5 PowerPoint Tips You Wish You Knew Sooner

This blog showcases five features that can make your PowerPoint presentation rise above all the rest.

If you think you’ve seen it all when it comes to PowerPoint, you may be pleasantly surprised.

Here are five PowerPoint tips you will wish you knew sooner.

Tip #1 – Add Action to Your Slides

Action Buttons are often overlooked by many PowerPoint users.  Action Buttons are built-in shapes that are pre-programmed to perform a specific action, such as…

  • launch an application
  • open a website
  • jump to a selected slide
  • play a video or audio clip

Action Buttons add interactivity and flexibility to presentations.  No longer are you constrained to a preset path or order of slides; you can jump around the spreadsheet in a more impromptu fashion.

For example, take this slide of North America.

We have supporting slides for each country.

Instead of visiting each slide in order, we would like to ask the audience which country to visit first, second, then third.

It would be more interesting if we could click on a button next to a country that would take us to the appropriate detail slide.

To add an action button to our North America slide, select Insert (tab) -> Illustrations (group) -> Shapes.

At the bottom of the Shapes dropdown is the section for Action Buttons.

Most of the Action Buttons have pre-programmed actions, like “Go to Home Slide” or “Play a Video”.

As I’m not particularly fond of their designs, I prefer to create my own custom shape.  This is done by selecting the “blank” button.

Drag the cursor somewhere on the screen to create a placeholder shape.

This will launch the Action Settings dialog box that provides the features and controls of the Action Button.

The two tabs provide the same action choices, but one is invoked by clicking the button (Mouse Click) while the other tab (Mouse Over) invokes the action when the mouse pointer hovers over the shape.

In this case, we want the Action Button to act as a hyperlink that takes us to a specific slide.

Next, we select the slide we wish to jump to if the Action Button is clicked.

Improving the Design of the Button

A blank rectangle button is hardly going to win any awards.

We can make the button any shape or color we wish.  TO do this, select the Action Button and click Shape Format (tab) -> Insert Shapes (group) -> Edit Shape -> Change Shape.

From here, you can change the shape to one of a myriad of built-in shapes; too many to show.

We can also apply custom border and fill colors along with shape effects like shadows, 3D rotation, and reflections.

We now have a much more interesting button that, when pushed, takes us to the details slide for that country.

Return to Home

If you are going to freely switch to any country’s details sheet, it’s a good idea to have a way to get back to the summary sheet so you can continue your journey in a different direction.

It’s a good idea to have an Action Button that returns you to the sheet you came from.

Tip #2 – Go Light on Pictures

I’m a fan of using pictures instead of words to convey message and emotion in PowerPoint presentations.

The problem with adding many high-resolution images and videos is that it can greatly increase the presentation’s file size.

This in turn reduces presentation performance and makes it difficult to share the presentation via email.  You won’t be making any friends when you send a 200MB email attachment.

We can reduce the file’s size by compressing the pictures.  To do this, select any picture in the presentation and click Picture Format (tab) -> Adjust (group) -> Compress Pictures.

The Compress Pictures dialog box provides several resolution levels to choose from.

Keep in mind, the smaller the ppi value (pixels per inch), the greater the compression and greater space savings.

But everything comes at a cost.  The greater the compression, the lower the quality.  Yo9u may need to experiment with the settings to strike the right balance between space savings and quality.

You can also decide whether to apply the compression to only the selected image or all images in the file as well as to keep or discard any cropped out areas of cropped images.

You may see as much as a 90% reduction in file size using this feature.

Tip #3 – Remove That Background

PowerPoint has a background removal tool that does exactly what you think… it removes the background content in an image leaving the subject intact.

Take the following image as an example.

We want to keep the arms, hands, and phone but discard the blue-gray wood background.

Select the picture then click Picture Format (tab) -> Adjust (group) -> Remove Background.

When clicked, PowerPoint will analyze the image to determine which portions represent the subject and which portions represent the background.  The background selection will appear with a purple shade.

As you can see above, it doesn’t always work with 100% accuracy.

To help educate the as to its mistakes, click the Mark Areas to Keep or Mark Areas to Remove buttons then draw over the appropriate areas in the picture.

A bit of a scribble in the area to keep initiates a reevaluation of the image.

Marking in these areas can eventually yield a near-perfect result.

It may not be Photoshop perfection (especially when dealing with hair), but for a feature you already own, it performs admirably.

Tip #4 – The Secret Selection Pane

Slides can become complex with shapes occupying the same close geographic space on a slide.

This can make shape selection difficult especially when there are several small shapes packed closely together.

This is where the Selection Pane comes to the rescue.

For example, suppose we want to change the color of the dots behind the progress bars on this slide.

Selecting the dots is extremely difficult because the progress bars are in front of the dots and want to demand our attention.

To select the dots more easily, select any shape on the slide and click Shape Format (tab) -> Arrange (group) -> Selection Pane (or you can use the key combination ALT-F10).

The Selection panel displays a list of all shapes on the selected slide.

By clicking a listed item’s name, you will select the shape on the slide.  This makes selecting tiny shapes easier.

You can also click the “eye” icon to the right of a shape to toggle the visibility of a shape as well as double-click a line-item to change the name to something more easily understood.

Once selected, you can use the traditional Shape Fill, Shape Outline, Shape Effects, etc. to customize the selected shape.

If the stacking order of shapes is less than optimal, you can select a shape from the list, then use the Move Up/Move Down buttons to adjust the layer order of the shapes.

If it’s easier, you can click-and-hold a list item and drag it up or down to a new position in the list.

The higher up in the list, the closer to the top of the items stack the object resides.  The opposite is true when placing things lower on the list.

Tip #5 – Record Your Screen

Imagine being able to record the execution of some complicated business process with full-screen resolution and audio then place that recording in a slideshow or save it as a video file for posting on a company website or social media site.

Without any additional software, you can have PowerPoint do all these things.

(Imagine recording a PowerPoint video on how to record a PowerPoint video?  This may accidentally open a rift to the 4th Dimension.  Let me know what you discover there.)

To record a video, click Insert (tab) -> Media (group) -> Screen Recording.

This will launch the control dock.

The default is to record the entire screen, but you can click the “Select Area” button and then draw a bounding box around the area of interest.  The red, dotted line indicated the part of the screen that will be recorded. If you wish to return to a full-screen selection, press WindowsKey-Shift-F.

You can also toggle whether to record system audio and microphone audio along with recording the mouse pointer and its movements around the screen.

Once ready, click the “Record” button.  This provides a 3-second countdown timer.

Perform the necessary steps.  When completed, press the WindowsKey-Shift-Q key combination.

Correcting the Video

To adjust the video, select the recorded video and click Video Format (tab) -> Adjust (group) -> Corrections -> Video Correction Options.

Here you can make adjustments to the video, such as brightness, contrast, cropping, recoloring, etc.

Cropping the Video

If you recorded more area than you wish, you can easily crop out unwanted areas by selecting Video Format (tab) -> Size (group) -> Crop.

Using the crop handles, reduce the visible areas as needed.

Editing the Video

If you had a bit of a rocky start or end to the video, you could edit those portions out of the result.

To do this, select the video and click Playback (tab) -> Editing (group) -> Trim Video.

In the Trim Video dialog box, you can adjust the sliders to cut out the leading or trailing parts of the video.

Keep in mind, this is a VERY basic video editor.  You cannot cut out middle portions of the video, only beginning and end portions.  You also can’t rearrange portions of the video to create an order that differs from the recorded order.

For more complex editing, you would need to export the recording as a video file and edit it with a more robust video editing application.

Export the Video to a Video File

To save the video as a separate video file, suitable for uploading to a corporate website or a social media site, click File (tab) -> Export -> Create a Video.

You can select from several export options such as video quality and how much time you spend on each slide if no built-in timings are present.

Key Takeaway

Using some or all these features will allow you to create PowerPoint presentations that people will remember.

Your presentations will shine where others are forgotten.

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