10 PowerPoint Tips: Keep Your Audience Awake

New to Microsoft's presentation software or just want to improve your skills? PowerPoint-aided presentations can either wow a crowd or put them fast to sleep. These five design and five technical tricks will help keep your audience on the edge of their seats.

By Thomas Wailgum
Tue, November 25, 2008

CIO — Since its debut in the late 1980s, Microsoft's PowerPoint software has become many things to many people: a lifesaver to busy execs attempting to explain critical and complex financial data to their peers; a reliable co-presenter for sales and IT managers trying to rally the troops around a new strategy; and, some might argue, a crutch to knowledge workers everywhere who think pie charts and sound effects can cover up weaknesses in their public-speaking skills.

The latest version, PowerPoint 2007, (part of Microsoft's Office suite) lets users "quickly create high-impact, dynamic presentations, while integrating workflow and ways to easily share information," notes Microsoft's PowerPoint overview webpage.

PowerPoint slides can hold text, data points, charts, tables, photos, videos and sound effects, which you plug in to any of the many available templates. Making a presentation regarding a company event on July 4th? See the fireworks template. Is a video from YouTube essential to your presentation? See the "Insert Movie" functionality.

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To help you get started, CIO.com asked Ayca Yuksel, the product manager for Microsoft Office PowerPoint, to share five design tips and five technical tricks for those who are new to the application. Here are her 10 best tips as well as instructions on how to get at the functionalities in PowerPoint 2007.

5 Design Tips

1. Apply a template to jump start your presentation. You can apply templates to structure style and page layout, and give yourself a jump-start on a new, blank presentation. You can apply three types of templates: those built-in to PowerPoint 2007, created by you and then saved to your computer, or downloaded from Microsoft Office Online. (Business PowerPoint templates can be found here.)

1. Click the Microsoft Office Button, and then click New.
2. In the New Presentation dialog box, do one of the following:
- Under Templates, click Blank and recent, Installed Templates, or Installed Themes, click the built-in template that you want, and then click Create.
- Under Templates, click New from existing, locate and then click the other presentation file that contains the template, and then click Create New.
- Under Templates, click My templates, select a custom template that you created, and then click OK.
- Under Microsoft Office Online, click a template category, select a template, and then click Download to download the template from Microsoft Office Online.

2. Add sound effects in your slides. Want to add applause sound effects to your slides? Play a few bars of "Deck the Halls"? No problem.

1. In the pane that contains the Outline and Slides tabs, click the Slides tab.
2. Click the slide to which you want to add a sound.
3. On the Insert tab, in the Media Clips group, click the arrow under Sound.
4. Do one of the following:
- Click Sound from File, locate the folder that contains the file, and then double-click the file that you want to add.
- Click Sound from Clip Organizer, scroll to find the clip that you want in the Clip Art task pane, and then click it to add it to the slide.
Tip: You can preview a clip before adding it to your presentation. In the Clip Art task pane, in the Results box that displays the available clips, move your mouse pointer over the clip's thumbnail. Click the arrow that appears, and then click Preview/Properties.

3. Insert a chart or graph into your presentation. Do the following when you want to create a new chart or graph—for instance, to show company savings year-do-date, or a chart containing company holiday party planning expenditures—in PowerPoint:

1. In PowerPoint, click the placeholder that you want to contain the chart.
2. On the Insert tab, in the Illustrations group, click Chart.
3. In the Insert Chart dialog box, click a chart, and then click OK. (Office Excel 2007 opens in a split window and displays sample data on a worksheet.)
4. In Excel, to replace the sample data, click a cell on the worksheet, and then type the data that you want. (You can also replace the sample axis labels in Column A and the legend entry name in Row 1. Note: After you update the worksheet, the chart in PowerPoint updates automatically with the new data.)
5. When you are finished inputting the data in Excel, on the File menu, click the Close button.

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