Tips and Strategies to Improve PowerPoint Skills and become a Power User. Focus on mouse clicks, keyboard commands, and trusted tips and tricks.
Microsoft PowerPoint is the world’s most popular presentation program. And yet it is hardly used to its full power. The average PowerPoint user spends hours of wasted time clicking through menus and applying elementary techniques in an effort to create a basic presentation. But like mild-mannered Clark Kent donning his cape as Superman, you can adopt a mighty mix of mouse clicks, keyboard commands, and trusted tips and tricks to become a PowerPoint Power User.
#1 Content First…Then Visuals
When starting a new presentation, try not to become distracted by the desire to make it look good. Rather, focus on creating the content first. Spend time to gather your thoughts, getting a clear vision of what the presentation will look like…and what it will say.
- Work on a plain white screen or word processor to get your bullets and main points in place.
- Talk over the ideas/themes with friends and colleagues.
- Draft a storyboard on paper.
- Once your concepts and ideas are in place, then you can start on the graphics.
#2 Think Efficiently & Use the Keyboard
Don’t get caught by the clock! To improve efficiency and shave hours off your presentation development time, it’s helpful to learn the keyboard shortcuts.
It may only take a second to move the mouse up to the copy and paste icons, but en-masse, those mouse movements take lots of time. Control-C and Control V (for Copy and Paste) are fundamental and universal keyboard commands that can help speed things up.
Pressing F1 will bring up a help window (in almost any program), and most keyboard commands are listed for. Sometimes, you can accomplish functions through keyboard commands that you can’t do any other way!
Become a CONTROL Freak: Pressing the Control Key in combination with other keys will get things moving fast. Dragging an item while holding control will make a copy.
SHIFT into efficiency: Shifting Dragging an item while holding Control and Shift will make a copy, constrained to a horizontal or vertical alignment.
ALTernatives: The Alt (or Option key in Mac) is also used (although not as much) on some keyboard shortcuts.
Here are some of my top PowerPoint Keyboard Commands/Shortcuts. Often, if you hold the mouse over an icon, a keyboard command will be displayed…
And here’s a list of Slide Show shortcuts that can help you look like a polished presenter, and help you navigate through your presentation more efficiently…without having to escape from the show.
#3 The Right Click is the Trick.
By clicking the right mouse button on top of various elements (images, text, icons, etc.) you’ll have a new world of PowerPoint efficiency and functionality. Just like keyboard commands, the right click can help you work more powerfully. You can turn it on in Slide Show mode for a menu of features, or disable it (File > Options > Advanced > Slide Show) for a simple slide-backward function.
#4 Click, Drag, and Drop
No, it’s not a new dance routine. Click, Drag, and Drop, is a simple and straightforward method to import graphics and content into PowerPoint. Sure, you can use copy and paste. Or insert…picture. But for maximum efficiency it’s fast and easy to drag your image directly from the window onto your slide. If you have text you want to insert from a web browser or word document, select the text…and hold the left mouse button while dragging it to your PowerPoint slide.
#5 Make Alternate and Hidden Versions of Slides
Not sure how an effect will look? Want to have some extra detail on a slide that you may or may not use? By making duplicate versions (copy and paste your slides in the slide sorter) you can experiment with alternative versions. Select “hide slide” so it doesn’t show when you’re presenting. You can always enter (on the keyboard) the slide number of your hidden slide and jump right to it.
Also, don’t delete your old slides; move them to the end and hide them; keep them as alternates or backups.
#6 Align & Distribute Images(+ use the Grid)
Don’t just place your graphics haphazardly in your presentation; work to keep them aligned! Graphics that are misaligned can subconsciously send the message of disorganization, and detract from the professionalism of your presentation.
Select multiple objects by shift-clicking on them (or lasso-ing with your mouse)…and then select Format (from the top menu)…Align (or Distribute). Power Users put align and distribute icons on their toolbars for fast and easy access.
Also, Guides and Grids (view menu or right click), are a great way to help keepyour graphics perfectly straight.
#7 Customize the Ribbon & Toolbar
Like a fine artist with a custom workshop and working space, you can customize and optimize your PowerPoint virtual workspace. The Ribbon and Quick Accesss Toolbar can be customized with easy-to-access icons….packed with powerful features. Sometimes features are available that aren’t shown in menus- but simply accessible with the click of a mouse.
Customize it either by right clicking on the ribbon or toolbar…or by setting it up in File > Options > Customize Ribbon (or Quick Access Toolbar). Some Power Users setup a second monitor just to display their custom ribbons and toolbars full of functional icons. Take the time to customize your PowerPoint workspace while learning its newfound features, and be amazed at what you can now do.
#8 Save Often, Locally, and With Backups
By saving every 30 minutes and with different versions (draft1.pptx, draft 2.pptx, etc.) you can save yourself headaches when the inevitable computer crash comes. Also, don’t trust the networks. Save your presentation to your local PC and copy it later to the network.
And at the end of the day, I’ll save the whole folder- or back it up- to the network. In other words, work locally- on your drive C. It’s faster, and probably more reliable than the networks. Either just copy the files there or use the Backup tool that came with your computer.
#9 Allow Enough Time for Output and Practice
Don’t get caught by the clock! By stopping even 20 minutes before your actually deadline- or showtime- you can significantly enhance your message by taking time to practice and rehearse. Also, consider the time needed to print/copy/upload or email the file.
#10 Don’t be Afraid to Try!
Like a hiker exploring a new trail, look at PowerPoint with a sense of curiosity and adventure. Check out all the menus. Explore it…try it! Your computer won’t crash, and you won’t delete your files. This is the way we learn. Right click everywhere and see what you can do. Set a goal of learning (and applying) a new keyboard command every week.
With an open mind and a positive attitude for discovery, challenge and accomplishment, you’ll be a PowerPoint Power User in no time.
10 of the world’s scariest slides and pathetically bad PowerPoint presentations…and a few PowerPoint makeovers and redesigns just in time for Halloween.
Bullets kill. And so do bullet points…sucking the life out of audiences, who stare like zombies into the abyss of the grey and heartless projection screen while a mummy-like speaker recites mind-numbing paragraphs of text. So as the cool autumn winds blow, let’s open the crypt of ten of the world’s scariest presentations…and share a few magical potions to bring them back to life.
#1. Is it a car? Or is it an essay?
This full-screen muted photo of a Lamborghini is cluttered by five sentences of text explaining the definition of a car. The audience doesn’t know whether to look at the car, the text, or the speaker, Or simply look away in fright.
A fundamental fix is to eliminate the text completely- let the speaker talk about it- and create two slides. Slide 1 features a simpler image of the car (a Lamborghini) while the speaker shares a basic definition, as explained in paragraph one. Slide 2 features an illustration of the basic components of the car, as explained in paragraph two.
If the speaker didn’t want to eliminate the text entirely, the photos could be offset to the left, with the text offset on the right.
#2. Strong Brand…Scary Slide!
Hopefully, this company’s business strategy is a lot better than their presentations. In the early days of PowerPoint, someone created this curdling mix of arrows, text and a target to explain how 10 elements could target 6 key audiences.
Granted, this image is nearly 15 years old, created long before the ease of Smart-Art graphics. This was one of my very first slide redesigns…and I saw the immediate need to simplify and minimize. I started by creating a simple template using the company’s brand colors of red and black. In the center, I placed a photo of an actual bullseye. And around the bullseye- instead of angry arrows- I worked in Photoshop to create iconic ovals with superimposed text. The slide’s text and message remained the same.
#3. A Potpourri of Praise
This potpourri of praise may turn a few heads…away! Letters of reference can be helpful in winning a project…but cramming them all one slide is hardly helpful when showcasing success. This construction company’s slide features a mauve/purple gradient background blended with a faded group of schoolgirls. Two recommendation letters in opposite corners are impossible to read…so they’re transcribed in text. But the Times New Roman font is hard to read, even with key words emphasized in yellow. The skinny arrows are meaningless in connecting the letters to the text.
In the redesign of this reference slide, we scanned the actual letters and placed them on two separate pages, angled for depth and improved positioning. A magnified section of the letter showcased the key phrase or message, eliminating the need for manually-entered text.
#4. Bombs bursting in air
This speaker was hell-bent on grabbing his audience’s attention. His stark black background was juxtaposed against a fireworks explosion and an outdated restaurant. The blood red text with yellow shadows made the audience feel as if they were in a McDonald’s war-zone.
Taming this terror is relatively simple. A quick fix is applying a light beige gradient and inserting a photo of a restaurant with an angled picture style effect. The text becomes black and moves to the top of the slide, with keywords emphasized in green.
Another approach to subdue the shriek of the slide is to deviate from the template and filling the background with a full page image of a restaurant interior. Image blur and desaturation effects applied. The message is prominent and dominant, with the critical “Inside the Four Walls” message showcased with a 3D text effect to illustrate depth and dimension.
#5. Toxic Snake. Toxic Slide.
Like the venomous Viper snake, this slide the Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness (VIPER) program for Warren County Community College is also toxic. Teeming with text and pouring over with patriotism, the three key bullets on this slide are little more than a script for the speaker or a handout for the audience.
A refreshing redesign of the slide splits the three bullets into three separate pages. The patriotic flair is conveyed in a subdued, red and blue bottom arc created in Photoshop and set against a sandy-white textured gradient background. The VIPER logo is integrated in the top right, and three square academic images carry the iconic military-academic theme. The three slides each feature a prominent image of a student or service member, providing an ardent amount of breathing space.
#6. As boring as the subject
This insurance company’s gloomy slide might as well feature a decrepit homeless person. The ominous navy background with its heavy black text against a fuzzy pie-chart does little to inspire someone to purchase their plan. The red title sends a subconscious message of warning!
The presentation’s redesign is a breath of fresh air. A light and flowing light green and white background features a green subtle element from the company’s logo. All four major bullets have been converted to iconic graphics featuring bold white text with a black border and shadow.
#7. Scary surgery…and slides
Blood tests and surgery can be frightening…and so is the uninspired layout of this slide. Five unequally-sized rectangles all linked by anemic arrows to an oval in the middle showcase the role of diagnostic testing. The images are busy and hard to see, as are the tiny Arial subheadlines. The flat blue background may put the audience into a trance.
The redesigned PowerPoint slide features five equally sized rounded-rectangles with clear dominant images, defined by Larger-sized subheadlines in Calibri. A transparent clipped PNG graphic of a scientist on the bottom left sends a message for the entire slide of science and medicine. The background is a textured blue angled-line image from Crystal Graphics and edited in Photoshop. A White rectangle block at the top adds contrast and provides space for a concise title and logo.
#8. NSA Security Breach reveals holes in PowerPoint design
There were many harrowing things about the National Security Association PRISM leak – but to Paris-based designer Emiland De Cubber, the most horrible revelation was how awful their PowerPoint design was. Breaking nearly every fundamental rule of presentation design blended pastel colors, tiny type, and overwhelming amounts of information on its plain white background.
DeCubber stepped up and redesigned several PRISM slides. His philanthropic feat was showcased in Fast Company, as well at http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/whats-with-prisms-awful-powerpoint/#ixzz2hA3kvrsl
#9. Simply complex
This PowerPoint slide is the winner of the InFocus 2011 Worst Slide Contest. It features a mix of text, headlines, arrows, schematics, and directions. Normally, a viewer can grasp the core message of a slide, but this complex and convoluted message spooks the audience.
Even if we could even understand what this slide’s core message was about, the slide could be split into at least 3 or 4 separate pages. A textured background, a clean and simple headline and plenty of white space would help simplify the core message and make this presentation more pleasing.
#10. The enemy is…PowerPoint
Featured in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?_r=0) in October 2010, this PowerPoint slide became a catalyst for change in the presentation industry. Designed to portray the complexity of the American military strategy in Kabul, Afghanistan, this scary PowerPoint slide prompted General Stanley McChrystal to wryly remark to laughter and applause, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”
The slide demonstrated the mind-numbing strategy of PowerPoint, encouraging many to think outside the box and create more dynamic and compelling messages.
So the next time you see an ugly presentation, consider these opportunities to rise it from the dead.
PowerPoint Users: Discover how to write headlines beyond flat fragments of fluff and boring bullets of blah for maximum presentation impact and authority.
Ha! You’re looking at this article! Chances are it was because of a compelling headline. Our eyes are naturally drawn to words of intrigue and curiosity. A title of “PowerPoint headline and bullet writing” might not have been as compelling. Headlines and bullets- whether in PowerPoint, Keynote, or Prezi- should hold that same eye-catching intrigue if you’re looking for you and your presentations to stand-out and be remembered.
Listen & Look
There are great examples of headlines all around us in all mediums; succulent enticing text that compel us to tune-in, read-on, or click here. Pay attention to the topics that grab you…and aim for the same attention-getting power in your presentation headlines. It may seem corny at first, but you’ll soon see more heads looking at you and the screen, than down looking at their cell phone or clock.
Think like a Tweeter
Twitter is a great tool to gain insights into headline writing; short simple statements of intrigue in under 160 characters. Adopt a similar strategy, aiming for fewer than 10 words in your presentation headlines.
A Head-Turning Headline:Catchy, Curious, & Compelling
When building a presentation, it maybe helpful to write-out a title that’s a simple basic fragmented sentence, or just a few words. But head-turning titles are Catchy, Curious and Compelling. They catch your eye, making you think and compelling you to want to know more.
Ask a question. Write a provocative statement. Tell them why they should listen or read-on. Short conversational words are best, eliminating any jargon or ambiguity. The headline can either stand-alone, or be supported by bullets and/or graphics.
Write Like an SEO Guru
Presentation headlines should be written similar to how a website blog headline would be written: a short, compelling statement aimed at generating clicks and readership. For presentations, aim to answer the viewer’s underlying interest in solving a problem or getting more information. Or – as in the case above- work to consolidate the top-level bullet with the headline.
Ask yourself: “If someone in my audience was searching for this slide, what would they search for?” Write your headline with that search concept in mind with fundamental keywords in the title.
This is especially helpful if you’re creating a presentation for an external audience, and placing the presentation online. Your presentation will have a good chance of appearing in Google if the headline and presentation titles are reflective of what your audience is searching for.
Headlines summarize the slide
Headlines are the high-level story of the presentation. In business presentations, executives often scan the presentation for keywords and takeaway points. Well-written headlines should guide the reader along through the presentation summarizing each page, distilling the supporting bullets or detail, and weaving a compelling story. This is especially important if there’s no presenter, or if the presentation is a standalone or printed deck.
In the example above the first version (Before) has a neutral headline “Safety Record.” The updated headline is more active and summarizes the charted data and information.
Fragmented sentence headlines (“Introduction”), while easy to write, do little to hook the audience and tell the story. But it’s best to aim for full-sentences of summation in the headlines of your presentation. You may, however, wish to use fragments or key words “Intro, example 1, etc.” for presentation sections or topic slides.
Some business presentations use takeaway messages, summarizing messages usually at the bottom of a page. Try to merge the title and takeaway points; you’ll have a cleaner, more open-spacious presentation with a more focused message. Less is more.
Don’t repeat the headline in the body of your slide.
The text or bullets of the presentation should support the slide headline…not duplicate it! Aim to keep your bullets brief and supportive of the slide’s headline, using similar- but not identical- words.
Fragment your bullets
Just as we aim to write short simple sentences for our headlines, we should aim to keep our bullets simple and concise also. But, unlike the titles where a short sentence is our goal, our goal in a solid bullet is a concise sentence fragment. There’s no need for a full in-depth sentence, especially if the presentation will be delivered by a speaker.
Aim to ditch most modifiers including extra adjectives, adverbs and action words. But look for ways to say the same message in fewer words.
Avoid all unnecessary words that you can find to help make the page more appealing and easier to understand*.
*This headline above can be edited to three words: “Avoid unnecessary words.”
Repeatedly read through the presentation with a critical eye. What can be eliminated? Merged? Restated more simply? Call on a friend or collague for assistance; eventually you’ll start writing short potent headlines perfectly.
Whenever you see one lovebird, you usually see another; these friends of a feather always flock together. Similarly, aim to avoid single-item bullets. Called “orphans” these one bullet items usually indicate another bullet is nearby. Indeed, one bullet demands a second bullet (that’s why they’re called bullets).
On single-item points, aim to combine the item with the topic/headline. Or remove the bullet symbol and keep the text as a subpoint of the main point.
“The Presentation” should not be viewed as document, but rather a graphical medium to help underscore key messages. Through regular practice of reviewing your presentation, you’ll find opportunities to trim the text and say more with less…leaving the text to the paper.
Looking for a relaxed and casual style to your next presentation? Check out these free and fun Handwritten Fonts.
Learn about Kiosk mode, the PowerPoint feature that lets you create unattended presentations that viewers can self navigate. Also, learn about a cool add-in that helps you get more from Kiosk mode.