As I spend a lot of my time making presentations, I take some pride in doing what I hope is a good job. Well, at least I get good feedback quite often, so I know I am somewhat successful. There are many factors that contribute to a well executed presentation, but an area that seems to cause a lot of challenge is the use of PowerPoint. As I have done before [here and here], I would like to share some more tips gleaned from my experience.
This time I have two hints to make presentations a little bit smoother and hopefully avoid murder by PowerPoint …
There is a PowerPoint feature which, if used in a sensible way, can really improve the impression given to your audience: hyperlinks. These can broadly be used in three ways:
- To link to other presentations – from an agenda slide, for example. This enables you to have complete control of what the audience is seeing, with no need to start/stop PowerPoint or mess around finding presentation files. When the hyperlinked presentation finishes [either by coming to the end of hitting the ESC key], the display will return to the top level presentation [i.e. the agenda slide].
- To link to a website. If you are talking about some Web content and have an Internet connection, it may be useful to invoke the default browser directly from your presentation.
- To run another program. Maybe you want to run a demonstration of a software product during your presentation. Hyperlinking to the executable makes running the demo seamless.
There are essentially two ways to make a hyperlink in PowerPoint:
- You can select some text, then right click on it and set up the hyperlink. The dialog is, I believe, quite straightforward. The drawback is that the resulting hyperlinked text is underlined [like on old-fashioned Web pages] and underlining is really bad. It significantly reduces readability. I am sure that there used to be a way to stop this underlining, but if it is possible now, I am unable to figure that out.
- You can right click on an object, which can be a graphic, a shape or even a text box and set up a hyperlink – this makes the entire object “hot”.
The second method can be used to enable textual hyperlinks without the underlining. Either you hyperlink the entire text box or you place a rectangular shape over the text that you want “live”, add a hyperlink to it, then make the shape borderless and transparent [do not make it “no fill”, just set transparency in the object Properties to 100%].
This ZIP file contains three PowerPoint files called A, B and C, which illustrate the use of hyperlinks. Just open A and hit F5 to present [or right click on the file and select Show]. There is just a single slide that hyperlinks to the other 2 presentations in the two ways that I described. Have a play.
My second tip is much simpler, but can make presenting just a tiny bit simpler. How do you advance slides during a presentation? If you have a wireless remote controller, then you are sorted – that is the best way by far and those devices are a worthwhile investment. The zero cost way is to either left click on the mouse or hit a key on the keyboard. I do not favor the use of a mouse, as moving it can cause a distracting pointer to appear and an accidental right click is annoying. There are many keys on the keyboard to advance slides: right-arrow, down-arrow, ENTER and page-down are all options. However, I always use the SPACE key. Why? It is the biggest “target”, which means that hitting it accurately in a dimly lit room is straightforward. Stepping back a slide can also be done with a selection of keys – probably the best is BACKSPACE, as, again, that key is largest.
If you have any good PowerPoint tips, please share them by comment or email.