Sunday, September 28, 2008

12 Tips for Creating Better Presentations

You have a presentation to create. It's important. But, formatting diagrams can take forever and the text on your slides seems to have a mind of its own. Then, there's the sad fact that everybody's PowerPoint presentations look the same.
Sound about right? If so, I've got good news for you! Creating professional, unique presentations can be much easier than you might think.
This article will help you find the right tools to get exactly the presentation you want. We'll look at three components of creating effective presentations, and provide timesaving tips to help send your presentation off in style.
On This Page

Clearly Communicate Your Information

Grab the Viewer's Attention

Stay in Control of Your Presentations

Clearly Communicate Your Information
Want slides that clearly communicate your most important points? You might be surprised at how little work it takes to go from basic to brilliant! PowerPoint provides a host of tools for keeping your slides consistent, precise, and professional.
Take a look at two versions of a basic bulleted text slide below. The text in both slides is identical. Which would you prefer to present?

It took just a couple of shapes and a bit of editing in the Slide Master to go from the slide on the left to the slide on the right.
Here are 4 ways to let Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2003 help you clearly communicate your information:
1. Set up and use AutoLayouts. In PowerPoint 2003, you can select from over two dozen available layouts with a single click. Just open the Slide Layout task pane to view and access layouts for text and a variety of content. To open this task pane, on the Format menu click Slide Layout.
You can also customize the positioning and appearance of all layouts at once, using the Slide Master. On the Slide Master, make a variety of formatting changes just once to affect all slides in your presentation.
To access the Slide Master, on the View menu select Master and then click Slide Master. Once in Slide Master view, you can reformat the font, bullets, and even the line spacing of text. (These options are all available in the Format menu.) Or, alter the size and positioning of AutoLayout areas—the areas of the master that control slide layouts for the active presentation. Learn more about the Slide Master.
Get more tips for using masters in the Stay in Control of Your Presentations section of this article.
2. Turn off (or manage) AutoCorrect layout options. PowerPoint 2003 provides several automatic formatting options to help your slides conform to the provided layouts. They can be big timesavers, but they can also be frustrating if you're not using them intentionally. If you don't want your bulleted text to shrink automatically in order to fit content, or the positioning of pasted objects to change automatically, you can easily turn off these features.
To turn off any AutoFormat options, on the Tools menu click AutoCorrect Options. Then, select the AutoFormat As You Type tab of that dialog box.

The bottom three options on the AutoFormat As You Type tab of the AutoCorrect dialog box control automatic formatting behavior for layouts.
3. Start by outlining your presentation in Word. Take time to outline your presentation before creating slides. Doing so can save time and help you give a more clear and effective presentation.
Try setting up your outline in Word, using paragraph styles Heading 1 through Heading 9. When you use those styles for your outline, you can create PowerPoint slides in just a click. Learn to create PowerPoint slides from a Word outline.

4. Consider differences for print vs. screen presentations. Presentations designed to be viewed on screen don't always work well when you print them. Dark backgrounds that look good on slides, for example, rarely print well. Similarly, footer content that you need in print is likely to be distracting on-screen. Fortunately, PowerPoint makes it easy to switch between print and screen presentation designs. Here are two features that can help:
• PowerPoint provides color schemes that apply to different slide elements (such as text, lines, and object fills). You can format slides for print using one color scheme, then just click to apply a different scheme for on-screen use. All slide elements formatted with scheme colors will automatically swap to take on the new scheme. Learn more about using and customizing color schemes.

• Showing, hiding, and customizing header and footer content in PowerPoint can be a snap. Learn how to create and manage headers and footers.

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Grab the Viewer's Attention
The Microsoft Office Clip Art gallery offers a huge range of images. These can be great for many uses, but they might not be the most sophisticated way to emphasize your important idea.
Creating slides that get the viewer's attention is not about which pictures to include. It's about using the space on your slides effectively. Don't crowd your slides, and only include elements that contribute to the points you want to make. When you use graphics on a slide, choose images that serve a purpose (such as a chart or diagram that displays a direct benefit of your idea). Compare the two marketing slides below, for example.

The simple column chart in the slide on the right replaces two paragraphs of text, and makes a much stronger impression. Coordinating the chart colors with the slide design was automatic.
Check out 4 ways to help grab and keep your viewer's attention.
1. Use sound recordings when sending a presentation electronically. A clean slide that emphasizes key points is more effective than a slide that contains every word you intend to say. But, what do you do if you're sending your presentation electronically? Consider recording narration to accompany your slides.
• To record narration for a presentation, on the Slide Show menu click Record Narration.
• To record sound for a single slide, on the Insert menu select Movies and Sounds and then click Record Sounds.
Learn how to record narration and sounds.

2. Use Notes and Handouts to help you stay on track or to create quick and easy leave-behinds for your viewers. Use the Notes pane that appears below the slide in Normal view to write notes to yourself for your presentation, or to create notes that you can print for your viewers. You can also format and print handouts that contain up to nine slides per page.
Learn to create Notes pages and Handouts.

3. Create charts and diagrams that emphasize your key points. To chart data in PowerPoint, start by clicking the Insert Chart icon on any Content slide layout, as show here:

The Insert Chart icon is circled in red.
• When you click the Insert Chart icon, you'll get a default chart that's a snap to customize and a data worksheet that's easy to edit. Visit my blog to learn about charting data in PowerPoint.

• The Insert Diagram or Organization Chart tool (available from the Drawing toolbar) is a nice way to create quick and easy flowcharts. However, I find that using AutoShapes to create any type of diagram or flowchart can provide much more flexibility without much more work. See the Stay in Control of Your Presentations section of this article below for information on the available tools for creating flawless presentation graphics.

4. Use animation and slide transitions consistently and sparingly. Having text and graphics appear on-screen just when you need them can be a nice touch. However, using too much animation can distract from your presentation's content.
• For effects that emphasize without overwhelming, limit animation to key points and use consistent animation choices throughout the presentation. Open the Custom Animation task pane (available on the Slide Show menu) to apply and manage animation. Learn to use Custom Animation.

• Subtle and consistent slide transitions can also provide a professional touch without being distracting. Use the Slide Transition task pane (available from the Slide Show menu) to format and apply slide transitions. Learn about using slide transitions and timings.

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Stay in Control of Your Presentations
Custom colors, layouts, and graphics can do a lot for your presentation. But a misaligned flowchart, or a presentation that crashes on your client's computer, isn't likely to make the impression you want. For example, take a look at the two organization chart images below. Which would you prefer to call your own?

Nudging and fussing to create the organization chart on the left took about an hour, and it's far from perfect. Using available PowerPoint tools for duplicating and alignment, the chart on the right took just 10 minutes to create.
Here are 4 ways to keep your presentations both great-looking and easy-to-manage.
1. Keep file size manageable. A common cause of stress with PowerPoint presentations is that the file size becomes too large to edit or to run presentation smoothly. Fortunately, this problem is easy to avoid by using smaller picture file types, compressing pictures, and using native PowerPoint features whenever possible (such as tables, charts, and AutoShapes) instead of embedding and importing objects.
Visit my blog to learn more about options for reducing picture file size.

2. Use the available tools for creating perfect diagrams. One of the nicest things about PowerPoint is that getting something perfect is easier than getting it close.
• Instead of nudging objects until your eyes get tired, use the Align Or Distribute tools. They can help you perfectly align and evenly distribute objects in a click. To access these tools, select Align or Distribute from the Draw menu, which is available on the Drawing toolbar.
• You can also use Guides to align and space objects. Guides can help you measure distance and keep positioning of elements consistent across multiple slides. To see your Guides, on the View Menu select Grid and Guides. Then, in the Grid and Guides dialog box, select Display drawing guides on screen.
Learn more about alignment and distribution options for PowerPoint objects.

• Zooming in on an object in PowerPoint can greatly increase the accuracy of what you see. To do this without trial and error, just select the object before changing the Zoom setting on the Standard toolbar.
Visit my blog for more tips on creating beautiful, flawless diagrams.

3. Know exactly what the recipient of your presentation will see. If you're sending a presentation by e-mail, try saving the presentation as a Slide Show so that it automatically opens for the recipient in slide show view. To do this, on the File menu click Save As. In the Save As dialog box, select PowerPoint Show (.pps) from the Save As Type dropdown list, as you see here:

This screenshot shows how to use save your presentation as a slide show.
If you're sending a presentation on CD, the Package for CD feature in PowerPoint 2003 is a great time and stress-saver. This feature will set up your presentation (including linked files) on a CD so that the slide show will run correctly for any recipient. It even adds a PowerPoint viewer so that the recipient's computer doesn't need PowerPoint to run the show. Learn more about Package for CD.

4. Use Masters for consistency and to save time. In addition to customizing elements of slide layouts (as discussed earlier in this article), you can use the masters to save time and keep slides consistent by adding graphics and formatting just once for all slides.
• Place graphics (such as your logo) on the Slide Master, so that they automatically appear on all slides. Note that, when graphics appear on the master, you can still hide them for just certain slides. To hide graphics for an active or selected slide, on the Format menu click Background. Then, in the Background dialog box, select Omit background graphics from master.
• You can add a Title Master to use different formatting and graphics on title slides from other slides in your presentation. To do this, switch to Slide Master View. Then, select New Title Master from the Insert menu.
• While a great new feature in PowerPoint enables you to create multiple slide masters for a single presentation, use this feature carefully. Keep in mind that the purpose of a master is to help keep your slides consistent

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