Archives for March 2015

3 Minutes That Can Save You Hours in PowerPoint Design

Investing three minutes in PowerPoint to save 60? Not a bad return on your time, especially when you realize it will pay dividends for years to come when working in the program.

You might do a double take when I say the key is the alignment tool (which doesn’t sound very exciting), because in true Nuts & Bolts fashion, I’m going to show you how to fast track the heck out of it. The set up will take you about 3 minutes.

That will allow you to whip through some of your most repetitive PowerPoint tasks…saving you at least 60 minutes a week.

The Importance of the Alignment Tool

In my mind, the alignment tool is arguably the most important command in all of PowerPoint for two reasons.

Reason #1: It’s one of the most repetitive actions you perform in PowerPoint day-in and day-out, aligning and positioning your objects.

Reason #2: It helps to dramatically improve the professionalism of your slides. Unaligned objects stick out like a sore thumb and often detract from whatever you are saying.

As such, getting a good grip on the alignment tool will not only radically improve your speed and productivity in the program, it will also improve the professionalism of all your presentations.

Investing 3 Minutes to Save 60

To see how to set this up and for a quick demonstration, you can either scroll down the page to see the written tutorial or watch the video at the end of the article.

To learn more about the QAT and why it’s the equivalent of having clap-on business cards, see our post on PowerPoint Best Practices, Customizing Your QAT.

Step #1: Add the Alignment Tool to Your QAT

From the Home tab, open the Arrange Tool drop down, right-click the Alignment Tool and select Add to Quick Access Toolbar.


Step #2: Navigate to More Options

Click the downward facing arrow at the end of your QAT and select More Commands to open the More Commands dialog box.


Step #3: Remove the Default QAT Commands

Within the dialog box, select the default commands on the right side of the dialog box and click remove until only the Align Objects command is there.

If you already have a number of commands on your QAT, you can alternatively just use the up arrow to move the Align Objects (the Alignment Tool) into the first position on your QAT.


With the QAT in position, click OK at the bottom of the dialog box to return to the normal view of your presentation.


Step #4: Navigate the Alignment Tool From Your Keyboard

With the Alignment Tool set, if you now select two or more objects (I’ve selected three rectangles that I want to align to the top), hit and then let go of the ALT key on your keyboard and then Hit 1…you get an alphabetical list of shortcuts for the different alignment tool options, now all conveniently accessible directly from your keyboard.


Using these commands you can:

 Atl, 1, L – Align Left

 Alt, 1, C – Align Center

 Alt, 1, R – Align Right

 Alt, 1, T – Align Top

 Alt, 1, M – Align Middle

 Alt, 1, B – Align Bottom

 Alt, 1, H – Distribute Horizontally

 Alt, 1, V – Distribute Vertically

In my case I will hit T for Top. Hitting ‘T’ the three grey boxes I selected snap into top alignment within my layout.


Watch the Video

So that’s how to set the Alignment Tool on your QAT for rapid fire alignments. To see my YouTube video detailing these steps, click here

About the Author:

Taylor Croonquist is a co-founder of Nuts & Bolts Speed Training, which aims to make working professionals at least 3x faster in PowerPoint. For more information, visit the Nuts and Bolts website

How to Create Great Handouts for Data-Heavy Presentations

Not all presentations can be full of thought-provoking photos. Many times you need to present data — lots of it. While I do think that presenters sometimes dump more than necessary on audiences, consider this scenario that demonstrates how good handouts can save the day.

The Setting

You’re a market research associate. A product marketing manager asks you to research demographics for people in the United States who read email on their phone, tablet, PC and anything else. In other words, something like this:

In the Northeast, how many boys aged 13-17 read email on their phone, tablet, PC other? How many girls? And the same for 18-24, 25-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59 and so on? Similar data must be gathered for other areas of the country.

Let’s say the company wants to create different ads in different markets showing people using their email software. They want models in the ads to be using the device that’s most prevalent for that market. So ads directed towards women in the South who are 30-39 might be different from ads directed towards men on the West coast who are 18-24.

The product marketing manager wants the data, but she also wants you to present it, explain what it means and describe how you gathered it. Several other people from the product group will be there, so it’s a meeting, not just a one-on-one discussion.

The Data

The data is just a big spreadsheet. The spreadsheet is too big to fit on a slide that will be projected on a wall and still be readable. But you want to create slides because you have some conclusions and thoughts to add, and the manager expects you to have those slides for the meeting.

You’re going to have to create printed handouts or electronic handouts that people can view on their own devices, close up. Yes, you’ll have slides, but you’ll supplement them with handouts.

Solution 1: Use Notes pages

You can put some of the data in the Notes pane. (Click the Notes button if you don’t see the pane.) Then you can print the Notes pages either to paper or to a PDF file.

You can put any text you want in the Notes pane, but formatting data is difficult. Using tabs, you can create a table. You can also copy data from Excel and paste it into the Notes pane. Use the Text paste option to keep the table properly formatted.


You can’t put a chart or image in the Notes pane — just text.

Solution 2: Send to Word

For more flexibility, you can create your handout by sending the presentation to Microsoft Word. Follow these steps:

  1. In PowerPoint 2013, choose File, Export, Create Handouts and click the Create Handouts button. In 2010, choose File> Save & Send> Create Handouts> Create Handouts.  In PowerPoint 2007, choose Application button> Publish> Create Handouts in Microsoft Office Word.
  2. In the Send to Microsoft Word dialog box, choose Notes below Slides. That gives you the most room for your data.
  3. Click OK


You can now copy and paste data easily from Excel to Word. The result is a table that you can format as you want. Here I left the default formatting.


Solution 3: Use letter-sized slides

Another solution — one that many people don’t think of — is best for when you won’t be projecting slides at all. It isn’t uncommon for slides to be printed only, never projected. If this situation applies to you, you’ll love this solution — use a letter-sized slide. You’ll get the best results if you don’t change slide size midstream and start with the desired size — but if you already have your smaller slides, go ahead and give it a try.

I wrote about this in another post, “Do you present with printed slides?”

When you are printing your slides, you can make the text smaller, since people are looking at the slides close up. Even so, don’t squeeze too much on a slide; you want people to get your point quickly.

To set the slide size, click the Design tab. In PowerPoint 2013, choose Slide Size, Custom Slide Size. In PowerPoint 2007 or PowerPoint 2010, in the Page Setup group on the left, click Page Setup.

In the Slide Size or Page Setup dialog box, choose Letter Paper from the drop-down list. Then under Orientation, you would usually choose Portrait for the slides. Click OK.


In PowerPoint 2013, if you aren’t starting from scratch, you’ll get an option for how to resize existing content:

  • Maximize: Keeps your content the maximum possible size. In case you’re making your slides smaller, this ensures that they don’t get squished.
  • Ensure Fit: Resizes objects if necessary to fit them on a slide.


When you have a larger slide, you can easily fit more on it — using PowerPoint’s charting tools, table tools, etc.  — without crowding.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein is a PowerPoint MVP who can train you or the presenters in your organization to create high-impact, engaging, professional presentations for training, sales, business, or education. For more information visit her website,


Checking Your Watch Too Often? Add a Countdown Timer to Your Slides

Time is a precious commodity for presenters. But even more precious is the time of your audience, especially when you show them slide after slide beyond your allotted time.

Audiences respect presenters who worry about their time – and there’s every reason for you as a presenter to stay in sync with their time schedules.

That’s not always an easy task. No one likes a presenter who looks at his or her watch frequently. Fortunately presenters are allowed to look at their slides more often than a watch. So why not add some sort of countdown to your slides?

This sort of countdown can be easily created in PowerPoint – but you also can use a video countdown timer that spans across slides. For that reason, your countdown timer needs to be inserted on the first slide.

(Editor’s Note: You also can get countdown timers for 10 and 15 minutes from The timers you need are video files with the MP4 file extension – you’ll find them in the Samples folder of a ZIP file you download. Indezine is giving away one free video countdown timer to PresentationXpert readers so that you can follow the rest of this tutorial – please download from this page.)

These steps work for both PowerPoint 2010 and 2013 for Windows:

1. Open your existing presentation (or create a new one) and navigate to the first slide of your presentation.

2. Now choose the Insert tab of the Ribbon — then click the Video button, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 1. From the drop-down menu that appears, select the Video on my PC in PowerPoint 2013 (or Video from File in PowerPoint 2010) option, as shown highlighted in blue within Figure 1.


Figure 1: Insert the video countdown

3. Within the resultant dialog box, browse to the location where you have the countdown timer video saved, and insert it on the slide. Remember that you can download a free video countdown timer from this page

4. PowerPoint will embed the video within your first slide. Now drag the countdown timer video to a corner so that it doesn’t hide your slide content, and resize the video so that it only shows what you need to see, as shown in Figure 2, below.


Figure 2: Resize and reposition your video countdown

5. Now, select the video so that you can see the contextual Video Tools Playback tab on the Ribbon (see Figure 2, above). Within the Start drop-down list, choose the Automatically option, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 3, below.


Figure 3: Set your video countdown to play automatically

6. Now access the Animations tab of the Ribbon – then click the Animation Pane button, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 4, below.


Figure 4: Bring up the Animations pane

7. Within the resultant Animation Pane that shows up, double-click the first animation; this will bring up the Play Video dialog box as shown in Figure 5.


Figure 5:  The Play Video dialog box

8. Within the Play Video dialog box make sure that the Effect tab is selected. Within this tab, locate the Stop Playing section and select the After ____Slides radio button and set the value to 999, as shown highlighted in red within Figure 6.


Figure 6: Set to Play the video across 999 Slides

9. Once done click the OK button

10. Save your presentation and preview it in Slide Show view. Your countdown timer will continue showing a reduced amount of time as you progress from slide to slide.

About the Author:

Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for years and is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP (Most Valuable Professional.) He heads Indezine (  a presentation design studio and content development organization based in Hyderabad, India. The site attracts more than a million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates and other goodies for visitors to download. He also runs another PowerPoint-related site ( that provides designer PowerPoint templates.

Three New Guiding Principles for Business Presenters

Think back to the most recent meeting or presentation that you led or participated in. Was it effective? Was it efficient?

If you’re like most business people I’ve asked, your response is a resounding “no.”

Imagine how much time, energy, money, and good will are squandered during inefficient meetings every day in conference rooms across the world. I’m not sure what kind of number to put on it, but I’m sure it would be a staggering amount.

If any other business process were this inefficient, we’d do anything in our power to fix it. But communication? Eh. It seems we’ve grown so accustomed to ineffective, time-wasting meetings and presentations that we simply allow them to happen.

It’s as if their inefficiency is simply the cost of doing business.

My colleagues and I think that the business world deserves something better. In our research and work with presenters at all levels across a broad range of industries, we’ve found that the root of the issue is with the types of presentations we’ve been taught to deliver. The format we follow, the preparation we go through, even the assumptions we make don’t fit the needs of a business meeting.

It’s as if an athlete worked hard and trained for the 50-yard dash only to arrive at the starting line to learn that the race is taking place on an obstacle course. The training is good, just not right for the job.

What we find with business presenters is that they go into their presentations having prepared to deliver a speech; the same type of speech they delivered in Public Speaking 101. Even if they didn’t take that course, there are plenty of corporate presentation training classes around that teach the same approach.

At the heart of this approach is the three-step “tell them” strategy (tell them what we’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what we told them.)

Problem is: in business presentations we need to do more than just tell. We also need to listen. We need to be nimble and address listener concerns as they happen. This can alter the presentation or change it entirely. In any case, it’s always more than just a one-way communication event.

What actually happens during a presentation is a conversation. These conversations are planned and organized (like speeches), but they’re also unpredictable (like conversations) because other people contribute to them. Sometimes audience members play along nicely, other times they offer pushback. Sometimes the conversation moves in an unintended direction,only to loop back on itself later. In every situation, regardless of how things play out, the presentation ought to move a certain piece of business forward.

So, if the old-school approach doesn’t work, we need to replace it with something more in line with how business actually gets done. Here are three new guiding principles.

1) Business presentations are Orderly Conversations designed to get business done.

A presentation isn’t a speech that is judged by how well the presenter performs for the audience. Instead, the success of a presentation is judged by whether or not the presenter created the conditions for open dialogue that moves business forward.

The preparation process, then, needs to look forward to the uncertainties of the conversation, and visuals should be created to guide the conversation along a clear, but flexible, path. Then once the conversation starts, the presenter needs to adapt what was planned to what’s happening in the moment. This is a skill much more closely aligned with facilitating than with speechmaking.



2) To be an effective presenter, you need to: Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Genuine communication cannot happen when presenters attempt to imitate others. People often tell us they want to speak like Oprah, their boss, or a newscaster. It’s better to start with your own personality and build on it. This process is different for everyone, but here’s how it breaks down:

Find your focus

Finding your focus means knowing what to do to get your head in the game and engage people in the conversation. For most people it comes down to two skills: eye contact or pausing (or a combination of the two). These skills work differently for everyone, so your job is to experiment and discover what works best for you.

Be yourself

Once you are engaged, you’ll feel comfortable in the conversation. You’ll be aware of your listeners, but not distracted by them. Your thoughts will settle down, and you’ll be able to think on your feet. When this happens, your personality and natural communication skills will emerge, just as they do in everyday conversation.

Only better

When you’re comfortable and engaged, you’re able to respond appropriately to the presentation environment. You’re aware of your position in the room and are free to move about comfortably. You’re free to focus on listeners, slides, and your message. And perhaps most importantly, you’re able to eliminate any bad habits or delivery distractions that may have plagued you in the past.

In other words, you’re self-aware, externally focused, and able to adapt to the environment that you’re in.

3) Business presentations succeed on two levels.

Finally, it’s important to remember that business presentations succeed on two levels. The first level has to do with the goal of the presentation. Was the deal closed, did the team agree, are they aligned, or did they learn the new skill? The second level involves creating the conditions for a fruitful conversation. This requires earning trust, making the process easy for everyone, and managing the give and take of the conversation.

So here are three new guiding principles for business presentations. Repositioning your thinking in this way will relieve you of the pressure to be perfect and place your emphasis where it needs be: on achieving business results.

About the Author:

Greg Owen-Boger is vice president of Turpin Communication, a presentation skills consulting firm based in Chicago. He also is co-author of the new book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. For more information about the book or the company, visit

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