[Video] Dishing on Presentations and Webinars with expert, James Hilliard

Get a preview of what we will be sharing with you in our December 1st webinar with James Hilliard, a professional moderator and broadcaster.  He has done over 3,000 webinars and will share his tips and tricks and offer attendees template-based webinar tools as handouts.  Editor, Sharyn Fitzpatrick has also been doing webinars for over a decade.  In their conversation, they shared best practices and advice on how to NOT do webinars.

You can find the recorded webinar on YouTube at https://youtu.be/p9AFUT8PWXg




XML Hacking, Part 1: An Introduction

With the introduction of Office 2007, Microsoft changed the basic file format that underlies Word, PowerPoint and Excel. Instead of the proprietary and mostly undocumented format that ruled from Office 97 to Office 2003, Microsoft made a smart decision and switched to XML. This is tagged text, similar in structure and concept to HTML code with which you may already be familiar.

XML opens up a world of possibilities for automated document construction, but that’s a topic for another day. The everyday relevance for you and I is that if a Word or PowerPoint file isn’t doing what you need it to do and there are no tools in the program for the job, we can now dive in a edit the file ourselves. If you’re a point-and-click user, this is probably not thrilling. But if you’re a hacker at heart, a midnight coder or just a curious tinkerer, you can do some cool stuff.


Inside a simple Word file. The document text is stored in document.xml.

The main tool you’re going to need is a text editor. While you can get away for a while with Notepad or TextEdit, those simple text editors don’t quite have the tools that get the job done efficiently. On Mac, I use BBEdit and on Windows I reach for Notepad++. BBEdit is reasonably-priced shareware and Notepad++ is freeware. They have a similar style of operation, so if you’re a cross-platform hacker it’s easy to switch between them. Notepad++ uses a plugin system, so you can add tools. For this job, you’re definitely going to want the free XML plugin.

Word, Excel and PowerPoint files in the new format are actually simple Zip files with a different file ending. Getting into them couldn’t be easier: if you’re using Windows, add .zip to the end of the file (a copy of the file, if it’s anything important). You’ll get a warning from your OS, but you know what you’re doing! Now unzip it. Out pop several folders of XML, plus a top-level file or two.

Note: OS X requires somewhat more care with handling expanded Office files, or they won’t open. Please see this article for the best procedure on a Mac.

Select one of the files and open it in your text editor. All the files have been linearized to minimize file size. This is where your XML tools come into play. In Notepad++, choose Plugins>XML Tools>Pretty Print (XML Only – with line breaks). If you’re using BBEdit, choose Markup>Tidy>Reflow Document. Now you have a nicely indented, easy-to-read page to edit. When you’re done, it’s not necessary to re-linearize. Word, PowerPoint or Excel will do that for you later.

A plain vanilla PowerPoint file: more complex than Word.

A plain vanilla PowerPoint file: more complex than Word.

For people using Window’s built-in zip utility, there is an easy mistake to watch out for. By default, unzipping a file in Windows creates a new folder named for the file being expanded. If, when you’re re-assembling the file, you include this top-level folder,

PowerPoint will raise an error about unreadable content in the presentation. To avoid this, first open the folder that Windows created. Select the _rels, docProps and ppt folders, plus the [Content_Types].xml file, then create a zip file from them.

XML hacking is useful for Excel or Word when you want to add additional color themes or when you need to rescue a corrupt document. But it really shines with PowerPoint, allowing you to create custom table formats, extra custom colors that don’t fit into a theme, setting the default text size for tables and charts and much more. This technique separates the PowerPoint pros from the wannabes.

Check out text editors and XML tools so you’re ready to hack! If you want to learn more about how to put some of this to practice, read my next article on XML Hacking: Default Table Text. 

About the Author:

johnkorchokJohn Korchok has been creating the world’s finest branded web pages and documents for more than 25 years. As of January 1, 2015, he is bringing his wealth of expertise to Brandwares from his previous company, Wordlab Systems. He is expert in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and VBA programming, is certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist Master, and is an award-winning technical writer. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

XML Hacking, Part 2: Setting the Default Table Text Size

Let’s start hacking some XML with a simple project: setting the default table text size. This article assumes you have read the introduction and have a suitable text editor installed. Mac users should also read XML Hacking: Editing in OS X.

When you insert a new table in PowerPoint, the default table text size is 18 points. Using XML hacking, we can set this to whatever point size the designer prefers. You can also set the text to appear in all caps. Following the previous post’s instructions, add .zip to the file ending and unzip the file. Look for the ppt folder and open it:


In the ppt folder is another folder called Slide Masters. If your sample presentation is typical, it has only one Slide Master, so you won’t be surprised to find that typically Slide Masters contains only one file, called slideMaster1.xml. Open this file in your text editor and reformat the XML to make it readable (XML Tools>Pretty Print in NotePad++, or Markup>Tidy>Reflow in BBEdit). Scroll down to near the end, looking for a tag called <p:otherStyle>. This is the section that formats default text in miscellaneous objects, like tables:


Default Table Text Levels

Within the other Style section, the 4th line starts with <a:lvl1pPr. Then the 14th line begins with <a:lvl2pPr. Each of these 10-line sections formats a different text level, with the 4th line starting the first and the 14th beginning the second level. A handy, if terse, reference to all the parameters is shown here. Not all of these are actually used in the context of a table. As one example, there are a:spcBef and a:spcAft for setting space before and after, but this is ignored by PowerPoint in a table. PowerPoint pays attention to the font size, the left margin, line spacing, alignment and whether it’s all-caps, small caps, bold and/or italic.

The font size is set by this line: <a:defRPr sz=”1800″ kern=”1200″>. sz=1800 is the font size in hundredths of a point, so 1800 gives us the default 18-point size. Since this is the first level that might well be used for table headings, you could set it to something like 1450 to get a 14.5 point result.

Since this first level can be used for headings, let’s make it all-caps while we’re at it. Edit the line to read <a:defRPr sz=”1450″ kern=”1200″ cap=”all”>. Done! (Please note, this can be used for headings, but the user must still use the Home>Increase List Level command to set the actual level of text for each section of the table. In PowerPoint 2016 for Mac, the command is called Indent More.)

Now proceed to the second level and set its point size. Something like <a:defRPr sz=”1200″ kern=”1200″>

Other useful attributes for <a:defRPr> include cap=”small” for small caps, b=”1″ for bold and i=”1″ for italics. In addition, spc=”400″ adds enough tracking to make 10pt text have about 1 character width between each pair. This latter parameter can be positive for wider spacing or negative to crunch text together.

Scroll down a little further: you’ll notice that there are 9 levels, though in a table you’ll probably only use the first 2 or 3. In typical Microsoft style, each level is indented further than the preceding one.

Compare level 1 with level 2:

<a:lvl1pPr marL=”0″
<a:lvl2pPr marL=”457200″

marL is the left margin. The units of measurement here are EMUs: English Metric Units. This is an invented measurement system that allows easy conversion between English and Metric. suffice it to say that 457200 EMUs is 1/2″. When I modify this section, I set all 9 levels to marL=”0″. I also set all lower levels to the same point size as the lowest designed level, level 2 in our example. That way, if a user keeps changing to a lower text level, the formatting remains the same.

Text alignment can also be set using the algn parameter. The useful settings are l (left), r (right), ctr (centered), just (justified), and dist (text is widespaced to evenly fill cell width). Of course, if you’re setting these, marL should be set to 0. The simplest way to experiment with these parameters is to set the styles in the main text placeholder of the Slide Master (the larger slide at the top of the slide master list). Then unzip the presentation, open ppt/slideMasters/slideMaster1.xml and examine the section. The section uses exactly the same syntax, so if you need bullets or unusual spacing in a table, you can set up to do it.

Here’s what the final file should look like, with the changes highlighted:


Preview the Effects

When you’re finished editing, save and close the file. In a folder window where you can see all the unzipped files, select the folders _rels, docProps and ppt, plus [Content_Types].xml:


Zip them into a file that ends with the same file ending as the original presentation, usually .pptx. Open in PowerPoint, insert a table and test your new default font sizes. Please note, assigning these styles makes them available to the whole table, but to access them you still need to use Increase List Level, same as in an ordinary text placeholder. Unfortunately, there’s no way to automatically assign <a:lvl1pPr> to table headings and <a:lvl2pPr> to the body of the table, which would be cool and helpful.


About Author:


John Korchok has been creating the world’s finest branded web pages and documents for more than 25 years. As of January 1, 2015, he is bringing his wealth of expertise to Brandwares from his previous company, Wordlab Systems. He is expert in HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and VBA programming, is certified as a Microsoft Office Specialist Master, and is an award-winning technical writer. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

Discovering Presentation Gems on Vimeo and YouTube

BELGRADE - JULY 11 2014 Popular social media icons vimeo youtube and other on smart phone screen close up

Did you know that video is what is most appealing to today’s professionals as a source for information? And since the digital world never seems to stop, so videos are such an important tool in our visual industry to teach us what’s new and feed our creativity.

YouTube and Vimeo are fascinating places to discover how to do presentations more creatively and productively. Besides SlideShare, they are my other go-to places for inspiration and knowledge. I wanted to share a few of my go-to channels and why I like them. Many contributors have channels on both platforms.

Need to learn how to do PowerPoint animations? You can find quick tip videos or longer videos that are more detailed. Just-in-time learning is driving content to these platforms. YouTube appears to be populated with videos that would appeal to a presentation professional. There are more variety and depth in the content offerings on YouTube. However, Vimeo was created to be more business-oriented and mostly providing content to professionals.

Let’s look at some channels on both and then make your own decision.


PowerPoint & After Effects /w Andrzej Pach

Andrzej offers quick and knowledgeable PowerPoint tutorials. They contain actionable learning which you can use almost immediately. One of my favorites is “Crop and add photographs in PowerPoint slide in any shape you want | PowerPoint template tutorial”

PowerPoint Spice

Lia, aka P-Spice, is so wonderful at what she does. She was tired of living through dull presentations and decided to shake things up. Not only does she entice you with wonderful tips and tricks that cannot wait to try, she actually tells you step-by-step how to do it. A good example is her latest video: Cool PowerPoint Tricks to Look like a Tech Genius (Live Polls, Animations and More!). She gives your great ideas and insights into how PowerPoint add-ins can add depth to your presentations. She uses Poll Anywhere in this tutorial. It is one of those “aha moments” where you can instantly see the impact that an engagement tool like this could really improve the interactivity of your presentations. On her blog, she gives written steps that match the video. Check it out.


This is a b3b creative design idea. I have really enjoyed getting to know Managing Director, Damjan Haylor. Their mission is to bring information to life which many of their projects and videos do. They are informative and well done. Their Vimeo channel includes good content for creating presentations.  Don’t miss this video: Did you know that PowerPoint could do THIS?

Did you know that PowerPoint could do THIS? from POPcomms on Vimeo.

Did you know that PowerPoint could do THIS? from POPcomms on Vimeo.


PowerPoint Pro YouTube Channel

Engagement is one of the reasons why I like the PowerPoint Pro YouTube channel. Managed by motion graphic designer, Sadman Sadik, it is full of great tips and tutorials that will take your presentations to the next level.

Check out this video:


PowerPoint for Business Professionals – Nuts and Bolts Speed Training

Many of you remember Taylor Croonquist as a frequent contributor and webinar presenter for PresentationXpert. His company, Nuts and Bolts offers in-depth intense videos on anything PowerPoint. Their “What’s the Point” learning series delivers how-to tips and tricks on animation, charts, PowerPoint cheats, and more. I wanted to share one of my favorites with you: Episode 3 of the series – Chunky Monkey.

Interesting Videos:
Joe Lewis: Where is Storytelling Going Next?

Joe Lewis is known for pushing the edge of technology and hopes to change how we watch television. He seems to have jumped on the “storytelling” bandwagon and shares his views. Worth watching this:  Joe Lewis – Where is Storytelling Going Next? (Future Of Storytelling 2016) from Paul Trillo on Vimeo.

Hand holds YouTube icon


So go exploring on your own and discover your own gems. And let us know what you find.



Adding Live, Real-Time Web Pages to Your Presentations

Have you ever wanted to demonstrate a live website during a PowerPoint presentation? But you don’t want to show your desktop or gopicture2 out of show mode in PowerPoint. Sometimes the content or message is more useful if you can show your audience information from a website. You could always use a screen shot with a hyperlink but that is like crossing your fingers and hope it works.

I work with high-tech clients, many of whom like to demo their technology during a webinar, showing proof of concept, or during a presentation. Often that means getting out of show mode and going to another application like Chrome or Bing to log onto their website or platform. It looks awkward and unprofessional each time they had to switch back and forth. They are often tearing their hair out in frustration.

In PowerPoint 2016, you can add a web page by inserting a screen shot then adding a hyperlink. It is easy. Just follow these steps:

#1: Choose Insert Screenshot.


#2: Choose an existing screenshot or do a screen clipping – one of the most useful applications in Windows.


#3: Resize the screenshot to the size you want


#4: Then, right-click on the picture and choose hyperlink. Add the hyperlink.



#5: Go to Slide Show – you will see the cursor change to the icon for hyperlinked item.


#6: Click the picture and you will open the website. But it will take you out of PowerPoint.

Hint: You can use ALT-TAB to get back to PowerPoint but it takes finesse

Although you can add a web page to PowerPoint, the process of doing it is not for the faint of heart! And it often doesn’t work! There had to be a simpler way.

Meet LiveWeb, a free add-in for PowerPoint that makes this painless and offers you easy-to-manage options. You can add web pages into a PowerPoint and then refresh them real time during your presentation so it is always current and up-to-date. And you stay in the PowerPoint slide show. What if you are online or your internet connection is slower than you like? Well, this program works with your local drive as well. Just specify what document, or path you will be storing the information. And it pulls it from there. And you don’t have to write any code.


No matter what you’re giving a presentation about, sometimes it can be useful to show your audience information from the internet. You could always create a screenshot of the web page you’re demonstrating, but chances are the screenshot may be out of date by the time you give your presentation.

Here’s how you can insert a live web page into a PowerPoint presentation so you can show the exact content you’re talking about.

LiveWeb adds two actions to your PowerPoint “Insert” Menu. One lets you create the URL link and then define the size and placement of the LiveWeb window on your slide. And the second one guides you through how to edit the page property, if you need to. And it is quick and easy to use – a great reason to download it.

So what does it really do? Well, once you set up the web page, it works its magic behind the scene. it captures the web browser control manually and it writes the code to update the web pages within its control during the slide show. We tested it during several webinars and it worked great!




slide3Your slideshow now resembles a full-screen browser without toolbar controls. In fact, to use the commands for browsing, you have to right click on the browser object. You can change the properties of the web page slide anytime from the Edit Page Property button on the Live Web menu. The size of the inserted web page can be changed by dragging the corner handles of the browser object. You can use the remaining area of the slide for inserting any other PowerPoint element.

There is a downside to using LiveWeb. You cannot package this up to share unless the receiving computer also has Live Web. Otherwise, there is a black box where the web page is. I have used Camtasia or GoToWebinar to package it as a recording and that works but obviously, the web page is not live or searchable. It is still worth downloading.

How to Build a Website Framework Using PowerPoint

Moving a website from one provider to another crashed the website. So we took the opportunity to create a new, improved framework. Our goal was to find a way to build a visual website framework that our web designer could use to visually see and emulate as he built the website.

Website wireframes template design sketch style kit

I looked at a lot of framework applications and most were cumbersome and not easy to use. I would have to learn a new software and the learning curve looked like it would take time I was looking for a way to create a website that was easy to build and still rich in information. I need a sandbox where I could move elements around, playing with different looks and navigation. I am a visual person and I needed that option. Creating an outline in Word just wasn’t enough to get things moving in the right direction.

One of our subscribers suggested I look at PowerMockup, a wireframe and mockup add-in for PowerPoint. It includes a collection of over 400 line icons, 27 annotations, 17 mouse cursor options, placeholder picture icons, touch gestures which are common hand gestures you might use on a smartphone or tablet, over 75 Windows desktop shapes such as navigation, content, input, and system shape and over 100 shapes to build low-fidelity wireframes and more.

You have the perfect sandbox to sketch user interfaces for the web and for mobile. My website developer loved that they had a Bootstrap Wireframe. It is commonly used for creating HTML, CSS pages and more. It took me less than an hour to create the framework I needed for the website I needed to build. And the best part, it was an add-in to PowerPoint.

annotation-shapes-screenshot-v1 ciommon-wirefream-shapes

What I really love about this add-in id that they provide an extensive collection of user-interface elements and icons, built our PowerPoint shapes. No new software to use. And with these elements simplify the process you need to use to easily create prototypes of mobile and web applications. And the best part, you can do it all for inside PowerPoint.

This add-in is $59 but I tried the free trial first to make sure I liked and I did. It is now on my QAT in PowerPoint. If you want to see it in action, watch the video below.

Webinar Bootcamp: Proven Steps to Success

Ready to build stronger relationships with your customers and prospects? Looking for opportunities to connect with your audience at a deeper level? It’s easy and cost-effective with live webinars. And your key to success is in the planning, setup, and execution.

Citrix sponsorship ad Whether you’re new to webinar production, or you’re looking to tune-up your game plan, this resource-filled webinar guides you through focused steps that will help give you the confidence to get your webinars off to a great start.

You learn:

– How to structure your webinar content for maximum time efficiency
– Best practices to set up your equipment, camera, and monitors
– How to use modern webinar tools to engage your audience


James Hilliard
Executive Webcast Producer & Moderator
Hilly Productions



James Hilliard is a professional moderator and broadcaster who brings lively and engaging content to high-tech and business professionals at companies worldwide. He has been speaking with business and technology leaders since 1999 about business trends, what’s on the horizon, and what it means to them professionally and personally.

Download the handouts from this session as well:

eBook: Attracting Your Audience- GoToWebinar


Dry Run Conversations

Five Steps to Moderating a Webinar



[Video] Dishing on Presentations with Bethany Auck, Slide Rabbit

Did you watch Bethany deliver her webinar, “Slide Diets: Before & After Design Tricks to Slim Down your Content!:? It was lively and interactive, thanks to her great content and an engaged audience.  We had so many great questions and not enough time to get to them all. In this “dishing” interview, Bethany answered many of your webinar questions and she also provided written answers for others.



bethany_square_300dpi (1)
More Q&A with Bethany Auck, Slide Rabbit
Do you have a lot of walls come up when asking a client to reduce content?garr-reynolds-library

Convincing an unwilling client to reduce content and wordiness can be one of the most difficult challenges. Sometimes, it just can’t be done. Generally, success comes by sharing some of the thought behind the directive. There are a lot of great thinkers on the subject and their ideas are widely available in books and in quick videos on the internet. I particularly recommend the books by Garr Reynolds and Dr. Carmen Simon, but there are also great videos on YouTube. Of course, our blog Visual Sugar may have some ideas worth sharing.

Some of the slides have sections of ALL CAPS vs. proper case or lower case. When do you suggest to use ALL CAPS?

all-capsMany brands will have established guidelines on when and where you can use various text treatments. If you have a little more freedom, I suggest creating a text style hierarchy for your own reference as you begin to design. If “all caps” will be part of your hierarchy but isn’t a large part of the brand identity, make sure to use it sparingly only on the most important information. There aren’t many hard and fast rules in design, so use your judgment to create balance and visual order for your audience.

Any suggestions for when we are developing slides that need to have “screenshots”? An Example would be as we teach a new software program for clinical documentation.

Screenshots are a necessary evil for presentation developers. My first request to the client is usually to get me access to what will be screenshot. That way I can get in there and take hi-res or zoomed shots so they will be legible in presentations. I also mentioned the Mac tool, Paparazzi! on the webinar, which creates vector images of full pages that won’t deteriorate as you blow them up. As for how to use them in a presentation, go full screen and annotate on top for the easiest legibility. Frame into a laptop image (available on stock sites), if the content of the ’shot is less critical. If training on the software, consider launching a live, full-screen demo.

BEFORE SLIDE - Dense and busy

BEFORE SLIDE – Dense and busy


What would you suggest for densely detailed slides for decks that are printed vs. presented live?

Often slides have to do double duty. For detailed handout types slides, many of the same Slide Diets still principles apply, even if you

aren’t looking to remove content. Use visual hierarchy to guide the reader on what are main takeaways vs. detailed or granular supporting information. Consider separating information to separate slides so that the reader will be less visually overwhelmed. Hunt slide19

After Slide - Divide into 2 slides

After Slide – Divide into 2 slides

for places to reduce redundancy – titles subtitles and body text can often be tightened. Remember, the less content on your slide, the greater percentage the audience will be able to remember.



Have another question?  Email Sharyn or Bethany.

Creating Visual Schedules and Gantt Charts using a PowerPoint Add-in, Office TIMELINE

I recently had a discussion with one of our presentation industry gurus, Taylor Croonquist about the importance of add-ins to PowerPoint and what a treasure trove they are in terms of productivity, creativity, and speed design.

This month, we will take a look at one of his favorites, Office TIMELINE which will guide you through easy-to-use templates for creating professional timelines and Gantt charts. Like many of the add-ins coming out now, you can use them across PowerPoint, Excel, and MS Project. There is both a free version and a more robust version that you can purchase for $49 per year. You use an integrated ribbon to customize it to your design and need. And they offer a library of templates across project types and deliverables.


Here are just a few of the timeline templates you can use to visualize your project timelines and deliverables – see below. Click on the name of each one to download the template.

There are many more templates available for both Gantt and other timeline templates.

12- month Schedule

Milestone Template

Gantt Chart Template

Let’s try it out and take it for a test drive.  First, go get the add in – it’s free. It is simple to install.

PowerPoint Template

PowerPoint Template

Go to Options, then choose Add-ins. Choose “Manage PowerPoint Add-ins”, hit “go” and a dialog box with the available add-ins pops up. You select “Office Timeline” and then select “load “. You are all set.

Open PowerPoint and you will see your Office Timeline in the upper right. Select it and you have an integrated ribbon which streamlines this process:

You can choose “New” or “Import”. I chose New and am using one of the templates


To customize it, you go to each tab and fill it in:




Enter your milestones on this screen



Enter Tasks on this screen


Create your own look and feel



My timeline

Another plus for this add-in is the great library of how-to videos 

Email me and tell me what you think!

Sharyn sig - first name

[Video] Creative Solution to Speaker Technical Dilemmas

Can’t connect your laptop to a display and you have to speak in five minutes. Ever been to a conference and there is no hardware to hook up your computer to the display and no one has the right connector.  Yikes! What do you do?  That is the question that Patrice Perras and Chantal Bossé faced while volunteering at Presentation Summit.  Pat searched globally for an easy solution but came up empty. So they solved themselves with the Speaker Kit, a great solution for this annoying speaker tech challenge. Watch the interview with both and see for yourself.

You can buy your own Speaker Kit at the Presentation Summit or online. It is $50 USD.

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