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PowerPoint Tip: Creating Custom-Shaped Placeholders

It’s not hard to come up with unique slide designs if you’re familiar with PowerPoint’s full potential. There’s more to PowerPoint than just bullet points and repetitive templates. With some creativity and experimentation, you will find that PowerPoint is a flexible presentation tool that allows for many design possibilities.

One of the many ways you can customize the look of your slides is by experimenting with picture placeholders. As you know, we use placeholders to quickly add elements on a particular slide. Placeholders are particularly useful for pictures, because it helps you ensure that alignment is consistent throughout. If you want to add an extra bit of detail to your pictures, turn your placeholders into .

Creating basic placeholder shapes: 

1.) Start with Slide Master 

Start in the Slide Master View and insert a Slide Layout. On the new slide, add a Picture Placeholder and adjust it according to your liking.

Select Insert Layout first, then click on Insert Placeholder and choose Picture.

2.) Change placeholder shape

Select your placeholder and click on the Drawing Tools Format tab. Select Edit Shape and choose from the pre-defined shapes under Change Shape.

Choose the shape that best suits your design concept.

3.) Make adjustments 

You can adjust the new shape by using the yellow diamond to refine corners and modify angles.

Click and drag the yellow diamond to adjust your shape.

You can also take it one step further by defining your own shape. If you want your placeholder to look a specific way, there’s a quick way to make your own custom and unique shapes.

Defining custom-shaped placeholders: 

1.) Choose a shape for a starting point 

Do the same steps indicated above to choose a shape that can serve as your starting point. Go with one that is closest to your desired shape, so that you can minimize the adjustments you’ll need to make.

2.) Enable Combine Shapes command 

The Combine Shapes command allows you to customize shapes by merging and intersecting them together. You can also “subtract” a portion of one shape with another. To enable the command, you will need to add it to the Quick Access Toolbar. Select the small arrow above the ribbon and choose More Commands.

When the dialogue box appears, find Combine Shapes from All Commands. Press “C” on your keyboard to find it quickly.

3.) Adjust by “subtracting” shapes 

To use the Combine Shapes command, start placing new shapes around the placeholder. Once you’ve arranged the shapes, hold shift and select the placeholder followed by the shapes around it.

Make sure you select the placeholder first.

Click on the Combine Shapes icon from the Quick Access toolbar and select Shape Subtract.

How the placeholder will look after “subtraction”.

Once you’re happy with your shape, exit Slide Master View and start designing your slides. You can create as many custom-shaped placeholders as you like. Since you made them using Slide Master, you can easily access the new layouts under New Slide.

Featured Image: Ben K Adams via Flickr

Visual Thinking: Do Images Fill Your Brain?

Do you have a hard time memorizing people’s names, but can easily place the face of a stranger? Is it hard to articulate your ideas and turn them into words? Do you prefer sketching out the details of a project? Do you love solving puzzles like this one? Those who are more inclined to visual thinking will likely answer yes to all these questions.

What is visual thinking?

Learn more about the unique ability to see the world in pictures and the skills it involves by watching these two videos:

Are You A Visual Thinker? by BuzzFeed Video

Visual Thinking 101 by Sean Griffin

Developing visual thinking skills

As we often discuss here, our brains are more inclined to process and retain visual information. This is why visualization is an important element in presentations. Complex concepts are better explained through the use of illustrations, charts, diagrams and pictures. Verbal or textual explanations can easily become confusing. People who are more inclined to visual thinking will know this for a fact.

While not everyone might be considered visual thinkers, others can easily develop the same set of skills. With a bit of practice, we can all achieve visual literacy. As Philip Yenawine of Visual Understanding Education writes,

It involves a set of skills ranging from simple identification (naming what one sees) to complex interpretation on contextual, metaphoric and philosophical levels. Many aspects of cognition are called upon, such as personal association, questioning, speculating, analyzing, fact-finding, and categorizing. Objective understanding is the premise of much of this literacy, but subjective and affective aspects of knowing are equally important.

Here are a few resources you can read to get started on your visual thinking journey:

 

Featured Image: Fons Heijnsbroek via Flickr

A Step-by-Step Guide for Using Custom Fonts in PowerPoint Design

One of the easiest ways to improve PowerPoint designs is by playing around with typography. By simply changing up fonts, you can instantly create unique slides. You don’t have to stick with using standard fonts, either. If you really want to dabble in typography, there are plenty of custom fonts to be found online.

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Despite its many advantages, custom fonts can complicate your PowerPoint process. You will need to install the new fonts to your computer. You also have to make sure that PowerPoint doesn’t substitute your custom fonts with a standard one when it’s time to share the deck with others. Here’s a step-by-step guide in making sure the process is as smooth and easy for you.

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Downloading custom fonts

Choose 1 to 2 fonts from any of the following sources. Make sure you use the same fonts throughout your presentation. For more tips on choosing and combining different fonts, check out the infographic from yesterday’s post.

The fonts in these sites are OpenType fonts (OTF) and TrueType fonts (TTF). Download your choices following instructions provided in the sites. They will usually come in a ZIP archive, so make sure you have a software like WinRAR to extract the files you need.

Installing custom fonts

Once extracted, the fonts will need to be installed on your computer. Double click the TrueType or OpenType font file and click Install.

Installing Authentic Hilton by Maelle.K via DaFont.com

Head to PowerPoint and check if you can access the new fonts. If you can, you’re ready to experiment with typography. Work as you usually would and build your PowerPoint deck. Once you’re done, you’ll need to take one extra step to ensure your fonts will look the same in other computers. There are 2 different techniques to save custom fonts in PowerPoint. You can choose to embed fonts, or turn your text into pictures.

Technique #1: Embedding fonts

PowerPoint allows you to embed non-standard fonts as long as they are TTF or OTF files. All you have to do is head to File and choose Options. There, click Save and check the box for “Embed fonts in this file“.

Keep in mind that this technique will likely bloat your file size, so it’s best if you choose “Embed only the characters used in the presentation“.

Technique #2: Save text as picture

You can also save text as a picture instead. Simply right click on  the text placeholder and choose Save as Picture.

You can then replace the text with the picture afterwards. This will take a lot more time, but it’s a great technique if your chosen font is neither a TTF nor OTF file. It’s also the best way to ensure that your text will look the same way on any device.

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Your PowerPoint deck can greatly improve by simply using unique and custom fonts. Make sure your experimentation with typography ends a success by following this guide.

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Design Crash Course: Color and Typography

Design is a crucial part of all presentations. With visuals that stand out, you can leave a more memorable impression on your audience. People respond to visual stimuli a lot more, and great design can help your audience process and retain information. Aside from integrating pictures and illustrations into your slides, you can also experiment with color and typography.

DesignMantic came out with 2 infographics that can serve as a design crash course for those looking to improve their PowerPoint decks. In it, they outline some useful tips to guide your color and font choices.

Design Crash Course 1: The 10 Commandments of Color Theory

This infographic breaks down everything you need to know about color theory. Aside from helping you choose colors that match the mood of your presentation, it also offers tips and tricks on how to come up with a solid palette.

Courtesy of Designmantic.com; click on image for full view

Design Crash Course 2: The 10 Commandments of Typography

Typography turns the written word into a visual treat. For this infographic, DesignMantic breaks down everything you need to know about combining different fonts together. As you know, choosing the correct font type is crucial in PowerPoint design. Like color, it can contribute in setting the over-all mood of your presentation.

Courtesy of Designmantic.com; click on image for full view

Get more design tips and PowerPoint ideas by reading back on some of our previous blog posts. To create the best slides for your presentations, always keep your core message in mind. Allow the purpose of your presentation to guide the choices you make when it comes to color and font type. Your designs should elevate the core message of your presentation. It should to highlight the goals you want to achieve, instead of distracting the audience. In other words, presentation design is both aesthetic and functional.

If you need more help, don’t hesitate to contact us and consult with our PowerPoint design experts.

 

Featured Image: Cropped from DesignMantic infographic

Business Presentations: Give Your Audience a Memorable Experience

When you think of business presentations, the first images that come to mind are probably bleak. After all, you’ve had to sit through your fair share of monotonous meetings and discussions. You’ve had to squint your eyes in order to read the lengthy paragraphs projected on the screen. You’ve had to stop yourself from falling asleep in a darkened room. You’ve had to patiently wait for the speaker to get to the point.

Despite all these negative scenarios, there are still occasions when you were able to watch a memorable business presentation. The slides were concise and well-designed, the points quickly and clearly made. In particular, they all have a few characteristics in common.Take note of the following and apply them to your business presentations as well:

Authentic

Business presentations are often devoid of any emotion. Presenters believe that they need to focus on the hard facts. While data is important in building your credibility, your presentation will need a more “human” element in order to create a connection. This doesn’t mean that you have to move your colleagues to tears. One way to make your business presentations memorable is by creating a more authentic experience. Instead of drowning your audience in a sea of spreadsheets, try to focus on telling a story instead.

Meticulous

A lot of business presentations also suffer from information overload. Without a clear goal, presenters tend to detail too much of their content and end up sharing things that may be unnecessary or repetitive. They end up confusing their audience even more. To solve this dilemma, you will need to identify your main objective and meticulously curate your content. Make sure each slide and sentence contribute to driving home your main point. If you have data to present, include only the ones that are most important to your message. You should also prepare a loose script to keep your speech on the right track.

Visually Stimulating

More than having concise slides, business presentations also need to be visually stimulating. As we’ve mentioned in the earlier scenario, too often presenters commit PowerPoint mistakes that overshadow their core message. Aside from carefully picking and choosing which content to include, presenters all so need to make PowerPoint decks that speak to the visual senses of the audience. A striking color palette, plus the use of high-quality images can make a huge difference in your slide design.

Compelling

The impact of a business presentation also rests on the power of delivery. For people to listen, you will need to create an engaging and compelling atmosphere. When you face an audience, you must demand their attention through the way you speak and carry yourself. Speak clearly and loudly. Exuding confidence in your words is one of the key ways to build credibility. You should also be mindful of your body language. Avoid gestures that make you seem closed off or aloof.

 

Featured Image: Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr

How to Prepare PowerPoint Presentations in Half the Time

We’re living in a fast-paced world where we constantly have to juggle several different things at a given time. This seems especially true in the world of business. During our working hours, we always have a long list of tasks to accomplish by the end of the day. Most of the time, those tasks include preparing PowerPoint presentations.

We all know how important it is to design engaging and effective PowerPoint decks. The problem is that we often don’t get enough time to do that. With a fast-approaching deadline, it’s hard to build slides that are sure to be memorable. Most of the time, we’d rather settle for easy solutions like PowerPoint templates. If you’re in a similar situation, here are some tips and tricks to create PowerPoint decks in half the time:

1. Have a battle plan

As history tells us, never go to battle without a full proof plan. In the same way, you will need to create a plan before starting work on your PowerPoint presentation. Consult your schedule and see how much time you have to prepare your presentation. Work on your free time and split your tasks accordingly. For example, if you have three days to finish a pitch deck, you can designate three hours each day to focus on your task.

2. Re-purpose the resources you have

Ask yourself if you really need to work from scratch. Most of the time, you probably have a few documents and some old presentations that cover the topic you need to present about. Be resourceful and use everything you have to make things easier for you. You can re-purpose slides you made in the past and use them as a template. Find something that you’ve had a lot more time to work on, then simply edit to match the topic you’re delivering.

3. Perfection is an aimless quest

Don’t pursue perfection until you’re done with the entire PowerPoint deck. When you have little time to accomplish a task, there’s not much room for ironing out details. It’s more important that you have a complete presentation to show, than a perfect but half-done slideshow.

4. Learn to prioritize

Accomplish your PowerPoint deck by tackling one task at a time. Prioritize your to-do list: start with creating the structure of your presentation, figuring out the content, until finally working on your design. Make sure you have a solid foundation before you build anything else.

5. Ask for feedback

You might be the presenter at the end of the day, but no project can be done alone. Mine your wealth of relevant connections, or the other departments and teams in your company for help and feedback on the deck you’re working on. Knowing what to improve on at once is a good way to cut back on the extra time.

It might be a stressful few days, but you can finish a PowerPoint  deck in half the time if you learn to prioritize and plan accordingly. Organize your workload and make sure you follow a specific process.

 

Featured Image: mao_lini via Flickr

PowerPoint Karaoke: Have Fun and Improve Your Presentation Skills

I’m sure you’ve tried karaoke to wind down with colleagues after a long day of work. But have you ever thought to give PowerPoint Karaoke a try?

In PowerPoint Karaoke, participants are challenged to take the stage and deliver a presentation based on slides they’ve never seen before. The rules are pretty simple. Instead of singing power ballads, participants will need to make sense of random slides, and connect it to an assigned theme. They will also be restricted by a time limit. The results are usually pretty crazy and absurd. To give you a clue, here are some slides from a PowerPoint Karaoke event held in Seattle last 2012:

 

As you can probably imagine, PowerPoint Karaoke can lead to some pretty hilarious situations. The best speakers are those who are willing to step out of their comfort zone, ready to have fun while practicing their improvisation skills. It’s the perfect game for anyone looking to deliver better and more engaging presentations.

Getting started:

If you’re ready to throw your own PowerPoint Karaoke party, here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Build your PowerPoint decks beforehand. Be creative and go for slides that will challenge the participants. If you want, you can find presentations online and edit them for your use. Five to seven slides per deck will do.
  • At the event, let the participants draw for their speaking order and assigned theme. This will give everyone an even playing field, and prevent people settling for topics they’re familiar with.
  • You can decide whether you want speakers to control their own deck, or have the slides auto advance.
  • Set a time limit that’s no more than 5 minutes.
  • Decide on a winner by letting the audience vote. You can prepare forms, or just ask them to choose their favorites by show of hands.
PowerPoint Karaoke is a great activity to try with your colleagues. Gather a small group in a room and start having fun. Urge everyone to test their improvisation abilities and improve their presentation skills.

 

Featured Image: Simon Law via Flickr

Maintaining Audience Attention in Your Presentations

The British bank Lloyds TSB conducted a study on the cause of careless household accidents, and the results they gathered have some pretty broad implications. As quoted by Fortune.com, the average adult attention span has plunged from 12 minutes in 1998 to 5 minutes in 2008. Participants attributed their short attention span to stress and decision overload, both unavoidable in our fast-paced lifestyles.

With the advent of technology and the distraction of multiple screens — from our work laptops to our smartphones — holding one’s attention for longer than the usual is nearly impossible. That is, if you’re bored by the topic.

Considering this information, it seems that presenting to a huge audience has never been more difficult. Five minutes is barely enough time to make a positive impression. This is a huge challenge that presenters need to over come. Here are 3 key strategies to keep in mind:

Condense your slides

Try to present more information orally to reduce overloading your slides with too much text and data. The people in your audience can read much faster than they can listen to you talking. As we’ve discussed time and again, an effective PowerPoint deck acts as a visual aid. It doesn’t contain every sentence you want to share. Instead, it perfectly illustrates your main points through the use of images and other multimedia elements. Instead of packing your slides with a bunch of facts and figures, spend more time illustrating and articulating your points.

An emotional and physical connection might be more effective in capturing the audience’s imagination. This bond calls the attention of people whose minds were wandering off in the crowd, and engages those who are beginning to invest in what you’re saying.

Follow an intriguing narrative structure

Structure your presentation in a way that will surely engage your audience. There’s a reason why we can sit motionless in a movie theater for two hours, completely enamored by what we’re watching. Movies follow a great story arc that build suspense and intrigue. Effective storytellers know how to create anticipation that keeps viewers looking forward to what happens next. Following their example, your presentation can also work the same way.

Craft your presentation in a way that presents a problem (“what is), and slowly build your way towards a solution (“what could be”). The problem-tension-solution pattern roughly mimics the structure of classical Greek dramas, which research has found to be effective in eliciting powerful emotional response.

Create “soft breaks” 

According to presentation expert Carmine Gallo, the best way to re-engage the short attention spans of your audience is by creating “soft breaks” within your presentation. After every 10 minutes or so, give your audience some moments to pause by incorporating videos, activities, and demonstrations. You can also encourage audience participation by posing a question they can answer through a show of hands. If your presentation allows it, you can also call up other speakers from your team to offer the audience a fresh new perspective.

The Final Word

Capturing people’s attention can be a bit of a challenge, especially during a time when attention spans are beginning to drop, and people are constantly busy. But that doesn’t mean you have to make a plain, uninteresting presentation.

Engage people’s senses by keeping your pitch short and sweet, weaving a narrative around your presentation, and giving soft breaks in between. Follow these tips and you might just win new business!

 

Featured Image: Oliver Tacke via Flickr

Lost Impact: 4 Words to Avoid in Presentation Delivery

Remember the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me?”

It might be true for the playground, but not for your presentations.

As powerful as language is, there are certain words that seem to have lost their impact through constant use. We’ve been using them far too much in our everyday, casual conversations that they lose power once delivered on stage. Here are 4 low-impact words that you should avoid when you’re delivering your next presentation:

1. Really

We commonly use the word “really” to emphasize certain points. Casually, we might say something like, “I saw this really good movie the other day”.

But in formal settings such as business presentations, there’s often a lot at stake. If you want to emphasize something, it’s better to offer an accurate description.

Instead of saying “our new product is really revolutionary,” you can share a concrete example or supporting evidence instead. “Our new product has proven results and made plenty of sales in the past year” would sound more impressive than giving a vague suggestion of how good your product really is.

2. Amazing

You often hear the word “amazing” when describing something high-quality. For example, you might have heard it casually used in sentences like, “the new iPhone 6 is amazing.”

Again, it’s better to offer your audience something more descriptive. Let them deduce that what you’re presenting is amazing for themselves. Help them come to that realization by showing them specific details and examples. In our given instance, you could give the features of an iPhone that other phones wouldn’t be able to compare with. This would certainly be more impressing than simply saying it’s amazing.

3. Maybe

You don’t want to seem uncertain in front of your audience. To deliver a memorable presentation, you need to exude knowledge and confidence.

Words like “perhaps” and “maybe” leave the opposite impression, making you seem completely unsure and unprepared. Stop hedging and go straight to the point with active and urgent language.

4. Stuff

This word offers no real description. It’s a vague way to refer to something that’s crucial to your presentation. Instead of using this, look for a word that actively describes what you’re trying to say. If you can’t think of one, go for a descriptive phrase. Be specific with everything you say to allow your audience the opportunity to recall and internalize your main points.

Get rid of the “fluff” and make your presentations stronger. Achieve that goal by making use of words that are tangible and concrete. Avoid these 4 words and give your audience information that’s more meaningful and memorable.

 

Featured Image: marc falardeau via Flickr

Click to Add Title: Using PowerPoint Templates

A PowerPoint template is a great place to start when you’re feeling clueless about how to design your slides. Once you’ve taken your pick, all you have to do is fill in the blanks and add your content. It’s quite a convenient method for those of us who weren’t given enough time to prepare for a presentation.

Despite this, we’ve all heard that PowerPoint templates aren’t always the best solution. Because of its preset format, working with a template can really stifle your creativity.

The placeholders automatically tell you where to text and images should go. Even if you decide to customize the template you chose from PowerPoint’s built-in gallery, you’ll only be able to change so much. After all your effort, your slides will look like other presentation decks, a standard headline on top with a bullet point list below it, or a picture on the right with some text beside it.

So how do you make your PowerPoint templates stand out when you’ve got very little time to think of a unique design? 

1. Look for unique templates at Microsoft.com

PowerPoint Template: Business Digital Blue (Download HERE)

The default templates in PowerPoint have been used to death in the business world. If you want to stand out without customizing each aspect of your slides, you can head on over to Microsoft.com and choose from a wide array of less common PowerPoint templates available there.

2. Change the layout

PowerPoint Template: Angles (Quote from Trade Show Institute | CC BY 3.0)

To avoid repetitive-looking slides, try to move around your placeholders and change up the layout. Try placing headlines at the bottom of your slides. Change up the position of your text. Better yet, minimize your use of bullet points and use images to illustrate your points instead. Be creative and experiment with the template at hand.

3. Integrate your brand colors

PowerPoint Template: Grid

One more thing you can do is change your template’s color scheme to something that mirrors your brand. This way, you don’t have to worry about integrating your company logo to your slides. Your brand will be well-represented throughout the presentation just by having the right colors.

The Final Word

Templates don’t have to be boring. You can change it up and apply your own style to it. Seek less used options online, either on the Microsoft site itself, or on other websites that provide quality templates you can use to your advantage. Tweak your layout by changing the placeholders and applying different color schemes on your slides. While you’re at it, why not integrate your brand colors to help impress your company identity on your audience throughout the presentation?

You can do all this yourself with a few clicks and the willingness to explore PowerPoint’s vast potential. Or, you could contact a presentation designer to help you get right off the bat. SlideGenius customizes templates to your liking. Contact us today for a free quote!