One of the reasons Microsoft's PowerPoint software is so
popular is that it can get you seventy percent of the way
toward an effective presentation, even if you've never
used it before and have never given a presentation in
your life. That's a remarkable capability for a piece of
But are you content to give seventy percent of an effec-
tive presentation? Or would rather be the kind of speak-
er who electrifies an audience, changes listeners' atti-
tudes, and teaches them something for which they will
be grateful? These tips, culled from Communispond's
decades of experience coaching presenters, will help you
fill in some of the remaining thirty percent and give a
one hundred percent presentation that remains in the
memories of your audience long after you've clicked out
of your 'Thank You' slide!
First, make text more legible for your audience by
choosing a font with a large 'x-height'. Many fonts
appear larger than others, even though they may be the
same point size. You can tell those that appear largest by
the height of the lowercase 'x' in relation to other char-
acters with vertical extensions, such as the 'd' and the
'h'. Ariel and Verdana, for example, each has a larger x-
height than Garamond.
Second, whenever possible, use sans-serif fonts. They're
easier to read from a distance. Serif is a fancy word for
the little feet on the ends of letters in fonts like Times or
Book Antiqua. Take a look at Arial, then look at Times.
You'll see the difference. Serifs make a font easier to read
in blocks of text, but in the small amounts of text on a
PowerPoint slide, sans serif is more legible.
Speaking of the small amounts of text on a PowerPoint
slide, our third way to increase legibility is to observe
the 4X4 Rule. This rule prescribes maximums of four
lines per slide, four words per line.
PowerPoint may let you convert your slides to a handout at the click of a button, but slides and handouts are sup- posed serve fundamentally different purposes. Using one for the other means either ineffective slides or incompre- hensible handouts\u2014or both.
Good presentation visuals are sparse, few in number,
and use bullet points rather than blocks of text.
Handouts need to be understood after the fact, studied,
and given to people who were not present.
\u2022 Do the long 'handout' version of the presentation
first and save it as a separate file. Then, go
through the 'presentation' version of the file and
clean it up, reducing the number of slides, simpli-
fying graphics, and editing text to the necessary
\u2022 Do a single, simple version, but add more details
and examples in the 'notes' section of the
PowerPoint file. For the handout, simply print out
the presentation with your notes.
When you're in PowerPoint's slide show mode, press the F1 key in the top left corner. A menu of very cool tricks will appear, including:
\u2022 Type the number of the slide you want and then press the enter key. You'll go to that slide without showing all the others.
\u2022 Touch the letter 'W' to make the screen go white.
This is a spectacular way to wake up everyone in
the audience, but it is only useful if you're pre-
senting against a whiteboard and want to show
something on it.
'P', and the marking pen appears. This allows you to highlight, circle, and annotate the image on the screen.
'A', and an arrow appears. This is much more pro-
fessional than a laser pointer; it remains steady
and can be controlled easily by a mouse.
One of the most common complaints about projectors
and PowerPoint is that the picture is 'cut off '\u2014you can't
see everything on the screen that is on your original
The most common reason for this is that the presenta-
tion was designed on a desktop computer in high resolu-
tion but the laptop you're working from doesn't have
the same high-quality picture.
There you'll find all the controls that send the picture
from your laptop to the projector. Usually you can solve
the problem by sliding the 'Screen Resolution' indicator
as far to the right as it will go.
If that doesn't work, connect the projector and reboot
your computer. Although this step takes a bit longer,
odds are good that the problem will self-correct.
In the history of PowerPoint presentations, countless
audience person-hours have been wasted waiting for
speakers to boot computers, open PowerPoint, go
through their files, and click on 'View Slide Show' to get
to their slides. To bypass some of this tedium, save your
presentation (or copy it) to the desktop so it's right there
when you boot the computer. But when you save it, save
the file as a .pps file, rather than a .ppt file. This option
comes up when you choose 'Save As\u2026'
The .pps format saves your file as a full-screen presenta-
tion. If it's on the desktop of your computer, and you
click on the icon, it opens up in its full-screen glory,
without having to put your audience through a lot of
navigation and menus.
Saving a .pps file should be the very last step in creating your presentation, because you can't change the slides in the .pps format.
Here's another file format trick. Have you ever created a
PowerPoint slide for a presentation\u2014say a chart or
graph\u2014then wanted to use it in a handout package or
include it in another document? It's easy to do: save it as
a picture, instead of a PowerPoint presentation.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?