Thought Leadership

PowerPoint hints and tips #3

By Colin Walls

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:

  1. 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].
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at