January 24, 2010

10 basic powerpoint tips

Whether you are a student, teacher, scientist, or a professional, what comes to your mind first when you have to make and give a presentation? PowerPoint!
Yes, PowerPoint, the MS Office application tool which has changed the way we make and present information.

I've been using PowerPoint since the last 10 years. My father introduced me to the world of PowerPoint and I remember making my first presentation of two slides - one having my name and the other my age! Today, I'm more than 50 presentations old! :) With every presentation that I've made, I've learnt something new for my next. It's a great platform for unlimited creative experimentation. For me a PowerPoint presentation is what a movie is to Aamir Khan, i.e. every time looking to offer something new and fresh for engaging the audience, applying creativity for differentiation and impact, chasing excellence so that the presentation comes out with flying results!

From your experience many of you would agree that today it's not the content alone which is important, what also matters is the way we dress up our presentation and carry it to our audience. If you understand this basic underlying principle, you're half way through and you will be able to not only communicate effectively but also generate the necessary impact within the stipulated time.

In this first of a series, I am going to share with you 10 basic PowerPoint tips which will help you gear up the next time you make a presentation! These tips will help you in conveying your core message and creating impact on your target audience.

Tip 1 - Be clear of the objective
You should be very clear with the objective of your presentation right from the word go. Try to understand if you are looking forward to just share information, findings, etc (school/ college project presentations) or are also looking for a call to action from your highlighted points (business presentations). It's always better to ask your guide, boss, client, etc if you have some doubt rather than reworking the entire presentation later. Plus, you should also know who is your target audience and how much time do you have for presenting.

Tip 2 - Search, compile and arrange content
Once you know what you have to work on, start searching the content either from books, published papers, your Excel analysis worksheets, etc. You may even search on the internet in case you have nothing in hand. Create sub-folders on your computer and arrange the files in the best possible way so that once you actually start making the presentation, you won't loose on time. It will simply make your job easy.

Tip 3 - Decide which version to use - MS PowerPoint 2003 or 2007
Many of us overlook this basic point and later realize that the computer system on which you have to present doesn't have a supporting 2003 or 2007 version. One creates a lot of advanced animations on 2007 and realizes nothing is working on 2003! This creates last minute panic, changes in slide content, images, animation, etc. Besides, there are space issues too, a 2007 file converted to a 2003 version may take 10 times more space (my experience). So, either use the same laptop which essentially means the same version or check the venue beforehand and choose the version which will be made available to the participants. The safest bet is to use MS PowerPoint 2003. Let's see what happens when 2010 comes!

Tip 4 - Time to start, choose a theme
Once, you've done your groundwork, get ready to make your presentation. Open PowerPoint application and the first thing you should do is to give a name and save your presentation somewhere. This helps always! Once done, start off by choosing a theme under 'Design'. You have to be judgemental in your selection as you have to keep in mind your objective and the target audience. Select bright combinations if giving a presentation in schools, go for darker shades if in college. White based themes are the most preferred in offices as you come across people of all ages and some may tend to dislike dark shades. However, if you really are confident about your content and can pre-imagine how it would appear, choose any them and make the best out of it! You will gradually learn by experience.

Tip 5 - Freeze your slide master
I used to make my own design template from scratch and kept on copy-pasting the slide template to replicate the theme. At office, I picked up the concept of slide master where you can edit the theme once and for all and will get the same design theme every time you hit Ctrl+M. Work carefully on this as this is really useful in smoothening the work.

Tip 6 - Juxtapose your text, images and charts
Now what's juxtapose? Click here to know! Start from the first slide and think of an creative short and crisp title for your presentation which should be an apt reflector of what you are going to talk on. There is no fixed rule for title position placement, you can change depending on  the way you want it to appear. Try two three options and freeze. Move on to your next slides and write the title and sub-titles (if required) along with the content text. Now, juxtapose your text, charts and images so that they all appear as part of a common theme. Take care that you do not overkill by using excessive images as it will distract your audience from the core message.

Tip 7 - Use complementing custom and slide animations
You must have seen flying texts or suddenly appearing images out of where, well these are nothing but animations. If you use it for text, image, chart, etc it's called custom animation while if you animate the entire slide itself, it's called slide animation. Use these under 'Animation'. Click the text box or image or chart and experiment which animation suits your theme the best. Again, do not overkill by using excessive animation as it will slow you down and you may might eventually exceed your timeline.

Tip 8 - Add hyperlinks to jump slides
Sometimes you may want to show an image or a chart but do not want it to appear in the regular flow. Not to worry, just add a hyperlink for jumping slides to the desired image, chart, etc on the last slide and give a hyperlink to come back to the slide where you left. This ensures that your presentation maintains a common flow and is of great use during the Q&A session where you don't have to flip through each and every slide. Just jump to the slide by clicking the preset hyperlink.

Tip 9 - Roll back, check slide by slide
Before you say - "It's done!", roll back your presentation and check slide by slide for correct content, colour combinations, meaningful titles, spelling mistakes (run a spell check), image placements, working animation (with/after previous or with mouse click), hyperlinks landing on the correct page. Wherever you find the slightest mistake, rectify that moment itself. Press F5 to see your presentation in motion and I would advice you to do this at least 5 times to ensure that your presentation is error free and is ready for being presented.

Tip 10 - Practice by giving mock presentations
Now that you have prepared a complete presentation deck, practice it out by giving mocks to first yourself, preferably in front of the mirror and then to your family, friends, teammates, etc who can give you genuine feedback. You need to watch out for - clarity in speech, choice of words in sync with the presentation flow, timing as per the allotted timeline and objective handling. You should also be prepared in case an unexpected situation arises, like the power goes off or the computer hangs, hence do not merely recite the presentation words, but get into the skin and be sure that you know the A to Z of it!

So, these are my 10 basic powerpoint tips for everyone who wants to go right in their presentations. I will write more on all these tips later. Go, make one today! In case you need more assistance, post a comment below or email me by clicking here.


  1. designing and animating is really alluring to the creative minds. Find out the Top Animation Institutes in Pune

  2. Those tips re very good, but I think you should add another one. Users should use templates, which will help them a lot in creating presentations. There so many websites where you could download them, but I recomend you http://www.poweredtemplate.com/ as the best of them.