From Mediocre to Memorable: 3 Slide Makeovers

By Dave Zielinski

In the inaugural event of PresentationXpert’s new Webinar Wednesdays series last month, titled Take Your Slides from Mediocre to Memorable, PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein presented a number of compelling slide design tips and “made over” slides submitted by webinar participants.

Ellen stressed that even though most PowerPoint users aren’t professional designers, they can still create lively, high- impact, visually appealing presentations. Part of that is understanding that audiences remember pictures more than they do words, since the part of the brain devoted to visual input is much larger than the part for auditory input.

That means nobody, but nobody, loves slide after slide of bulleted text.

In Ellen’s Tell ‘n Show method, slide design is much more simplified. Text and visual, text and visual is the cadence. In this method a simple, explanatory heading goes on each slide, and there is often only one point per slide, meaning you may need to expand one slide to four.

Also, when you have text on a slide, think about how you can convey the concepts visually. Try to use photos that are literal or symbolic, or use iconic line art.

Here are makeovers of three different slides that demonstrate some of these concepts:

1) The Before version. Notice the lack of appealing graphics and text-heavy approach in this slide. To make the slide more compelling, Ellen converted it to SmartArt for PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, added a photo and rearranged some text. Used wisely, SmartArt can add color, shape and emphasis to data and text.


The After version:


2) The Before version. This slide not only is difficult  for audiences to read with its small font sizes, it’s text heavy. Ellen again used SmartArt to convert this slide to a more visually-appealing and easily-understood alternative, and made some changes in Excel as well.

The After version:


3) The Before version:

The First After Slide:


The Second After slide:


Dare to Be Different — While Still Using PowerPoint

By Gavin Meikle

In the corporate world it’s often seen as wrong to swim against the tide and challenging the way things are done can take real guts. I’ve recently been working with a client to help him transform a bullet point-heavy PowerPoint presentation into something that supports rather than competes with his clear and energetic delivery style.

His concern was that everybody in his organization presented using PowerPoint the same way and he was fearful of taking a risk by deviating from the accepted PowerPoint style.

It occurred to me that there must be millions of corporate warriors out there who feel exactly the same way. They have sat through enough boring corporate bullet- point driven PowerPoint slides to know that they don’t work well, but they don’t have any reference experiences of people doing it differently, especially within their organization. They too don’t have the courage to dare to be different with PowerPoint. If this is you then read on…

Let’s start by considering what is stopping you daring to be different. Odds are it will be a thought or series of thoughts driving this reluctance which have probably never been tested. Let’s take a moment to consider whether any or all of these thoughts actually have any basis in reality.

1. Nobody else diverts from the standard bullet point-heavy formula

Can you be 100% sure of this? Have you seen every single presenter and presentation within your organisation? If there is any doubt in your mind then the possibility that others in your organization do sometimes break away from the limitations of the standard format must be real and so if they could do it, so could you.

2. If I dare to be different with PowerPoint I’ll be punished in some way

How do you know this is true? If excuse 1 is really true, and nobody has ever done it before, how can you know if they would be punished or not?

3. Deviating from the standard PowerPoint style is not allowed in our organization

How do you know that? Have you every seen it written down in a company manual or memo? Has your manager ever told you this explicitly?

4. It’s too difficult to use images and diagrams rather than lots of words

You have never done it so how do you know that it will be as difficult as you think? You’ll never know until you try, will you?

Why you should dare to be different with PowerPoint

  • Ask yourself what is more important, fitting in or being persuasive?
    • If the answer in your head is “fitting in,” then I ask you to really think about whether this belief is  true.
    • Do you REALLY want to be another faceless corporate warrior?
  • Consider the potential benefits coming from being the person known for giving “different” presentations
    • Greater visibility within your organization
    • Increase your chances of promotion
    • Set an example for your colleagues
Dare to be different with PowerPoint – How to get started?
  • Start small
    • I am not asking you to change everything overnight. A great place to start is by reducing the number of words on your slides. Think of your bullet points as headlines rather than full sentences.
    • For each bullet point, ask yourself “Does my audience REALLY need to read this as well as hear me say it ? ” If the answer is “no” then leave it off your slide
    • Learn how to animate your bullet points so that they appear one at a time allowing you to control what your audience is paying attention to. (see  the tutorial on the link)
    • Experiment with fewer bullet points and try replacing one or two with a picture image or graph
  • Start in safety

Go on, do your company, your colleagues and yourself a favour – dare to be different with PowerPoint and let me know how you get on.

About the Author:

Gavin Meikle is a trainer, speaker and coach with Inter-activ Presenting and Influencing, a presentation coaching skills firm in the United Kingdom. Meikle is an accomplished and experienced guest speaker and conference facilitator who has done everything from humorous after dinner events to motivational addresses.  Meikle also is a qualified Toastmaster and a member of the Professional Speakers Association (PSA).

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

How to Use the ‘Remove Background’ Option in PowerPoint

By Geetesh BajajThe Remove Background option is among PowerPoint’s newest and most wonderful abilities. It lets you remove the background from an inserted picture — this can be a great feature if you want to remove a sky, a wall, any backdrop, or something else in a photograph so that the slide background shows through as transparent within the removed parts of the picture.Follow these steps to learn how the Remove Background option works:1. Before you start, we assume you already have a picture inserted on your slide. It helps if the parts of the picture you want to remove are fairly different in color from the rest of the picture, although as you get more proficient with PowerPoint’s Remove Background option, you will be able to work with more complicated compositions.Look at our sample picture, as shown in Figure 1 — you will notice that the color of the flower is distinctly different from the rest of the picture.

Figure 1:
Picture with fairly distinct background and foreground areas2. Select the picture to bring up the Format Picture tab (highlighted in red in Figure 2) of the Ribbon. Activate this contextual tab by clicking on it — locate the Adjust group, and click the Remove Background button (highlighted in blue in Figure 2).

Figure 2:
Remove Background button within Format Picture tab of the RibbonOnce you click the Remove Background button, PowerPoint makes a guess and shows the areas that it ascertains you want to remove (see Figure 3).

Figure 3:
Background area selected by default for removalIn addition, note these changes in the PowerPoint interface:a. You will see a selection box, indicated by the eight handles shown in Figure three. You use these handles to resize the selection box.b. You will also see the Background Removal message window providing you with the instructions for removing the picture background. Of course, you can close it at any time by clicking the Close (x) button on its top left.c. The active slide within the Slides Pane will show a preview of the picture with the background areas removed, as shown highlighted in green in Figure 3. Nothing is removed yet — this is just a preview.

3. You can see that a major portion of the picture has been covered with a pink overlay. This pink overlay indicates the background areas to be removed. Only those areas that still show the original colors of the picture will be retained.At this stage, you need to drag the handles of the selection box to help PowerPoint decide the areas of the picture you want to remove or retain as explained below:a. You can remove more areas by making the selection box smaller. Click on any of the handles and drag inside the picture area — wait for a while for PowerPoint to add more pink areas to your picture.b.You can retain areas by making the selection box larger. Click and drag any of the handles outwards — again wait for a while thereafter for PowerPoint to reduce the pink areas within your picture.Figure 4 shows the picture with the selection box resized to reduce the pink areas. Compare the areas highlighted in pink in Figures 3 and 4.

Figure 4: Pink overlaid areas reduced by enlarging the selection boxFor simple pictures, this is all you need to do. If you are happy with the results, go ahead and click anywhere on the slide outside the picture, or just press the Return key on your keyboard. This will make all pink overlaid background areas of the selected picture transparent, as shown in Figure 5 below.
Figure 5: Picture with background removed

4 . Save your presentation.
If your picture is busy and does not have clearly demarcated areas, then consider exploring our Advanced Remove Background Options tutorial.Tip: The Remove Background works not only with inserted pictures, but also works with any picture that is used as a fill for a shape.

About the Author:
Geetesh Bajaj has been designing and training with PowerPoint for 15 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.
Geetesh also is the author of the best-selling book Cutting Edge PowerPoint for Dummies and three subsequent books on PowerPoint 2007 for Windows and one on PowerPoint 2008 for Mac.

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