PowerPoint expert's secrets revealed

If a pot of strong coffee is the only thing that keeps listeners awake for
your briefings, here’s how to make a mundane presentation motivational.

Microsoft PowerPoint 97 is one of the most robust presentation applications around. A
few simple steps in PowerPoint can enliven even the dullest demonstration. Delve in just a
bit deeper to bestow animation, sounds and actions that make a presentation jump off the

Creating a good presentation involves three steps:

Now start outlining. As a general rule, never put everything you plan to say on
slides—the audience will get bored. The outline merely previews your speaking points.

Plan on making one slide for every one or two minutes you will speak. For a 20-minute
presentation, prepare 10 to 20 slides. Don’t worry about the details at first, just
write a title for each slide.

Some slides can drill down deeper, but make certain there’s a steady flow of

If you have a notebook computer and the conference room has a projection system or
large monitor, go with the dynamic show. If the room lacks a projection system but you
have access to a color printer, the static color presentation is the second-best option.

Lacking the above, turn to the lowest common denominator, a monochrome laser printer.
Static black-and-white overheads may not seem exciting, but check out some of the tips
below to add zest.

For this tutorial, I borrowed a colleague’s 20-minute presentation about
government year 2000 awareness. The tutorial will transform her black-and-white
presentation with color and animation. Visit GCN’s Web site at http://www.gcn.com to download copies of the transformation
and review the changes.

The original year 2000 presentation had a solid outline, and my colleague’s slides
were focused. But her PowerPoint file had 22 black-and-white slides, some of which flashed
by only briefly.

Here’s how I trimmed the 22 slides down to 16 and made them more dramatic.

First, I went to the Format menu and selected Apply Design to choose one of
PowerPoint’s predefined templates, which incorporate colors, fonts and backgrounds. I
chose the Blue Diagonals design.

Because the presentation focused on year 2000, I thought the subtle addition of
“2000’’ on each slide might look attractive. PowerPoint’s Title Master
and Slide Master helped me set this as the dominant style.

Any changes edited in these Masters will apply throughout. I clicked on the View menu,
selected Master and made alterations. To create the numerals 2000 as a background element,
I went to the Insert menu and chose Picture and then WordArt.

Animation makes presentations dynamic, but remember that the longer it takes to build a
slide, the longer your message takes to get across to the audience.

Because I planned for the speaker to talk about each slide for more than a minute, I
decided to add a small amount of animation to many of the slides. In the Master area, I
made the title text fly from the top and the body text fly from the right.

Each slide was to perform these animations, but I only had to designate them once in
the Slide Master. If I chose to omit animation on one slide, I could change just that one.

To animate, I right-clicked an object and selected Custom Animation. A dialog box
appeared with the Effects tab in the foreground.

I could choose from among 54 different effects. PowerPoint puts a handy thumbnail in
the upper right corner. Click the Preview button to see what your choice causes to happen.

You can choose different ways for text to appear—all at once, word by word or
letter by letter. Use the drop-down menu under Introduce Text section.

Other choices here let you play sounds with animations or dim text after its
appearance. Go to the top left box to arrange objects in order of animation and the Timing
tab to indicate when an object should be animated.

For example, if you’d like animations to appear one after another without delays,
click the Automatically radio button at the right bottom and choose zero seconds.

Select as many seconds as you’d like or a fraction of a second by entering, say,
0.1 for one-tenth of a second.

Sometimes a slide needs to stop at certain points while the speaker elaborates. Choose
the On Mouse Click radio button to make the slide build wait until the mouse button or a
key is pressed.

The year 2000 presentation employed three slides to make one word seem to grow larger
on the screen. I changed this, using the animation dialog with Zoom In From Screen Center
to perform the same task.

The presentation discussed a variety of user interfaces including Microsoft Windows and
Web browsers. I wanted to add pizzazz by making a cursor appear to click on a word in a
Web browser. To see how I performed the feat, read the sidebar on Page 30.

Thanks to the hundreds of clip-art items organized on the Office 97 CD-ROM, I added
appropriate illustrations as needed. Even more clip art is downloadable for free from http://officeupdate.microsoft.com.

Finally, from the Slide Sorter under the View menu, I shuffled slides around and added
transitions between them.

With a little creativity and a playful attitude, it’s easy to discover the secrets
of designing a good slide show. Start with PowerPoint’s help menu and its
Auto-Content Wizard, and add potency to your presentations. 

PowerPoint 97 is forgiving. Play with the application and try different things. If
something goes wrong, undo or delete and start over.

See a presentation you like? Borrow an electronic copy to dissect how the slide show
was built. Borrow these ideas, too:

Change fonts, backgrounds, colors and elements, and add animation or sound here.

If the only printer available is a monochrome laser, you’re stuck without color
and animation for dynamic presentations. But that doesn’t mean your presentation has
to look dull.

Here are a few tips to add vigor to a static black-and-white presentation:

Color gives oomph, but it imposes a file size burden and requires a skilled hand to hew
to the line between good and gaudy.

Also unpleasant are heavy colors on top of each other, such as primary green and red. A
final reason to avoid these combinations: A projector or printer might have trouble at the
edges where the colors join.

Color overheads tend to cause problems on color printers. What looks good on screen may
not look good on transparency film.

Tektronix Inc. of Wilsonville, Ore., makes my personal favorites, the Phaser 350 and
360, which melt solid-wax ink blocks onto media in a thin film. Coverage is even and

The lower-cost Stylus Photo printers from Epson America Inc. of Torrance, Calif., also
product excellent ink-jet output.

Create your own backgrounds using Masters, or alter the background fill under the
Format menu by selecting Background. The perfect presentation combination is a notebook
computer and a projector or large-screen monitor. If the room is wired for sound,
you’re set.

Layering gives excellent control but may be confusing depending on the complexity.
Layering also cuts down on the number of slides.

The Office 97 CD-ROM’s ValuPack also has a PowerPoint add-in that lets you choose
music to set the mood.

Install the add-in, go to the Tools menu and select Add-Ins to work with PowerPoint

Click the slide where you want music to start, choose the Slide Show menu and go to
Custom Soundtracks.

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