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.
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.
Tips for dealing with Question and Answer Sessions in presentations and speeches.
So you’ve made it through your presentation, and now it’s time to open up the discussion to your audience. Feeling a little intimidated? Stop shaking in your boots about Q&A after you speak. All you have to do is look backwards to believe you can handle it.
- If you have negotiated a toy out of the hands of two screaming kids, you can negotiate an end to a long winded question.
- If you have had to handle big or even small business deals with complications, you can get out of any complicated question.
- If you have had to speak spontaneously anywhere and had a great feeling after it, you can trust yourself to do it again and again when you answer questions.
- If your hubby or your wife happened to be rude to you and you deflected the tension, you can use that same skill and trust it with a rude questioner.
- If you watch TV or listen to radio talk shows, the best answers are the 15 second sound bites, not the run-ons. Keep your answers short and move your eyes to the next hand or to another part of the room as you finish your answer. This signifies to the questioner that his time is up and that you aren’t interested in a follow up. If he/she insists, it’s pretty easy to say, “Let’s take some others and you and I can chat at the end.”
- Up close and personal contact with the questioner lets the rest of the participants listen in. They feel they’ve had an intimate moment with you, too. That’s a priceless connection for referrals and future work.
Finally, Q&A shows your audience you are a master of fast thinking. You can also use your answers for humor opps. The laughter resides in your interchanges with the participants. That laughter is their personal memory stick. You just built in RETAINability and the possibility that the group will ask for you again.
Turn Presentation Questions into Action
I think the benefits of Q&A outweigh all the risks. You WILL get through a tough spot. Look how many you’ve wiggled out of in your lifetime already!!!
Of course, this is all dependent on your knowing your material cold and being able to say “I’ll look into that for you” when you don’t know an answer. Go for it!
BTW, I was a street reporter on TV and an anchor for almost 30 years, so I confess I have had lots of time to practice getting comfortable with the unexpected!
If this were a list of the human race’s greatest fears, public speaking would be right at the top. Whether it’s forgetting your lines or realizing you have a tail of toilet paper hanging out of your pants, fear of public speaking really boils down to fear of being ridiculed, rejected, and publicly humiliated. But don’t worry — with the following 18 tips, you’ll be fine!
Most people know the basic tips of public speaking…Don’t face the audience, maintain good eye contact, practice. But those basics will only go so far.
Here are some lesser-known “nuts-and-bolts” of presenting advice beyond the basics.
I teach a full-day Presentation Skills course for the British Library, among others, and I recently sought feedback on it from someone I trust. The thing he wanted more on – and it was one of those ‘it’s obvious now they say it’ moments – was presenting itself, the process of it, rather than just preparing the materials. There was indeed a section on this in the training but it wasn’t very long, so in order to improve the course I’ve read up on it a bit more; I learned a lot of useful things (and had others I already knew better articulated to me) so I thought I’d share some of them here.
1. It’s better to know the subject than the presentation.
Learning anything from memory is really hard. But so is looking at notes, or reading presentations out from a script. If I try and learn a presentation I get worried – I’m aiming for something so specific, there’s a feeling of pressure around getting it right, and a feeling that if I forget something the whole house of cards will fall apart.
I prefer to only speak about stuff I know a bit about, and just use the slides to reinforce key points and basically prompt me to talk about certain aspects of a topic, as appropriate to that particular audience. This is much more relaxing than worrying about remembering particular phrases etc. It also means you’re more flexible – things can even be tackled in a different order based on what the audience wants, for example. In short, you can’t be derailed because you’re not on rails. That’s a very reassuring feeling.
2. Imagine your audience leaving the room (after your talk!).
It’s often very hard to know where to start when creating a presentation – the default position is ‘what do I know about this subject?’ but actually that’s the wrong way around most of the time. The more pertinent question is ‘What do the audience want from this subject?’ – if you imagine your audience leaving the room after you’ve spoken, what have they learned, what do they know now, what did they get out of it? Think about what is important to them in that moment, and build the presentation from there – if necessary going and doing more research beforehand, so you can talk more authoritatively about what matters to them.
3. The rule of three (there might be something in it)
I’ve heard many times now that we remember things most easily in groups of three. There’s a lot of it about – 3 act plays, stories with a beginning, a middle and an end etc. Presentations-wise, it’s relevant because the audience will likely only remember 3 things from your presentation, so you need to make sure these are the most important three! If you’re completely stuck for a structure, try the 3:3:3 method – three main parts of your presentation, each divided into three sub-sections, and if necessary each of those subsections divided into three as well.
4. Store your presentation in the cloud.
Of course every presenter takes their presentation along on a USB stick but USB sticks do break sometimes, and they’re small and easily lost. So a sensible back-up plan is to store your presentation in the Cloud, and of course the easiest way to store your presentation in the cloud is to email it to yourself. (Then it’s backed up twice! Once in your inbox, once in your sent box. )
5. Have a one-page cheat sheet.
Part of presenting well is being relaxed, and a lot of being relaxed (for me, certainly) is knowing exactly what you’re doing with the logistics of the day. So make a one page document with EVERYTHING you need to know in it: presentation start time, room number, directions to the venue, contact name and details, train self-ticket machine reference number, etc. – print it out and carry it with you, and email it to yourself so you can check it on your phone. You’re much more likely to arrive relaxed, on time, and focused.
6. Look everyone in the eye, then pick your favorites to come back to.
This is particularly useful for nervous speakers. Public speaking is about communication, and communication is better with eye contact. So I will try to literally look every member of the audience in the eye at least once, at least as far as I reasonably can. (After 5 rows or so, it’s hard to be specific.) During this time, I’ll notice a few people who are particularly receptive – they’re nodding emphatically, or smiling at what I’m saying – and I’ll come back to them throughout the talk, as a form of encouragement…
I don’t get nervous anymore, but even as a non-nervous person I like to see people on my side. (The flip-side of this idea is to work on the more indifferent members of the audience – or even hostile, but that doesn’t come up too often in our industry, thankfully – by focusing more explicitly on them.)
7. Remember if people are looking down at a screen and typing, it’s a compliment.
I can imagine that it can be disconcerting if you’re not a Twitter user, and you see people looking down at their phones rather than up at you. It must feel like kids ignoring what you’re saying and texting their friends. But it’s a good thing! They’re sufficiently invested in what you’re saying that they want to broadcast it to their network on Twitter – it’s also a way for them to make notes at the same time. And of course, that means your words are reaching a bigger audience, which is excellent.
8. Have a Plan B for your intro and your outro.
It sounds obvious but knowing what your opening line is going to be is quite important. Sometimes people decide to with something like ‘Hello everyone, my name is Ned, I’m from York’ but then the person introducing them says ‘This is Ned, he’s from York’ so you really can’t use that one… So know what you’ll say if your planned opener is ruled out for whatever reason. The same goes with the closer – if it’s covered in the questions for example, or if you finish surprisingly early and need some more material to call upon, have a relevant topic in mind in advance.
9. Listen very carefully, an introvert will say this only once…
Lots of people reading this will be introverts; I’m one, certainly. A characteristic we share is only saying stuff once – if it’s said, it’s done with, we don’t want to say it again. I feel embarrassed telling a story to someone if I know I’ve told it to someone else, even if the two people are completely unconnected! But in presentations we have to fight that instinct, and make sure we say the really important stuff (main arguments, big statements, statistics, quotes) at least twice; perhaps in different ways but at least twice nevertheless.
10. Think in tweetbites.
You thought it was enough to think in memorable soundbites! Not anymore. For the maximum impact, your most important statements needs to be tweetable so that your presentation is amplified beyond the walls of the room you’re in. You’ve put hours of work into it, so why not double, triple or otherwise exponentially increase the audience for your key messages? Think in quotable, tweetable chunks (as long as that’s not actually to the detriment of your presentation, of course…).