5 tips to craft an exceptional PowerPoint presentation

Impress your colleagues with slick, seamless delivery—all orchestrated via your smartphone.


I remember the presentation well—but for all the wrong reasons.

The keynote speaker at a well-known conference had decades of experience, a clear message, great stage presence and a truly cringeworthy presentation. Every other slide featured clip art, stock photos or dancing GIFs.

I don’t remember the message of his presentation, but I certainly remember the larger lesson: what not to do in a PowerPoint presentation.

A live presentation can be a powerful workplace communication tool, but a lot can go wrong. Try these five tips to stay on course and deliver presentations that will captivate your audience:

1. Embed attention-grabbing YouTube videos.

Did you know that more than a billion hours of video are watched every day on YouTube? There’s a reason video is perhaps the most engaging type of content.

Why make your audience endure hefty chunks of text or dull charts when you can easily embed a video instead? Instead of just “telling” people about the importance of learning from errors, you could insert John Cleese’s motivational speech on “The Importance of Mistakes.”

Including a memorable, entertaining video increases the chances that your message will stick.

The how-to:

  • Copy the embed code from your YouTube video.
  • In the Insert menu in your PowerPoint slide, click Video > Online Video.
  • Paste your embed code, or you can even search for a YouTube video from within PowerPoint.
  • Move and resize the video within your slide, and preview it to make sure it’s what you want.

The Insert Video screen in Microsoft PowerPoint

2. Zoom between slides at light speed.

The old way of navigating through your presentation was to click through it, one slide at a time, in order.

Zoom lets you zip around your presentation to different slides instead of clicking through laboriously.

For example, say you want to quickly flash back to your first slide, then return to your place in the presentation. Or, you have a funny Crying Jordan GIF (used sparingly, of course) in the middle of the presentation that you want to summon at opportune times. You can also use Zoom to show a bird’s-eye view of all your slides at once, like a table of contents.

The how-to:

  1. From the Insert menu, select Zoom.
  2. Summary Zoom will show an overview of all your slides, Slide Zoom enables you to jump to a single slide anywhere in your presentation, and Section Zoom enables you to show a group of selected slides.
  3. Once you have that down, you can get fancy with Zoom Tools (on the Format menu) and customize transitions and backgrounds.

3. Dazzle your audience with Morph.

Back in the early ’90s, a computer graphics technique known as “morph” was wowing audiences. Prime early examples of this tech in action include the T-1000 smoothly transitioning from a pool of mercury into a human in “Terminator 2 and Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video.

Related image

Back then, morphing was a multi-million-dollar technology limited to Hollywood production studios. Today, the Morph feature in PowerPoint lets you use animations to seamlessly transition from one slide to the next.

Morph is essentially an easier, quicker way of doing some of the things you can do in the Animations tab.

Check out this video for an example:

The how-to:

  • On the Transitions tab, select Morph.
  • The two slides you are connecting need at least one object in common: text or a shape, picture or chart, for example.
  • The simplest way to approach this is to duplicate a slide, then alter the duplicate by moving objects around, or by removing or adding text, etc.
  • PowerPoint will automatically animate these changes.
  • Once you have the hang of Morph, check out these advanced techniques.

4. Use the Designer to create sleek slides.

If you know what text and pictures you want to include, but don’t have the time or ability to design the perfect layout, Designer does the heavy lifting for you. Think of it as an AI interior designer for your slides. You add the text and images, and Designer lays them out for you. As PowerPoint expert Heather Ackmann says: “It instantly gives you a slide makeover.”

Don’t worry; you’re still in charge. If you don’t like what you see, you can always ask Designer to try again.

The how-to:

  • Designer works automatically in the background while you’re building your presentation.
  • From the Insert menu, just start adding pictures and charts, and Designer will make suggestions. Designer will even turn your bullet lists into sequential graphics.
  • Note that Designer works only when you’re online and using one of PowerPoint’s built-in themes.
  • You do have to opt in to Designer the first time you use PowerPoint, but you can always turn it on via the Design tab—or off from File > Options > General.

5. Use your smartphone as a remote and laser pointer.

How many presentations have endured where the presenter loses his train of thought due to constant fumbling with a malfunctioning remote or glitchy laptop?

Thankfully, there’s now an app for that. Downloading the free PowerPoint app allows you to seamlessly glide through presentations (and point at whatever you’d like) with a few taps on your phone.

The how-to:

  • You can download the free PowerPoint app for Android, iPhone or Windows phones.
  • Next, connect your phone to the projector with an HDMI cable or WiFi (through AirPlay or ChromeCast, for example).
  • In a pinch, you can even create and share presentations on the PowerPoint app, then continue working on them once you get to your computer.

Lousy PowerPoint presentations are good for a laugh, but wouldn’t we all be better off in a world full of beautiful, seamless presentations? Use these tips to strive toward that noble goal.

A version of this post first appeared on the Capterra blog.

(Image via)

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