The majority of us at one point or another in our lives have used the ubiquitous presentation software PowerPoint. Originally launched in 1990, the now 25-year-old program is still going strong, used by students and professionals alike in communicating their ideas and findings to audiences everywhere. But, just because a software has been around for a while, doesn’t mean it’s flawless. PowerPoint is notorious for the hatred its users have often felt while using it. Though to be fair, some of that hatred isn’t really directed at the software functionality itself as opposed to what it does to our ability to communicate.
But regardless of which side of the fence you reside on, PowerPoint has burned people many a time. Whether it’s in the deck creation process or when it comes time to actually deliver that presentation, check out four things you’re not doing that will immediately make PowerPoint more enjoyable (and effective) to use.
Maneuvering Completely with HotKeys
Hotkeys, or keyboard shortcuts, are funny. They exist in all sorts of software, applications and operating systems, only to be ignored by the vast majority of users. It’s understandable to not want to make time to learn various sets of key combinations that perform the same function you can do with your mouse, but people drastically underestimate just how much time keyboard shortcuts can save them in their workflow.
If you feel strapped for time, try incorporating one useful hotkey into your workflow each week. By the end of the quarter you will have memorized all your regular maneuvers on PowerPoint, astonished by how easy it is having your hands never leave the keyboard. Copy and paste is a great start, but you’re leaving efficiency on the table by ignoring PowerPoint hotkeys. Here’s a complete list of PowerPoint shortcuts for your perusal – so get to it! If you want to start with some commonly used ones, check out this list of Microsoft Office shortcuts from MakeUseOf.
Properly Embedding Video in PowerPoint
When’s the last time you tried incorporating video into your PowerPoint presentation? Was the process fun? Did it work flawlessly? We’re guessing no. Inserting video into PowerPoint presentations has oddly never been easy. In fact, up until a few years ago, you couldn’t even embed video into the platform. But even now that you can, you still run into issues whenever you try playing your presentation on any computer that’s not your own as the video file saves locally to your computer and not the presentation file itself. If you want to avoid the all-too-common awkward moment of “I don’t know why my video’s not playing” in front of a crowded room, turn to presentation add-on software like LiveSlides, which makes it super simple to embed video in PowerPoint. Avoiding as many technical difficulties as possible reduces project frustration and let’s you focus on the actual content and structure of your presentation without worrying if it’s going to work when you need it to. It should be said that the latest versions of PowerPoint have gotten better at integrating with video files, but the issue is that not everyone is using the latest versions. Avoid hypothetical snags and go with a foolproof solution.
Deleting the Stock Slides and Creating/Sourcing Your Own
PowerPoint’s an in-depth program, and while that naturally and understandably scares some people off who don’t want to take the time to master it, those same people are missing out on the potential for creative impact. One such solution to this is parting with the standard slide templates and either creating or sourcing your own instead. There are a ton of different resources around the web you can use to create your PowerPoint templates and backgrounds. Whatever you do, don’t use the ho-hum, standard templates you see on every thrown-together, dry presentation. Take the time to understand how your presentation’s aesthetics, such as the template, font and color scheme can all come together to enhance your message. The key is to be unique without being corny or tacky. You want creative solutions and eye-catching style, but you don’t want it at the expense of your presentation looking contrived, tacky or not in unison with your presentation’s tone and goal.
Letting the Software Support and Not Consume Your Presentation
All too often we fill our slides with a bunch of text, graphics, sound effects, and whatever else we’re trying to overcompensate our inadequate content with. We think we have to go in-depth and flashy in order to get a presentation to resonate with an audience, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. If you use your PowerPoint presentation as a crutch, it’ll show, and your presentation will quickly be lost on wandering minds.
Instead, take note of Seth Godin’s five rules for creating amazing PowerPoint Presentations, highlighted below.
- No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
- No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
- No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
- Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
- Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.
Above all, you want to hone your message down to its fundamentals, while still keeping your presentation engaging. You want to speak in a way that’s accessible to the audience, but you also want to maintain a position of authority. When people don’t buy into your professionalism or expertise on something, your presentation will fall flat regardless of how you’ve created it.