Archives for March 2014

Which Layout Am I Using? Good Question!

With little doubt, the single most significant improvement that came to PowerPoint in version 2007 was the redesigning, revamping, and rebuilding of the slide master/slide layout relationship. An awkward and unintuitive mash-up of functions in prior version, now the engine is easier to use and much more powerful.

While there are various idiosyncrasies with the slide master engine, and as with all current software it remains a work in progress, there is one pet peeve that has especially annoyed me. I routinely caution my clients and workshop audiences against “thinking like a version 2003 user” — in other words, not taking advantage of the power of multiple layouts and custom placeholders. How ironic that Microsoft itself is guilty of old-style thinking with its UI design.

Enter Exhibit A, the version 2010 interface with a standard slide deck open. Note the yellow arrow pointing to a decades-old part of the Status bar. It is telling you which Slide Master is in use, in this case the one designed for the 2013 Presentation Summit.

Just what layout is this? It's not so easy to tell because Microsoft seemed to forget about this UI relic.

Just what layout is this? It’s not so easy to tell
because Microsoft seemed to forget about this UI relic.

That was once a valuable piece of information; today, it is nearly useless. In the days of old, the only way to craft different slide designs was to create second, third, and fourth slide masters. While a bit awkward to implement, we were grateful for any way to create design modifications to a template. In those instances, it was tremendously helpful, perhaps imperative, to have immediate visual confirmation of the slide master being applied to the current slide.

But today, 95% of the decks we create contain just one slide master, and most of the time, we don’t even bother to change its name from the clunky “Office Theme” default. Seasoned users know that the real power lies with the layouts; they are how we create the actual look and feel of our presentation work.  We don’t care which slide master is in use by a slide; we want to know which layout has been applied.

But this artifact on the Status Bar was never updated from version 2003 — it continues to provide us with information about which we could hardly care less. At a minimum, I expected to be able to right-click it and direct it to show us something else, but it ignores all mouse clicks, left or right.

The only way to find the name of the current layout is to right-click on the slide or the slide thumbnail, choose Layout, and then look for the layout thumbnail with orange highlighting. That fails my litmus test for ready access to important information.

The only evolution that this Status Bar component has seen is that version 2013 removed it entirely. That is both ironic and depressing, as keeping users informed about which layouts are used by which slides is valuable and helpful.

Solving the Problem

So you need to solve this problem yourself, and here’s how:

1. Enter Slide Master view and select the first layout, probably your title layout.

2. Select the Text tool and create a text box that is off the slide. The text need not be larger than about 12pt, any typeface, and black is probably fine.

3. Whatever name you assigned to the layout, type into this text box.

4. Copy that box to the Clipboard, move to the next layout, and paste.

5. Change the name to match the current layout. Shown below is my “alternate” layout, which I use when I want to place title and content on the same horizontal position. Without any text, it might look the same as my standard layout or one with just a title, so knowing which layout is current is vital.

With a simple text box, you can create your own Layout indicator.

With a simple text box, you can create your own Layout indicator.

As it is off the slide, your little text box will never appear when you are running a slide show; you will only see it when working on the slide. Not only have you solved a dilemma, you have actually built a better mousetrap. With this little text box, you have created a better display than the one in the Status Bar, because it is right at eye level and in line with your active focus.

No template leaves our offices these days without this little addition to the layouts and when I show this tiplet at the annual conference, it regularly gets oohs and ahhs, even though it’s the dumbest little thing.

This workaround shouldn’t be necessary — the PowerPoint development team should have thought this through and realized that knowing the current layout is more important than knowing the current slide master. That said, I am grateful that the solution is relatively painless.

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 annual Presentation Summit conference, set this year for Oct 12-15 in San Diego, and author of the book Why Most PowerPoint Presentations Suck & How You Can Make Them Better.  For more information about his company visit

The Two-Minute $250,000 Presentation

Could you persuade someone to donate a quarter of a million dollars in 120 seconds?

Last year one of our clients was in this situation. He shared his story with me last week while I was leading a workshop for his nonprofit staff. Here’s the backstory. The nonprofit director was rejected multiple times by this prospective donor, a local senior business executive. Not just rejected, but he was told very frankly by the executive that meeting was a waste of time.

With persistence, the nonprofit director sent out a final Hail Mary:

“Give me 15 minutes of your time. The first 10 minutes you can tell me all the reasons you don’t want to donate and the last 5 minutes I get to share with you what we’re all about.”

Miracle number one: A meeting was scheduled.

When the time came, the executive shared his disdain for nonprofits that don’t actually fix problems — organizations that don’t offer holistic long-term solutions. The nonprofit director sat respectfully, honoring his commitment to listen for 10 minutes.

But 10 turned into 13 and now he only had 2 minutes – 120 seconds – to make his case.

In those 120 seconds he passionately talked about how the nonprofit met the gritty, deep and complex needs of the homeless. Shelter, food, mentoring, resources for addicts, long-term housing, training…

So let me ask you the quarter-million dollar question: How well can you articulate your own value?

To the prospective client that’s been in the pipeline for years? To the venture capitalists  in your final round of crowd funding for your new business? To your manager, or their manager, or their manager? Maybe you’re not raising funds. Maybe it’s a new idea, a new product, or a potential partnership.

Could you effectively persuade them in 120 seconds?

Here’s the two-minute game plan:

1. Clearly articulate your value.

How is your solution fixing a problem or filling a need?

2. Clearly articulate how your solution is better than others.

Differentiate yourself from competitors! Know why you’re the better solution.

3. Be passionate.

Your audience is perceptive. If you lack conviction and passion, they will too.

And in 120 seconds, miracle number two happened.

The demeanor of the executive changed. His skepticism faded, his expression warmed, and he thanked the nonprofit director for coming.

Weeks later they got a check for $250,000. Miracle number three.

Truth is, these aren’t really miracles. The nonprofit director’s persistence, passion, and ability to articulate the value of his organization sealed the deal.

About the Author:

Amy Wolff is a coach and trainer with Distinction Communication Inc, a Newberg, OR consulting firm specializing in message development, presentation design and delivery skills coaching. For more information about the company, visit

How to Play Vimeo and YouTube Videos from PowerPoint Slides

When considering use of videos on YouTube or in your PowerPoint presentations, they can be used if the owner permits use for presentations and public viewing. Some videos have a download link that allows you to download the video as a file to your computer; YouTube videos don’t have a dedicated download link.

The method I describe here creates a hyperlink from an image on your PowerPoint slide that starts playing the video in a full browser window on top of the presentation. When the browser is closed after the video finishes, the PowerPoint presentation continues.

Advantages of this method:

  • Does not require a video file to be downloaded or captured
  • Allows video to be at as high a resolution as the owner uploaded it (some people only download at lower resolutions)
  • Easy for even inexperienced presenters to use
  • Smaller file size since no embedded video
  • Don’t need to worry about broken video file links
  • Doesn’t rely on specific codecs of video files; if it plays in a browser, it will play during the presentation
  • Works when you send the PowerPoint file to others since the video is not a linked file
  • Works on both Windows and Mac platforms
  • Works on all versions of PowerPoint

Disadvantages of this method:

  • Requires an internet connection during the presentation fast enough to stream video from or
  • Viewers see browser toolbars & other parts of the browser
  • Viewers see the operating system task bar
  • May see ads on videos if the service allows them on that video
  • May see suggested videos after your video finishes playing
  • May take a few seconds for the video to start playing as the service buffers the video
  • Video may pause if the network is overloaded or the Internet is slow

Here are the steps to link to the video from a PowerPoint slide and have it play when the link is activated.

Step 1: Go to the web page on or with the video you want to insert


Step 2: Take a screen capture of the video page (use PrtScrn in Windows or Cmd+Shift+3 in Mac). Insert the screen capture on your slide. Crop the screen capture so just the video frame is shown. Make the image as large as you want on the slide. Add text to give credit to the owner of the video.


Step 3: Select the image and add a hyperlink to the image.

For videos on The hyperlink web address is<vidnum>?autoplay=1 (where <vidnum> is the video number on vimeo.) You can find this number by clicking on the Share button on the vimeo video page. It is after the “”.

This link, when activated, will open a browser window and start playing the video in the full browser window.



For videos on The hyperlink web address is<vidcode>?autoplay=1 (where <vidcode> is the video code on youtube.) You can find this code by clicking on the “Share this video” link on the youtube video page. It is after the “”. This link, when activated, will open a browser window and start playing the video in the full browser window.



Step 4: Playing the video in the presentation

Before starting the presentation, open your default browser and make it full screen. Test that you can access a website so you know the Internet connection is working. Close your browser so it will open full screen when opened with the hyperlink.

In Slide Show mode, to play the video, activate the hyperlink on the image by clicking on it with your mouse or by pressing Tab, then Enter. The browser will open on top of the presentation and the video will start playing full sized in the browser. (If you double-click on the image, you may start the video playing behind the PowerPoint presentation. If this happens, use Alt+Tab in Windows to switch the active application to the browser window with the video.)

If you want to remove the browser scroll bars and toolbars, you can press F11 in Internet Explorer or Chrome. The only way to remove the task bar at the bottom of the screen is to set it to automatically hide itself in the operating system.

When the video has finished playing, close the browser using the red X or using Alt+F4 in Windows. You will return to the slide that started the video. You are now back in the presentation.

Note: This method uses the embed code provided by and at the time this article was written in February 2014. The sites may change these codes at any time, which may break this method. This method may work in other presentation software, but has only been tested in PowerPoint.

For those who don’t mind getting a little more technical with PowerPoint, John Wilson has this tutorial on how to embed a video from Vimeo or YouTube into a slide as a Flash object.

Editor’s Note:  Join Dave Paradi for a focused, hands-on workshop about turning financial and operational data from Excel into effective visuals for your presentations. Dates for these upcoming workshops are April 10 in Toronto, Ontario and May 7 in Denver, CO. For details and registration visit

About the Author:

Dave Paradi runs the Think Outside the Slide website, is a consultant on high-stakes presentations, the author of seven books and a PowerPoint Most Valuable Professional (MVP.) For more information, visit

Converting 1-on-1 Sales Pitches for Conference Presentations

You have a sales presentation that – despite the fact that it is loaded with bullet points – has been very successful in 1-on-1 meetings with customers. Now you have an invitation to speak at a conference for an audience of more than 100 people for a maximum of 20 minutes. What next? Here is a recipe.

1) Trim down the content. In the conference audience are competitors, analysts, journalists, all kind of people that might not be suitable to receive the ins and outs you would discuss with a prospective customer. Remember, the object of a conference presentation is not to close a deal, it is to tease people into calling/emailing you to set up a first meeting.

2) Flatten the story. Take out overview/summary slides, and spread them out: one slide covers one bullet. We want a story, not a structured table of contents of a business school text book.

3) Beef up the “problem” section of your presentation to let the audience connect with the issue you are trying to solve. The problem might be totally obvious to you and 60% of the audience. The other 39% is not there yet.

4) Avoid repetition. If you talk early on in the presentation about how highly accurate your product is, group that together with the slide in the back that shows test data confirming accuracy.

5) Find big bold visuals that support your points (one point per slide). Stretch images to a full page size, and cut text.

6) Take out any live demos or demonstrations

7) Use your videos (if you have them), BUT only if you can integrate them seamlessly in your presentation flow. Embed it and test it 300 times to make sure there are no technical glitches. Think where you want to insert the videos. Videos are excellent wake up calls, so anticipate where in your story the audience runs the risk of getting bored.

8) Practice, practice, practice, until you can deliver the whole talk in 15-17 out of the allocated 20 minutes.

Good luck!

About the Author:Jan Schultink is a presentation designer with a decade of experience as a CEO strategy consultant with McKinsey & Company. Besides his design work at Idea Transplant, Jan is CEO of Pitchera, a new web-based presentation app that has set itself the ambition of becoming a “PowerPoint killer.” For more from Jan’s blog, click here.


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