Archives for December 2012

Survival Skills for Overcoming Death by PowerPoint!

Professionals are expected to create and deliver effective and engaging PowerPoint presentations on a daily basis, but often they Screenshot 2014-07-28 15.21.27lack a background in design and are not sure how to get started. The end result is often “death by PowerPoint” as most people who give presentations craft their messages upside-down. They start with themselves instead of focusing on their audiences. This can be brutal with a craft practiced so publicly.

Join PowerPoint guru Rick Altman as he shares his best survival skills on how to build a solid structure and create engagement for every PowerPoint presentation. Discover how to craft and intertwine what you say with what you show in your slides and what you give as handouts. Learn how to survive the “Cram in everything” obsession, animation embarrassment and more. Harness the power of technology to create intelligent presentations that deliver the punch you are looking for.


About Rick Altman:

Rick-AltmanRick Altman is one of the most prominent commentators in the presentation community today. He is the author of 15 books. He is the host of the Presentation Summit, the internationally-acclaimed learning event for presentation professionals ( An avid sportsman, he was not a good enough tennis player to make it onto the professional tour. All the rest of this has been his Plan B.


The Most Valuable PowerPoint Feature You’re Not Using

By Rick Altman

The best-kept secret of modern versions of PowerPoint? That’s a no-brainer, as I experience it almost every time I interact with users. When I am brought into an organization to consult on presentation skills, most in the room don’t know about it. When I give webinars, I can practically hear their oohs and aahs when I show it.

And at the Presentation Summit conference, where 200 of the most earnest and passionate presentation professionals gather each year, I routinely get many dozens of users in a room producing a collective gasp.

I refer to the Selection and Visibility Pane, introduced in PowerPoint 2007 and largely overlooked by most users of 2007 and 2010. I attribute this to two things: 1) This function doesn’t actually create anything; and 2) With lower-resolution displays, the icon shrinks to the size of a pinhead and most don’t even see it.

Let’s reverse this discouraging trend right now, shall we? The S&V task pane addresses several of the most frustrating aspects of the software over the last decade. It deserves your undying love and devotion. Here are three big reasons why.

Select Objects on a Crowded Slide

The simplest virtue of S&V is the ease it affords you in selecting objects that are hard to reach with a mouse or even invisible to you. When objects overlap one another, reaching the ones on the bottom of the pile has traditionally required contortions, such as temporarily cutting or moving the ones on top or pressing Tab until you think the selection handles maybe kinda, sorta are around the desired object.

Those headaches are all in your rearview mirror now, as Figure 1 shows.

Figure 1


With S&V, you can select objects by clicking on their names in the task pane, bringing much-needed sanity to what should be a menial task. Once selected, you can do anything to an object that you otherwise would have. As I said earlier, this pane doesn’t really do anything except make it easier for you to do what you want.

Rename Objects

Figure 1 might look unusual to you because you had never laid eyes on S&V before, but there is another cause for a raised eyebrow: Circle in the front? Circle in the back? Where did those names come from? Most of you know what kind of names PowerPoint assigns to objects because you have been scratching your heads over them for the better part of a decade.

Rectangle 23
TextBox 9
AutoShape 34

Historically, PowerPoint has been maddeningly obtuse in its naming scheme and you’ve never been able to do anything about it except curse. But with S&V, you can assign names to your objects that actually make sense. You’d probably do better than Circle in the Middle, and that’s the point: you get to decide what to call your objects.

Renaming objects becomes more than just a cute screenshot opportunity when you have complex animation to create. PowerPoint’s obtuse object names are duplicated in the Animation task pane and with ambitious animation needs, you could find yourself drowning in a sea of obtusity.

With Rectangle 23, 24, and 25, which one enters first, which one moves to the center of the slide, and which one fades away? Arrghh!

Thanks to S&V, you can do much better. You can name objects according to their appearance or purpose and have a much easier time creating animations for them.

Case in Point: Solavie, the skin care product that offers formulations for six different earthly environments. To highlight these formulations, the six icons in the lower-right corner move and morph into the six photos across the top, after which each string of text cascades in. So lots of identical shapes doing similar things, one after the other – imagine pulling that off with typical PowerPoint names.

But Figure 2  shows how powerful object renaming can be. Each object is named according to its environment type, making the animation process orders of magnitude easier.

Figure 2

Hide and Unhide

Sometimes it is not enough to be able to name objects. Sometimes you just have to get them the heck out of the way. When you are working on the final parts of a 45-second animation, it becomes incredibly tedious to have to start from the beginning each time you want to test it. You need to be able to start from the middle or near the end.

Prior to S&V, if you needed to temporarily remove an object, you had to cut objects to the Clipboard and work quickly before you accidentally send something else there. Or work up some bizarre strategy of duplicating a slide, doing your business there, then moving those objects back to the original slide.

Now we have an elegant and simple solution: make an object invisible. Figure 3  shows the beauty and the genius of hiding objects, as the tail end of the Solavie animation gets the attention that it deserves. As you can see, when you hide an object, it leaves the animation stream, making late-stage testing a piece of cake. Here, just the final two environment types are still visible. The earlier four are still there, just temporarily hidden.

Figure 3


Selection & Visibility lives on the Home ribbon in the Editing group. PowerPoint ribbons have a bad habit of changing right when you might want something on them, and that contributes to the anonymity of a small icon that is there one minute and gone the next.

Indeed, there is no way to predict when you might want to use S&V. Creating, inserting, designing, animating – using S&V cuts across all contexts of PowerPoint operation. So it’s helpful to know about its keyboard shortcut of Alt+F10. There’s no mnemonic that you can apply to that shortcut – it’s as easy to forget as the function it belongs to.

So you just have to commit it to memory. When you’re in the throws of creation, just press Alt+F10. Pretty good chance that little task pane will come in handy.

About the Author:

Rick Altman has been hired by hundreds of companies, listened to by tens of thousands of professionals, and read by millions of people, all of whom seek better results with their presentation content and delivery. He is host of the acclaimed Presentation Summit conference and is author of the book, Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck & How You Can Make Them Better. For more information, visit


10 Ways to Keep Audience Attention in Webinars

By Roger Courville
The science of studying multitasking is young, and as researcher Eyal Ophir points out, it’s a zero-sum game of task switching. Presenters in webinars, webcasts, and virtual classrooms often don’t care about the science – they “get” that it’s a challenge to them landing their message. Knowing that this is a problem for at least some portion of our audience, let’s look at the nine factors of attention outlined in Principles and Types of Public Speaking, a college textbook I discovered long after I was out of college.


As psychology professor Daniel Willingham put it simply, “Change gets attention.” Whether you use animation, use a pointer or drawing tool or change slides more quickly, one thing is for sure…attendees are still a click away from email and you need to be hyper cognizant as you design and deliver presentations.


We all have an interest in concrete reality. Avoid the abstruse and abstract thoughts in favor of pragmatic, use-it-now content.


As Tip O’Neill once quipped, “All politics is local.” In a webinar there may not be a local connection in terms of locale, but that doesn’t mean you can’t “bring it home” with reference to something that is pertinent to attendees such as their department, their industry or their common challenges.


In the face of new or strange ideas, references to the familiar create and sustain attention. Use analogies or metaphors to help attendees embrace what is new by illuminating the ideas with the familiar.

One example that I’ve found useful is when teaching virtual classroom or meeting attendees about the context for appropriate usage of private chat. In an in-person environment the experience includes “leaning over to whisper to the person sitting next to you” (not all of which is snarky commentary). Private chat in a virtual classroom may serve the same function (“What page of the workbook did he just refer to?”)


In contrast with familiarity, something new gets attention – especially when it has a familiar ring to it. As one adage goes, “When a dog bites a man, it’s an accident; when a man bites a dog, it’s news.”


Structuring content so it builds to a climax or point of release is a common storytelling tactic. In a webinar, take advantage of the visual nature of the medium to complement this.

One example I use to make this point is to say, “One of the biggest challenges virtual presenters have is that they imagine…” at which point I shut up and switch the slide to an image of a massively multitasking individual.


Controversy compels attention. Don’t underestimate the power of visuals to help your audience more quickly and poignantly not only see, but experience the conflict.


“What about humor in a webinar or webcast?” is a frequently asked question. People certainly do pay attention more effectively when they’re enjoying themselves (though humor isn’t the only way to accomplish this).

Remember that humor is highly contextual, and a webinar increases the likelihood that you’re reaching a diverse audience. Be relevant, appropriate, and QUICK. This isn’t the time for a drawn-out story.

The Vital

People nearly always pay attention to that which affects their own well-being. A well-worn saw is that we all listen to the same radio station…WII FM… “what’s in it for me?”

In a webinar, let ‘em know early and often. Use “call backs” to reference the vital such as, “Remember how Julie mentioned the challenge she’s having? This is how this applies when each of you have that challenge.”


Visualization is a function of word choice and, if you put your designer hat on, your slides.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is dang near a cliche, but it’s also true.

Ideally visuals have three qualities: they’re understandable, they’re memorable and they’re persuasive.

About the Author:

Roger Courville runs the Virtual Presenter website and is  author of The Virtual Presenter’s Handbook and  Successful Webinars with GoToWebinar. He is the principal at 1080 Group and is an internationally sought-after expert on the human factors of communications that use web, audio and video conferencing.

The Delicate Art of Presenting to the CEO

By Sue Hershkowitz-Coore

The CEO agreed to see me for 15 minutes. I’ve had good byes that last longer than that but I was still thrilled.  I was getting a one-to-one. But what could I say (in 15 minutes, no less) that would not only create a great impression but would persuade him to want to further engage my services?

What Not to Do

I worked on a slide deck showing what we had accomplished with his team so far. I don’t use bullets in my deck so I created a  flourish of fabulous photos to demonstrate his company’s success. It was a strong deck and if I was making a one hour presentation to a group of department heads — and I used the 15 minute deck to kick off the discussion — it would have been perfect.

But I wasn’t talking to managers; I was talking to “the man” and I was guessing that he didn’t want to see my fancy photos or even be talked to. Scratch the deck.

What to Do

I decided that the only thing that was important to him was future success. Instead of regaling him with what we had accomplished (truly, if he hadn’t thought I had value, he wouldn’t be seeing me — the same is true for you, too), I tucked my computer away, prepared to talk about any of the past details but more determined just to hear what he had to say and what vision he had for me.

There were two other things that I considered before walking in.

1. The CEO is no different from anyone else who holds a job. He is fearful. He is fearful of the same things that I’m frightened of (except maybe much more so). He doesn’t want to:

a) Fail, personally or organizationally
b) Be embarrassed (see above) or
c) Make bad choices (above again)

2. He wants what every sales person wants. He looks for ways to:

–Sell more, more easily, at a better margin
–Make customers happy, happier, happiest
–Beat out the competition in everything – including their existing customers

I walked in, thanked him for his time, and spoke my truth: I have a slide deck prepared to show you what we’ve accomplished. But with the 15 minutes that we have together, it may be a more valuable use of your time if I can learn from you. Where would you like to go with this initiative?

Then I shut up.

And for the next 12 minutes, he talked about ideas to grow the project.

I recapped, thanked him for his time, and told him he could count on me to work with his team to get it done.

Sell Better by Selling Less

If you are trying to persuade your own C-level to buy into an idea you have, make sure you’re fully prepared. But also:

•State your purpose, your project goal (be specific!) and ask how that relates to the future s/he envisions for the company.

•Then, speak your truth – the question you truly are wondering about. Ask: Does this align with your plans to take this company into the next decade? Is this goal the right priority? Am I headed in the right direction? Would it be helpful if I provided background on my thinking?

What would be most helpful at this point… may I ask your initial thoughts or would you prefer to see a few minutes of the deck I’ve prepared?

•Be quick! Create the deck to help solidify the ideas in your mind – not expand them. Someone once said, If your idea doesn’t fit on the back of your business card, you don’t have an idea.

•Spend as much time thinking about the questions you’ll ask as you do on creating the perfect PowerPoint deck.

People, including C-levels, tell us everything we need to know if we just ask.

About the Author:

Sue Hershkowitz-Coore is a corporate consultant, communications specialist and internationally recognized professional speaker. For more information, visit


Make Life Easier with 3 Changes to PowerPoint’s Options dialog box

By Ellen Finkelstein
I’m starting to use the upcoming PowerPoint 2013 quite a bit and doing so has reminded me of some of the default PowerPoint settings that I hate. Here are three simple changes you can make that I think will make you a happier PowerPoint user. They apply to PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 as well.

No, you don’t want to automatically select the entire word!

Have you had the experience of trying to select a few characters in a word to change them? You drag across those letters, but PowerPoint jumps to select the entire word. But you don’t want to select the entire word! (This happens in Microsoft Word, too.) Grrrr! To be more specific, this behavior happens after you select one word, then as you move the mouse to select additional letters, PowerPoint selects the full preceding or following word; you cannot easily select individual letter of the words.

If you want more control, here are the steps to take:

  1. Choose File> Options. (In PowerPoint 2007, choose Office button> PowerPoint Options.)
  2. In the PowerPoint Options dialog box, click the Advanced category.
  3. Uncheck the “When Selecting, Automatically Select Entire Word” check box.
  4. Click OK.

No, you don’t want PowerPoint to change the size of your text!

Let’s say that you choose a theme or format a Slide Master for a slide title of 36 points. You choose that size because you like how it fits on your slide. Then, you type a long title and PowerPoint decides to make the text smaller to fit the title placeholder. All of a sudden, you have slide titles of different sizes and as you go from slide to slide, you don’t know what you’ll get. It looks very inconsistent.

The same automatic resizing can happen in the body text placeholder.

Here are the steps to stop PowerPoint from resizing your text:

  1. Choose File> Options. (In PowerPoint 2007, choose Office button> PowerPoint Options.)
  2. Click the Proofing category.
  3. Click the AutoCorrect Options button.
  4. Choose the AutoFormat as You Type tab.
  5. Uncheck the last 2 options on the tab: Autofit Title/Body Text to Placeholder
  6. Click OK twice.


So what do you do when you have a longer title or your text doesn’t fit? Here are some ideas:

  1. Edit your text so that it’s shorter.
  2. Expand the size of the placeholder slightly.
  3. Reduce the placeholder’s internal margin. I explain how here.

Of course, you can manually reduce the size of the font; sometimes you have to. But reducing the font size should be a last resort, so you shouldn’t let PowerPoint do it automatically.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a noted presentation design consultant, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP and a multi-published author in the presentations field. For more information, visit

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