Cool Ideas for PowerPoint Presentations

By Contributing Writer

Microsoft PowerPoint is rich with features, but you only need to master a fraction of its uses to create effective presentations. Here are a few tips to bend this potentially overwhelming application to your will and keep you in control of your presentation.

Customizing Design Templates

Contemporary versions of PowerPoint are edging closer to the graphic design options in Apple's Keynote, offering dozens of clean, smartly designed templates. When choosing color schemes, avoid bold backgrounds. It will be more difficult to direct your viewers to areas of focus on each slide. In fact, if you're deviating from a white, black or gray background, try toning down your colors by increasing the transparency levels. If you've created a custom background, don't paste it on every slide. Choose Master View and insert it there instead. When you return to Normal View, all your slides will be automatically updated. This prevents accidentally moving your background image around when trying to select foreground page elements. Better yet, your presentation file will be lighter, since it will only draw from one background image.

Go Widescreen

PowerPoint 2007 introduced a simple wide-screen template, which stretches the aspect ratio to 16:9. Consider wide-screen if you want to add dramatic touches to your content or need to compare a group of items side by side. Although the wide-screen template should adapt to whatever monitor it's displayed on, it's a good idea to check your presentation on several different screens to ensure compatibility.

Integrate Video

Preparing videos for PowerPoint can be tricky, but they are powerful tools to engage your audience and support a key message. When integrating videos, it's a good idea to edit them as short as possible to avoid the video overshadowing your presence and pushing your presentation over the time limit. PowerPoint will play asf, avi, mpg (or mpeg) and wmv files.

Animation Best Practices

Animations may take hours to complete and will play out in a matter of seconds, so make sure it's an integral part of your presentation before creating one. A good method for planing animations is to check whether the function of the animation supports the form of your content. Dissolving between two charts to compare a visually impressive change in data is a good use of animation. Using a checkerboard wipe transition on every slide is not.

Use Presenter View

When giving your presentation, try to set yourself up in Presenter View. This mode requires a multiple display system: the main presentation screen, such as a projector, and a private display screen only you can see, such as a laptop. Using Presenter View, you can monitor the timing of your slides, refer to your notes window, anticipate the next slide and even black out the main screen while you cue up your next slide in privacy.