PowerPoint Helps Newbies
Have you ever sat in a seminar, lecture or even just standard meeting and wowed at the presentation being given by the speaker? Typically they will have compiled their slides using Microsoft PowerPoint, the world’s most popular presentation creation application.
Available as part of the Microsoft Office suite, alone or even free (in stripped-down form) via Microsoft Office Live (or its variants), PowerPoint can be used to create complicated, detailed presentations. But who wants a detailed or complicated presentation?!
Most of us want to enjoy a presentation for what it should be - a summarized dissemination of the facts. “Death by PowerPoint” is a common complaint among those watching a speaker’s first ever presentation, and the secret to avoiding the risk of boring your audience is to keep things simple, sticking to the basic rules of building a presentation in PowerPoint.
If you’re new to PowerPoint you can quickly get to work in a matter of seconds after launching the application. A blank template (also available by pressing CTRL+N) will be revealed, prompting you to enter a title and optional subtitle in the title slide.
This is easily done simply by clicking into each field and typing the title that you want to use.
Once the cursor is flashing, enter the title. You will notice that the four corners and four sides are given handles when the field is active. These boxes can be resized and dragged around the slide, while the green handle at the top of the title field can, when left-clicked, be used to rotate the text.
Creating a New Slide
Once you’re happy with the title slide, it is time to move onto the next slide. At present, you will only have a single slide available; to add more, use the New Slide drop down menu on the Home tab.
Here you will find nine different layout options, each featuring different arrangements and combinations of text and image fields.
All you need to do is select one of these to add it to the slide show. This will appear in the left-hand pane, and slides can be easily dragged around into different configurations. A quick shortcut to creating a new slide is by right-clicking in the left pane and selecting New Slide.
If you select a slide layout that doesn’t quite look the way you want, you might prefer to select the blank slide and then use the Section > Add section option to build your own slide.
Adjusting the Position of Elements
As hinted at above, elements can be repositioned in PowerPoint. This comes in particularly handy when you are importing images and PowerPoint places them over text. By simply left-clicking and dragging the object you can easily drop it into your preferred position, while any resizing can be done to scale by dragging the circular handles in the corner of the object (if you’re not concerned about scale, drag the small squares instead).
Different elements have different tools associated with them - the text box objects provide access to the Drawing Tools tab when selected, while selecting a picture activates the Picture Tools tab. Each provides additional options for enhancing your chosen object.
Inserting Charts, Images and Media
You will notice that new slide elements in PowerPoint will give you the opportunity to add new objects. Simply roll your mouse over this array of six icons to check what the options are - you can add a table, chart, SmartArt graphic, clip art, image from a file or audio/video content (usually in WMV format).
To add the object of your choice, click the appropriate icon and browse for the file that you wish to incorporate into your PowerPoint slide show.
Standard Formatting Conventions
If you’re familiar with Microsoft Word or Excel you shouldn’t have any problem in using PowerPoint to format text.
Italic, underlined and bold type can easily be added using the buttons in the ribbon menu, while different list options (bullet and numbered) are also available. Using the text direction button you can alter the orientation of text, while the left, right and center justification buttons will also help you to display text the way you want to.
Remember that text that you add to a presentation slide should be a summary of what you are saying. Keep it brief and you’ll keep the attention of your audience!
In older version of PowerPoint, preparing a polished presentation usually required working on a pre-designed template with the necessary logos and styling applied.
However this is no longer necessary. Even with a bare bones slide show (such as the one we have created here so far) you can end up with a highly impressive design by switching to the Design tab and selecting one of the included Themes.
This only needs to be done once, too, so don’t worry about having to apply a style to every single slide in your presentation. As such, this change can be made at any stage.
Skip the Transitions
They might be one of the most popular elements of PowerPoint, but if you’re looking to keep things simple and just get to grips with the software then wasting time with transition effects isn’t in your best interest.
While these can be used to great effect when it comes to switching between pages (in much the same way that elements can be introduced to a slide with various bangs, flashes and animations) ultimately if you’re going to create a first time slide show presentation that is effective, skipping the transitions will support your case.
Preview at Any Time
While the presentation can be checked at any time using the slide summary on the left pane, you can easily get a preview of your work so far by tapping F5 or using the Slide Show tab, where the From Beginning and From Current Slide options will start the presentation in full screen view.
This is a great way of seeing how your progress so far looks, not to mention ideal for testing the slide show and your accompanying presentation script.
Don’t Forget Notes!
Having a set of notes in your presentation is particularly useful. It can help you to keep track of where you are when giving your presentation, and can also act as useful context if you print out the presentation and provide it as a handout (a feature available by selecting File > Print).
Adding notes to a presentation slide is worth doing if you have concerns about forgetting what you’re talking about at any stage, and they can be added to any, all or none of your slides (or just kept for yourself!)
If you plan on adding a few words to accompany your slides and keep your mind focused, simply click into the Notes section at the foot of the slide in question and enter the text as required.
Don’t Forget to Spell Check!
By now you should have managed to put together a compelling, polished presentation, ready for your big day.
But don’t think that you’ve completed the task of creating a PowerPoint slide show - there are a couple of things still to do. First, you should make sure that you have saved a copy, to both your PC and a device that can be safely connected to the laptop or computer allocated for displaying the presentation. Saving a copy to your phone or tablet might also be a good idea so that you might send it via email in the event of a disk error.
You should also be aware that as in Word, pressing F7 will run the Microsoft spelling and grammar check. Many presentations are ruined by poor grammar and spelling, which is a shame as it is so easy to overcome these problems.
With those two final tips understood and acted upon, you should be ready to face the world with your PowerPoint presentation!
- Author’s own experience.