10 ways to power up your PowerPoint presentations


1.      Show your speaker notes on your laptop and your slides on the big screen

With PowerPoint, you can use Presenter View (slides and speaker notes together) to see your own notes on one screen; whilst displaying the glamorous side of things (slides only) to your audience. It’s ideal if you’re not the world’s most comfortable public speaker.

To do this, you’ll need a second display and a laptop capable of using it (most today are).

First, change your display settings. Right-click on the desktop and select “Properties”; then the “Page Settings” tab. Select “Second monitor” > “Screen Resolution”. Activate “Extend my Windows desktop onto this Monitor”.

Now, return to PowerPoint and select “Slide Show” > “Set Up Show” > “Multiple monitors”. Select “Show Presenter View”. Hey presto – one view for you, another for your audience!

2.      More ‘Undos’ mean less mistakes

The “Undo” function is the most used Office function – because we all make mistakes! But when you’re positioning graphics carefully on a slide, every tiny movement ‘counts’ as an undo; and that means you can easily use up your 20 ‘undo steps’.

It’s a little known fact that you can increase your available undo steps. Hit the Office Button, then “PowerPoint Options” and then select the “Advanced” tab. Under “Editing Options”, change the “Maximum number of undos” to whatever number works for you.

3.      Prevent recipients from altering your presentations

PowerPoint presentations are meant to be viewed – so it’s no surprise that millions are emailed out every day. But sometimes it would be nice not to have your presentation altered and re-used by its recipients.

You can prevent this by locking your presentation down in “final” form. Hit the Office Button and select “Prepare”; then “Mark as Final”. Your presentation becomes read-only and cannot be altered.

Using the same “Prepare” menu, you can also select “Restrict Permissions” to refuse or grant access to print and edit functions.

4.      Make numbers meaningful

Nobody likes rows of meaningless statistics in a presentation; but PowerPoint 2007 and 2010 both include Excel’s powerful charting tools as standard; which means you can make trends jump off the screen with elegant and visually appealing charts.

To insert a chart, select “Insert” > “Chart”. Select a chart type from the icons shown and Excel will automatically open – with some example data thrown in for good measure. Either alter the example data, or paste in your own data from Excel. You can see your chart develop in your PowerPoint presentation in real-time as you edit.

5.      Resolve your resolution

Screens today come in several shapes and sizes; and it’s a shame to put bags of effort into making a presentation crisp and clear – only to find that you get to a client’s office and they have a completely different screen size. Either you’re left with strange bars of black at the edges of the screen, or worse still, bits of your presentation are illegible or missing.

You can now fix this problem with a couple of keystrokes. Open your slide show and select the “Slide Show” tab, then “Monitors”. Find the “Resolution” dropdown and simply select an appropriate resolution from the list of commonly-used screen sizes listed.

6.      Sweeping transitions with one click

In versions of PowerPoint before 2007, setting up transitions between slides was a fairly laborious and intricate process. In PowerPoint 2007 and 2010, whilst there are plenty of advanced controls to make perfect transitions, you can achieve exceptional transition effects with a single click.

Hit the “Animations” tab, and the majority of the toolbar is taken up with around 50 single-click transitions which will then be applied to the selected slide(s). Even more usefully, though, hover over any transition icon, and you can see the effect applied in real-time.

Finally, (and in general, gradual effects are more pleasing to the eye than dramatic ones), you can use the “Transition Speed” control to make your transition more gentle.

7.      Wipe the white

Here’s a little-known tip to make pictures hugely more effective in PowerPoint. Many clip-art images are mounted on a white (or other solid colour) background. That’s fine for documents written in Word; but if you use a coloured background in PowerPoint, you’re left with an unpleasant white rectangle around the body of your image.

PowerPoint, however, lets you make one colour in a JPG image transparent – allowing you to “cut around” the part of your image which matters.

Click on the image you want to edit. Select “Picture Tools” > “Format” > “Adjust” > “Recolor” > “Set Color Transparent”. Then, simply click anywhere in your picture that contains the solid colour you want to remove; and it will instantly become transparent.

8.      Discover selection heaven

Here are some typical issues which have PowerPoint users tearing their hair out:

Trying to select an object which is underneath one or more objects

Selecting parts of a group of objects, or a group of objects and one or more additional objects on the screen

Selecting disparate objects which are in different groups

Multiple selections are a real bugbear – but there’s a truly beautiful way out. It’s called the Selection Pane.

From the Ribbon, select “Arrange” and then “Selection Pane” (there are several other ways to reach it, too). The Selection Pane will appear to the right of your screen, with every single object on the current slide listed (in groups if appropriate). This allows you to select or deselect individual items and groups at will. Change the properties of any number of items; hide them completely if you wish, and even give your object groups user-friendly names. At a stroke, it makes manipulating objects completely free-form.

9.      A fontastic tip

Does your company brand include a specialist font? Many do; and of course you’d like to use that font in your PowerPoint presentations. It’s part of your image, after all. However, only a small proportion of fonts (Times New Roman, Courier, Arial etc.) are universally available; and the recipient of your presentation by email might not have your font installed on their computer. If that’s the case, you can be sure that your presentation will look weird at best, illegible at worst.

The solution is to embed your font within the presentation.

When the time comes to save your presentation, hit the Office button, then “PowerPoint Options” and the “Save” tab. Check the “Embed fonts in the file” checkbox, and your font will be included with the “.pptx” file you send out.

10.   The key to learning keystrokes

Finally, here’s a tip which works across the Office Suite of products – but which is often forgotten. Hit the “Alt” key (by itself), and the keystrokes for every menu currently active will appear on-screen. It’s a great way to learn the key sequences for your favourite menus; and can make repetitive tasks massively easier than using the mouse.

As more functions get added (Office 2010 is even more packed with features than Office 2007); menus have by necessity become longer. Picking up a few handy keystroke sequences can save you many hours of menu-juggling.

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