a JPG stock photo of students, so there was no doubt what the topic was about!. The numbers were enlarged to 24-point and the horizontal lines were eliminated.
PowerPoint-Slides-Example1-Warren-County-CC To help communicate the dilemma of college growth, we integrated a stock photo of a business professional holding a Question Mark sign.This light and humorous approach helped to relax the skeptical audience while connecting them to a common issue and Dr. Austin’s proposed solution. The layout of the graphic to the right of the slide gave the bullet points a left column layout which flowed easy on the eyes.
Slide2 Quotes by great leaders are a great way to motivate audiences to take action,while adding a human level of vision and inspiration.Dr. Austin’s presentation was segmented by visionary quotes, in between sections.
Slide4 It’s a matter of black and white. For a pure and dramatic final slide, we eliminated the template, making the case with white text set against a pure black background. This striking example helped the college president to most effectively make his point. Each line of text zoomed in on a mouse click and “It just makes sense.” set in 48-point Gil Sans font helped seal the deal.

Thanks to the technology of PowerPoint supported by well-communicated examples, quotes, and statistics, the Board of Directors and administration saw the light and signed-off on the project, allotting the money to the Phillipsberg campus…helping to drive the economy of Warren County while helping advance the education of America for years to come. Another presentation success story thanks to great graphics from The Presentation Team!

* The Presentation Team has been creating great PowerPoint visuals for Warren County Community College since 2007

Presenting in a Bad Economy


How a new approach to presentations could spur economic growth

The economy is hurting. And all around the world, companies are cutting corners to cut costs. And cutbacks on the design of professional presentations are indirectly affecting the bottom line, as companies tackle the writing, design, and delivery of these vital communications tools in-house. But during these trying times companies should be increasing – not decreasing – their investments in professional presentations. If companies around the world recognized the importance and ROI of a professional presentation, we could have a well-needed shot in the arm to the global economy.

Presentation Design for the everyman

For many years, presentation design was the domain of an elite group of audio-visual marketing designers. But with the release of PowerPoint 2007, everyone was able to create sophisticated graphics with ease. SmartArt, multiple masters, and a host of other features made it simple and fast for anyone to create great-looking slides. Secretaries were now tasked with the design of the average office PowerPoint presentation. And many mid-level managers are forced to handle the development of the presentation themselves. And because PowerPoint is woven into the psyche of every educated person since the earliest days of school, most executives are comfortable with the application these days to help communicate their key concepts. But knowing how to use PowerPoint, and knowing the art and science of presentation visuals are not the same. Just as easily as PowerPoint has helped people to make good slides, it’s just as easy to make bad-looking slides too, explains Geetesh Bajaj of the website Indezine.com. “It’s easy to create great slides in PowerPoint; it is easier to create bad slides, especially if you do not have some design training.”

Many corporate PowerPoint presentations are designed by someone with a general knowledge of PowerPoint, and with minimal experience of presentation design or delivery. Consequently, these presentations often have diluted messages, or a home-made appearance, that detract from the professionalism of the company brand or image.

Corporations must recognize the importance of The Presentation. Firms frequently spend millions of dollars on marketing and branding, but handle their presentations in-house. Consequently, the visuals don’t reflect the true professionalism of a company, and weaken the marketing and sales efforts for front-line sales reps, who all-too-often are called on to create their own presentations.

By investing in presentation training for their in-house team, or hiring outside presentation designers for key projects, companies can achieve a world-class presentation design with a focused message…while keeping the economy moving.

Bare Bones: Cutting back on professional presentations

In the past few years, presentations have taken a more relaxed and informal style. As dress codes have relaxed in workplaces, so has the formality of the presentation. There’s less emphasis on glitz and glamour, and a greater focus on just the message. It’s easier than ever to find free and basic PowerPoint templates online. But these economical templates often lack the graphical sophistication and subtle nuances that more professional packages offer. Gary White, president of PresentationPro, an Atlanta-based company specializing in presentation designs and templates says his sales are down, as consumers seek cheaper ways to present their information. Ultimately, he says, “this is diluting the professionalism of the presentation and hurting the U.S. economy.”

In many corporate meeting rooms, there’s been a shift from elite and chic to average and acceptable. Presentation design and artistry is not as important anymore. People don’t seem to care as much if a white screen with 10 bullet points are on screen.

Presentations are often viewed as discussion documents, rather than a visual tool to tell a story. Most people want something grand and glorious, but ultimately, they feel more comfortable cramming gobs of bullets, text, and graphics onto a page.

If companies want a true ROI on their marketing and presentation efforts, they should invest the time and money to contract with a true presentation expert, or create a position in-house for a presentation specialist.

A new approach to presentations will boost the global economy

This economic downturn has translated to a reduction in professional PowerPoint designs and contracting with outside agencies. But during this time of financial challenges, companies should be exubrarent about their presentations. Everyone should be presenting, sharing the glories of their companies and initiatives! The “presentation” should be creative portals to our brains and ideas….as we capitalize on all the modern technology; graphics, video, webcasts, and social medial connections the modern world offers.

A company talking by phone to a prospect about their services is adequate. Integrating a web-based presentation or remote presentation tool could give them a competitive advantage. So many companies are still using the web in a two-dimensional style. Creating surveys for feedback, full screen graphics, animated text, can all set them apart from others…translating to a greater positioning as the industry expert…and driving traffic and sales.

By looking at the big picture of the power of a presentation, a company can gain a competetive advantage and boost in their sales. And if all companies revisited their presentation marketing strategy there would be a solid return on investment, that could jumpstart our economy, putting all players back on the path for greatness.

It’s easy to create great slides in PowerPoint; it is easier to create bad slides, especially if you do not have some design training.

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  • “We engaged The Presentation Team to do a Presentation training for our team and he did a great job. He spent time understanding our requirements and the skill level of our team members and created a course which met our expectations and goals. I highly recommend The Presentation Team as a Presentation (PowerPoint) trainer.”

    Navdeep Sidhu
    Senior Director, Software AG

  • “Kevin Lerner provided best-in-class services when hired to work on promotional materials for the launch of a key product at Motorola. The expertise and quality that he brought to the project were second to none and as a result, he delivered a top-notch presentation that was quickly adopted throughout the organization. Kevin is great to work with, delivers on time, is a great team player and is always willing to go the extra mile.”

    Maria Cardoso
    Motorola

  • “Kevin has been a working with Cox Communications to deliver world-class PowerPoint presentation visuals since 2009. His ability to meet our specific needs, timeframe, and budgets has been exceptional. His professional interaction with our team reflects his deep expertise in the industry, superior presentation design skills, and commitment to superior service.”

    Jonathan Freeland
    VP, Video Marketing at Cox Communications

  • “Kevin is an enthusiastic, creative, and passionate presentation guru. Our company was impressed and felt the value of his training in 2013 that he was invited again recently to again share his knowledge. Both times he has been energetic and addressed many areas for presentation development. From planning to follow-up Kevin is personable and easygoing, motivating our teams to take their presentations to the next level.”

    Yoshimi Kawashima
    Project Coordinator, Nissin International

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from tips & tricks to aesthetics, all with the intent of getting the message across crisply and creatively. I’ve already received praise for decks that incorporate the skills obtained from his training. I highly recommend Kevin’s services.”

    Era Prakash
    General Electric

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from “The PowerPresentations seminar opened my eyes to all the limitless possibilities in presenting.”

    Leah Gordillo
    Saint Francis Medical Center

  • “Kevin helped me immensely improve my presentation slides development, from “[Kevin and The Presentation Team have] always delivered 110% in terms of meeting our objectives for finished product and budget”

    Paul Price
    Watsco Corp.

  • “I had more people come up to me after I spoke, commenting on the visuals you created, than I did on the subject matter!”

    Andy Smith
    Smith & Robb Advertising

  • “As a Fortune 1000 company, we sought to produce a classy, yet conservative presentation for our shareholders. It was evident that you and your team listened to our thoughts as you developed the presentation…”

    Will Flower
    Republic Services

  • “Your expertise in the filed of PowerPoint and general presentation techniques helped elevate us to the level necessary to beat the competition.”

    Mike Geary
    James Pirtle Construction

  • “Kevin brought a high level of creativity, enthusiasm, and deep multmedia experience to our team. He worked dillegently with the team to produce an outstanding proposal which we subsequently won.

    Jeff Keller
    Accenture/L3

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