An Easy Way to Spice Up PowerPoint

Most of us won’t be abandoning PowerPoint any time soon, what with the ongoing expectations — corporate or otherwise — to use the standard slide format of headline-and-bulleted text, and given the ease of crafting such content. But there are plenty of simple ways to keep audiences from tuning out during what they can perceive as a numbing parade of text-only slides.

Replacing even a few slides with visually-stimulating images is one way. For example, one slide with a picture showing a tornado in Oklahoma can communicate infinitely more than a half-dozen bullet slides describing the destructive power of Mother Nature. Project the picture and then add the spoken narration: “The winds associated with a Level 3 tornado can drive straw through a 4-inch post. And they can toss a 2,000-pound car a quarter mile.”

Adding such slides doesn’t take much extra work, and it pays off in refocusing audience attention. It also communicates to viewers that this isn’t just another cookie-cutter presentation created the night before it was delivered.

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.

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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 (www.PresentationSummit.com). 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.

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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

Access

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 www.betterppt.com

 

Kill Your Darlings

by Jon Thomas

When you’ve spent time and energy designing a PowerPoint presentation, it’s not easy to see your effort disappear with a swift stroke of the delete key. But in order to build a truly effective presentation, one that offers the audience exactly what they need (and nothing more or less), you’ll have to kill a few of your darlings.

It’s not simply about shortening a presentation, or finding reasons to negate all the hard work you put into crafting your presentation content and visuals. It’s about giving the audience only what they absolutely, positively NEED to hear and see. Anyone can dump all the information in their brain onto a bunch of slides. It takes intelligence and restraint to include only what is necessary.

Your audience wants the most important and useful content that matters to them. I can’t tell you what that is, but after years of designing presentations both for others and for myself, I know that the perfect presentation is always at least a little bit shorter than the one originally intended.

Steven King has some great perspective on the topic here. An editor once said to him, “2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”

It hurts. I know. I’ve been there and had to leave some of my most beautiful slides and useful content on the bench. But like cleaning a wound, sometimes you have to go through a little pain if you want the pleasure of wowing your audience.

About the Author:

Jon Thomas is the founder of Presentation Advisors, a presentation design and training firm based in southern Connecticut. For more on the company’s services, visit www.presentationadvisors.com

Presenting Financial Data: Put Your Numbers on a Diet

By Dave Paradi

You are a presenter who deals with a lot of numbers. Maybe they are financial results, operational analysis, or market research. You live in Excel and love spreadsheets. So, naturally, when you have to present to others, you include almost every number you have. Doesn’t everyone love numbers the way you do?

Unfortunately, no.

I want to suggest what you should present instead of all the numbers. Let’s start with why presenters feel like they have to include all the numbers they’ve calculated. First, they believe that if they include everything, the audience will better understand what they are trying to say. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.

A slide full of numbers makes most people mentally check out. The second reason presenters include all the numbers is that they feel that they have to show how much work was done. If they don’t show a lot of numbers, the audience won’t think they worked hard doing the analysis. Trust me, they will be able to tell whether you worked hard or not in ways other than how many numbers are in your presentation.

I believe that the presenter has the responsibility to figure out what the numbers mean to the audience and only present that information. It may require a few numbers, but certainly not all the numbers in the analysis. As a presenter, look for a change between time periods and draw a conclusion on whether that is a positive or negative change. Look at the trend over a longer period of time and determine if that trend needs to change in order for the organization to succeed. Look at the differences in results between different regions or products to conclude where future efforts should be directed.

Your audience wants to know what the numbers mean to them.

When designing  slides to present your analysis, start by writing a headline that summarizes the one point that you want to communicate. If you have more than one key point, create more than one slide. This headline drives what visual you will put on the slide. Sketch the visuals, which may be a small summary table of numbers with indicators to show whether the numbers are good or bad, a graph showing a trend or relative results, or a diagram illustrating results through a process.

Whatever visual you select, it will support the headline that you wrote. And it won’t be a slide with a spreadsheet full of numbers.

Most professionals are passionate about their work and have an emotional attachment to it. That is what makes my suggestions even harder to implement. When I suggest only including a few of the numbers or a summary graph, it is natural to have an emotional reaction: “What do you mean I can’t show everything I did? Don’t you know how much work I put into this?”

I do know how much work you put in. And the audience will see your effort when you provide an insight that makes their decisions and work easier.

In a recent workshop I showed how an organization could take a slide with 600 numbers on it (I am not exaggerating, I counted), and reduce it to the ten numbers that the executives really needed to know. The improvement in clarity was amazing. You can achieve the same clarity by focusing on what the audience really needs to know.

If you present financial information with spreadsheets, you may be interested in the webinar I did on presenting financial information effectively using PowerPoint; you can read more and get the recording here.

About the Author:

Dave Paradi is the author of “The Visual Slide Revolution” and “102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively Using PowerPoint.” He is an expert at helping presenters communicate more effectively using persuasive PowerPoint presentations. For more information, visit his web site at www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/

Stand Out By Using These Visual Alternatives to PowerPoint

By Angela DeFinis

When it comes to visual aids for a presentation, what’s the first thing you think of? If you said “PowerPoint™” or “slideware,” you’re in the majority. That’s the default most presenters rely on. But the answers about visual aids that I’ve been getting from my clients recently (and what I’ve seen at their locations) have surprised even me.

For example, I was working with a client in June and walked into the training room to find a chalkboard and box of chalk greeting me.

A few weeks later I walked into a client’s conference room to find an overhead projector.

Last week I was walking down the halls of a large tech company and peered into a conference room. I saw two walls of whiteboard covered with neatly drawn flow charts, bullet charts, and various other schematics—in bright colors.

A few days ago I was working with a client who used colorful 3×5 index cards to organize his key points and deliver his presentation. He rarely uses slideware but relies instead on his conversational style and deep subject knowledge.

And just yesterday I watched a presentation where the presenter used a flipchart.

Thriving Without PowerPoint

So, when was the last time you used a chalkboard, an overhead projector, a whiteboard, a flipchart, or even no visuals at all?

These clients I visited from various industries and organizations—a dental school, a utility company, a software company, a transportation company, and a non-profit organization—all taught me a lesson.

It’s easy to become complacent and narrow-minded about the types of visual aids we use—or don’t use. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of thinking that to be effective, a visual needs to be cutting edge and show off the latest visual gymnastics that PowerPoint can produce. And while I was at each location to share “best practices” and reveal the top design tips and staging usage, I learned that every one of these places and people were effective and had an impact because they knew their audience and used visual tools that they could relate to.

So when it comes to visual aid selection, here’s my best advice: Analyze your audience so you know what they expect and what will work for them. Then, understand the options available to you. Know what you are comfortable with and what will help you do your best to meet your audience’s expectations.

When you follow that guidance, you’ll be able to produce visual aids that help both you and your message come alive and connect to the heart and mind of every audience member.

About the Author:

Angela DeFinis is an industry expert in professional public speaking. As an author, speaker, consultant, and founder of DeFinis Communications, she has spent over twenty years helping business professionals communicate with greater poise, power, and passion. For more information, visit http://www.definiscommunications.com/

Executive Presence: Do You Have It?

Executive presence may be hard to define, but most people know it when they see it. Do you have it? If you think it may be lacking, or if you’d like to increase your credibility and confidence, consider the following tips when presenting:

Be Aware That Gestures and Mannerisms Either Support or Sabotage What You Say

Gestures and mannerisms can either convince your audience of your sincerity or antagonize them. Imagine yourself in an airport, with conversations going on all around you, and you yourself engaged in a farewell to a friend. All of a sudden, the man and woman sitting next to you begin to wave their arms dramatically, their fingers urgently punching the air. Immediately, your attention is diverted from your own conversation to this couple.

Why do their words not distract you, but their gestures do? That’s the power of gestures and mannerisms; often, movement speaks louder than words.

You may be completely serious, passionate, and confident about what you have to say, but your audience may perceive you as insincere because of poor eye contact, slouched posture, a bored expression, or weak gestures.

Become Conscious of What Your Body Language Says When You’re in Front of a Group

Your upper-body posture is controlled primarily by what you do with your arms. Your posture and your gestures are difficult to separate. They make a total statement.

I work with many people who are completely unaware of their body language until they see themselves on video for the first time. For example, some people stand with their head intensely protruding forward as if they are about to scold the audience. Others stand in a slouched position as though they are exhausted from marching through the desert for days without rest.

Others hug, pat, and squeeze themselves when they speak. Still others either stand rigid as if locked in a straightjacket or sway back and forth as if they are a shy teenager about to ask their first date to the prom.

Look at yourself in the mirror and see how it feels to stand with your arms relaxed loosely at your side or with your elbows slightly bent. It may feel awkward, but it does not look awkward. Simply stand there, looking in the mirror, and get used to the various postures that both look and feel appropriate so that you do not feel awkward with that same natural posture, gesture, or stance in front of a group.

Add Volume to Increase Authority

In our society, little girls are taught that loud voices are not feminine, whereas little boys learn no such inhibitions. As a result, women often have problems with speaking loudly enough. In today’s business arena, wimpy voices get little attention. Consider the extreme. When someone shouts, everyone turns to look—regardless of what’s being said. Volume gets attention.

Remember that your voice always sounds louder to you than to anyone else. Take another person’s word for it when he or she says you need to speak up. Also remember that your voice is an instrument; it needs to be warmed up, or it will creak and crack at the beginning of your presentation. If you warm up with a high volume, as though projecting to those in the back row, your volume also will improve your vocal quality.

Volume adds energy to your voice; it has the power to command or lose listeners’ attention.

Lower the Pitch to Increase Credibility

Pitch, the measurement of the “highness” or “lowness” of your voice, is determined largely by the amount of tension in the vocal cords. When you are under stress, you may sound high-pitched; when you are relaxed and confident, you will have a naturally lower pitch.

Authoritative vocal tones are low and calm, not high and tense. Inflection is a pitch change—from “Stop!” screeched at an assailant to the haughty “Please stop” directed at a stranger using your department’s copy machine. You can lower your pitch to some degree by practicing scales (as singers do, dropping the voice with each word) and by breathing more deeply to relax your vocal cords.

Remember that a lower pitch conveys power, authority, and confidence, whereas a high pitch conveys insecurity and nervousness.

To sum up: Your personal presence may make the difference in driving home your point—past the ears to the head and heart of those you want to influence.

About the Author:

Excerpted from Creating Personal Presence: Look, Talk, Think, and Act Like a Leader by Dianna Booher and used courtesy of Booher Consultants, Inc. Dianna Booher works with organizations to increase productivity and effectiveness through better communication: oral, written, interpersonal, and organizational. For more information visit  www.booher.com

How to Use 3D Rotation Techniques in PowerPoint


In this article, I explain in detail how to use 3D rotation. I start with PowerPoint 2007 and PowerPoint 2010; then I explain where to find similar features in PowerPoint 2003.

In Part I of this series, on shadows, I showed you how to use shadows for both subtle and dramatic 3D effects. The second 3D technique I want to cover is bevels, which I’ve already explored in greater detail in this post, “Create professional-looking 3D effects with bevels.”

Bevels often work hand-in-hand with 3D rotation, especially when you specify a depth in the 3-D Format section of the Format Shape dialog box. That’s because you can’t see the depth until you rotate the object. These 2 objects (above) are the same, but only the right one shows the depth, because you’re looking at it from an angle. That’s what 3D rotation does–it shows you an object from an angle.

Many people are unaware of the 3D features of PowerPoint, but they’ve been around for a long time. Even PowerPoint 2003 lets you rotate objects in 3D, although the controls are not as precise.

Use 3D Rotation in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010

To create a shape with depth and rotate it, follow these steps in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010:

  1. Insert a shape.
  2. With the shape selected, right-click it and choose Format Shape. Move the Format Shape dialog box away from your shape so you can see both at the same time.
  3. Choose the 3-D Format category and enter a depth in the Depth section. Note that PowerPoint measures depth in points. There are 72 points in an inch. I created a rounded rectangle with a depth of 72 points, or 1 inch. PowerPoint adds the depth to the back of the object.
  4. Click the 3-D Rotation category in the Format Shape dialog box.

  1. Before fiddling with the X, Y and Z controls, try out some of the presets from the Presets drop-down list. You might find what you’re looking for in a lot less time.
  2. The X boxes rotate the shape to the left or right. This is a horizontal rotation because the X-axis is the horizontal axis. Enter a rotation or click the Left or Right boxes repeatedly until you get the rotation you want.
  3. The Y boxes rotate the shape up and down. This is a vertical rotation because the Y axis is the vertical axis. Enter a rotation or click the Up or Down boxes repeatedly until you get the rotation you want.
  4. The Z boxes rotate the shape clockwise and counterclockwise. Think of the Z axis sticking out of your computer monitor straight toward you. Then the shape rotates around that axis. Enter a rotation or click the Clockwise or Counterclockwise boxes repeatedly until you get the rotation you want. A Z-rotation is just like rotating a shape in 2D.

Note: When you use more than one axis, PowerPoint calculates first the X value, then the Y, and finally the Z, so that the effects are additive.

Here is a rounded rectangle with various X, Y and Z rotations:

9. You can also create perspective views and control the amount of foreshortening. If the Perspective item is grayed out, click the Presets drop-down list and choose one of the Perspective options. Then enter a number (in degrees) in the Perspective box, or click the arrow buttons. Here you see two rounded rectangles, one with 75° perspective and the other with 0° perspectives. Do you see how the left shape narrows at the bottom? That’s the foreshortening effect.

10. There’s also an interesting setting, Distance from Ground, also measured in points. You’ll be able to see the effect better from certain angles than from others. In effect, this moves the object forward or backward if you’re looking down from the top. Yes, you can even use a negative number!  But your object never disappears behind the slide, so it’s really an as-if effect.

PowerPoint 2003 Can Do 3D Too!

In PowerPoint 2003, select an AutoShape and click the 3-D Style button on the Drawing toolbar at the bottom of your screen. Choose a view. At the bottom of the 3-D Style menu, choose 3-D Settings to open the 3-D Settings toolbar. There you can nudge the view using the Tilt Up, Tilt Down, Tilt Left, and Tilt Right buttons. You can also change the depth of the object. Use the Direction button to change the viewpoint and choose a Parallel or Perspective view.

Cautions when using 3D

Here are 2 cautions when using 3D:

  1. Keep the same point of view for all objects on a slide and even for all slides.
  2. Don’t over-use 3D; it can make a slide overly busy and harder to understand.

About the Author:

Ellen Finkelstein can train you or your team to create high-impact, engaging, professional presentations for training, sales, business, or education. For more information on her PowerPoint/presentation training workshops and coaching, click here.

6 Big Don’ts for Ending Your Presentation

By Ben Decker

Even the strongest speakers can undercut a whole presentation with three seconds of wobbly indecision at the end. Those few seconds amount to the last impression you leave with your audience – it’s the last picture people will remember of you. You’ve spent your whole presentation building credibility for yourself and your idea, and that last impression has everything to do with how you hold yourself.

Watch your nonverbal behavior and body language. Not even a line like Patrick Henry’s, “Give me liberty…!” can bail you out if you act nervous, disgusted, insincere, or hurried. Here are six essential don’ts for ending your presentation.

1. Never blackball yourself

…with a critical grimace, a shake of the head, eyes rolled upward, a disgusted little sigh. So what if you’re displeased with yourself? Don’t insult your audience by letting them know you were awful; they probably thought you were pretty good. One lip curl in those last three seconds can wreck 30 minutes of credibility-building. Keep a light smile on your face, and you can grimace at the mirror in the bathroom later if you want.

2. Don’t step backwards

If anything, take a half-step toward your listeners at the end. Stepping back is a physical retreat, and audiences subconsciously pick up on this cue. While you’re at it, don’t step back verbally, either. Softening your voice and trailing off toward the end obviously doesn’t sound confident. Maintain your strong vocal projection, annunciation, and pitch variety. You need to end with a bang, not a whimper.

3. Don’t look away

Some speakers harken back to the last visual-aid or PowerPoint slide, as if for reinforcement. Some people look aside, unwilling to confront listeners dead in the eye at the last words. Murmuring thank you while staring off somewhere else isn’t the last impression you want to leave. Maintain good eye communication throughout.

4. Don’t leave your hands in a gestured position

In our programs, we recommend using the resting ready position (arms gently at the sides) at the end to physically signal your audience you’re finished. You must let them go visually, in addition to the closing remarks you’re making. If you keep your hands up at waist level, you look as if you have something more to say. In speaking, think of yourself as the gracious host or hostess as you drop your hands with an appreciative thank you.

5. Don’t rush to collect your papers

Or visual aids or displays. Stop and chat with people if the meeting is breaking up, then begin to tidy up in a calm, unhurried manner.  Otherwise, you may contradict your calm, confident demeanor as a presenter. Behavioral cues are being picked up by your audience throughout the entire presentation experience, even during post-presentation.

If you sit down and grimace or huff and puff, listeners notice that, too.

6. Don’t move on the last word

Plant your feet and hold still for a half-beat after the you in thank you. Think about adding some lightness and smile with your thank you to show your comfort and ease. You don’t want to look anxious to get out of there. If anything, you want to let people know you’ve enjoyed being with them and are sorry you have to go. Don’t rush off.

Paying attention to your behaviors at the end of your presentation, whether formal at the lectern or informal standing at a meeting, will project the confidence and credibility you seek.

About the Author:

Ben Decker is the president of Decker Communications, a presentation skills consulting firm that coaches senior executives and managers to transform business communications.  For more information, visit Decker Communications at www.decker.com

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