Ahh, nothing compares to the pixelated, antialiased grandeur of software. Last time, we lifehacked Microsoft Word– but today, let’s focus on the centerpiece and cornerstone of Microsoft Office. Let’s learn about PowerPoint– from creation to presentation– and harness its incredible power, if you get my point.
General Tips n’ Tricks
- Shortcuts: Like Word, PowerPoint has a multitude of hidden keyboard shortcuts. You can find extensive lists of shortcuts (for both PC and Mac) online, but there are a few that I think really come in handy. In order to jump straight to a certain slide, simply press [#] + [enter]. There’s also a ‘panic button’ of sorts– press the period key [.] to cut from your presentation to a blank black slide. Simply press the [.] key again to pick up where you left off.
- Thinking Out of the Box: Preset templates are great and everything, but they can get a little stale. If you want to create your own template (or make revisions to a preexisting one), click [View > Master > Slide Master] and tweak to your heart’s content. If you really, really want to think outside of the box, you can change the dimensions of a slide itself. Go to [File > Page Setup], and you’ll have more aspect ratio changes than The Grand Budapest Hotel in no time at all.
- For the Know-it-Alls Out There: Just as in Word, PowerPoint keeps track of statistics. Go to [File > Properties > Statistics] for a ton of information. Also, for all the aspiring Edward Snowdens and Winston Smiths out there, just use [File > Passwords] to easily encrypt your presentation.
Tips for Design
A Crash Course in Colors: If you’re really serious about your presentation, I recommend taking a moment to think about color. There are all sort of resources out there if you want to learn about graphic design, but color theory can basically be boiled down to three rules:
- Complimentary colors work well together: complimentary colors are colors opposite one another on a color wheel. For instance, the famous orange/blue combination.
- Consider working with “cool” or “warm” hues: by sticking to blues/greens/purples or reds/oranges/yellows, you can create a unified aesthetic and convey a certain mood.
- Avoid eyesore color schemes: visibility always comes first and foremost- so avoid pink text on a green background, vanilla text on a beige background, etc.
The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Typography: It might sound silly, but typography is actually quite important– there’s even been a documentary (or two) dedicated to the topic! Now, there’s no need to split hairs and get too crazy about kerning, but here are a few quick tips:
- Use text to create “visual hierarchy”: When you read a document, odds are that your eyes focus on certain information first. In this document, for instance, bold text highlights the most essential information– the headings– while italics add emphasis and bullet points denote subheadings. This technique, the use of graphic design to prioritize information, is called “visual hierarchy”. Without getting too far into detail, just keep this in mind.
- Know the difference between sans and serif fonts, and use them to your advantage: If you really want to create an effective (and legible) presentation, take a moment to think about the fonts you’re using. Put as simply as possible: serif fonts (like the trusty Times New Roman) have small ‘wings’ and details on each individual letter, while sans serif fonts (like the stalwart Arial or beloved Helvetica) lack these superfluities (fun fact: sans serif literally means “without serif”). Serifs are generally better suited to print, and sans serifs to screens– but by combining the two, you can create visual hierarchy and make a really great aesthetic.
- Don’t use Comic Sans, please.
Advice on Presenting
It’s a Presentation, Present: If you remember one thing from this article, remember this: if you are presenting, focus on presenting. PowerPoint is a great tool to impart information, sure, but at the end of the day it should just be a tool to help you present. What do I mean by this? Don’t write essays on your slides! Try and whittle each thought down to a bullet point, if not an individual slide, and keep the words to a minimum. Then, use your words and explain your points to your audience! In literary criticism, it’s often said that an author should show, not tell. However, this holds true in the world of PowerPoint as well! Your PowerPoint can present graphs, images, and headings, but it should not talk about your idea. That’s your job!
Other Notes: A few other tips: never stand in front of the projector. Always face your audience. Whenever possible, keep a backup copy of your presentation somewhere on the cloud (Google Drive is a perfectly good option). And, for the love of glob, save your files whenever possible!
I hope that some of this information comes in handy! As a quick aside: PowerPoint is no longer the only presentation program in town. Google Drive has a perfectly respectable presentation software, but newcomer Prezi is an especially strong alternative. Feel free to check those out– a lot of these tips will carry over!
Anyways, that’s all I have for today. Have a great afternoon and present your heart out!