Free PowerPoint templates

Here is a pretty cool website that I have been looking at: Slide Hunter, an online collection of free PowerPoint templates. There are almost 400 templates for download (and they are all free). Everything is indexed and categorised, and it’s easy to find the right slide for your presentation.

Here are two examples:


6 Hats



The ones that I have looked at seem pretty good, and when you edit them all the graphics are seperate items, so you can easily move things around, change colours, customize fonts etc. Note that while you don’t have to register (it is optional and free), if you have not registered he askes you to post a tweet or Facebook update to download the templates.

If you really like the templates you can purchase and download the business pack, which is just over 100 slides, specifically focusing on business diagrams. This pack costs $49, but if you use this code 25PERCENT, you get a (suprisingly) 25% discount.

business pack

Some of the slides in the business pack.

Anyway it is worth checking out, there are some pretty cool slides there.

ps: I will given a free copy of the business pack for this review.

Presenter View; a quick tip

Here is a quick tip to make your PowerPoint presentations a little more effective. If you setup Presenter View, you can see a great summary of your presentation on your laptop screen, and show the regular presentation on the projector screen.

So when I give a presentation, I see something like this.

Presenter View
Presenter View

You can see which slide you are on, speaker notes, slide number, the next slide, timing etc.

Anyway, it is very simply to setup, just goto the slideshow menu and activate Presenter View. Note that it will only be available when you have an external monitor connected.

Presenter View
Presenter View

Charteo review – create custom slide decks

Here is an interesting way to create your presentations. It’s an online tool called Charteo, which allows you to create a custom slide deck based on a selection of over 10000 online slides. In summary, you pick and choose your slides and create a custom desk.

Select whatever slides you need, and once you are ready, checkout and it will create a downloadable PowerPoint presentation containing all your slide which you can then edit and customise as you wish.

Virtual deck

My virtual deck in progress.

You can either buy credits up front  and use them as you go, (starting at EUR 29 for 40 credits, scaling through to EUR 399 for unlimited credits).

They sell bundled slide decks to be customised for your own requirements. Eg the SWOT deck contains a selection of slides that would typically be used when doing a SWOT analysis. These decks can help you to rapidly put together presentations with a consistent feel (the bundles are also a lot cheaper than the bespoke decks).

Sample SWOT deck

Example of SWOT Bundled slide deck.

While I did not look through all their slides (they have over 10000), I had no difficulty finding suitable slides from my presentation. The website is also really easy and intuitive to use. Here is an example of it in use. Firstly a rough outline for a hypothetical speech:

Toastmasters Southern Africa

  • 9 countries
  • 9 divisions
  • 140 clubs
  • Club recognition
  • 10 goals
  • distinguished clubs
  • select distinguished clubs
  • president distinguished clubs

The trick with a tool like this is to firstly define your basic presentation layout and figure out what you are wanting to depict, and only then  use the website to find slides that match what you are trying to achieve. Otherwise you will find yourself falling in, and spending hours looking all the different layouts, and emerge having seen some great slides, but with little to show for it.

So here is how my slides look after I downloaded the sample deck and customised the content. I am really impressed at the quality of the slides. Start to finish took me about 20 minutes.

I think its a great tool that can help to make your presentations more effective (esp with the icons, graphing and charting slides), but I hesitate at the cost. At roughly EUR 4 per slide, it can quickly get expensive.

Would I use it for my everyday presentations? Probably not (simply because of cost). Would I use it for important business presentations where I can allocate budget? Absolutely; it will save you a lot of time and create some great decks.

It’s a pretty good tool, and I recommend that you give it a testdrive yourself.

Note that Charteo gave me 30 free credits to test with, which I used to create my test deck, and if you use the coupon code charteo10 in the provided field in the shopping cart, you will get a EUR 10 discount.

7 lessons from wordcamp

Last week I spoke at WordCamp, Cape Town (the WordPress conference), and I watched many of the other sessions as well. Here are a few lessons I learned from my and the other sessions:

  1. Keep the sessions short and sharp. If forces the speakers to be concise in their message, and the delegates can focus on a short message. This is something that TED do very well (max 30 minutes sessions)
  2. Keep words on the slides large; you simply cannot shot a screenshot of 50 lines of source code (in a technical session) and expect the delegates to be able to read or understand the code. If you need to show source code, only show the important couple of lines. Or course pictures and diagrams are much better, there were some great slide decks (and some bad ones as well).
  3. Arrive early. I got stuck in a downpour which stopped traffic. Thankfully I still arrived on time.
  4. Get the AV sorted out before you start. It is disruptive to have to stop halfway through your presentation to sort out your microphone
  5. Practise, I cannot over-emphasise this too much
  6. Get your bio in ahead of time. My bio was read exactly as written, which was great. It was easier for the MC, and for me
  7. Hang around afterwards. Some of the most interesting questions came during the tea break after my speech.


Selling with a slide deck – a great example

Here is a great slide deck illustrating how to use visuals to portray a story. It is an advert of John Maxwell’s new book  “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect“. I will be reviewing the book shortly, so watch this space. In the mean time, enjoy the slides.

It shows that you can easily tell a story with lots of pictures, and few words.

PowerPoint wishlist – “mini master slides”

Master slides in PowerPoint provide a very effective mechanism for all of your slides to have a similar look and feel. Now imaging if you could extend the concept to have several different master slides in your presentation?

No, I am not suggesting that you change the look and feel or branding every few slides or so. I am suggesting that you use a “mini” master slide to allow for several slides to have the same basic content, which can then be tweaked per slide.

So for example, imaging that you your presentation has 10 slides containing a map of South Africa, each of which highlights a FIFA 2010 world cup football venue.

South Africa FIFA Map 2010
South Africa FIFA Map 2010

Now, the traditional approach would be to have everything on a single slide and to use a lot of fancy animation to make each venue highlight in turn, or to create a single slide and make 9 more copies. Both approaches have problems.

The first is messy and complex, the second requires duplication of work, especially if you wish to change the background image.

So, how about creating mini master slide with the image on it, then you just need to the the customisation on the other slides. Make sense? I think it will be pretty cool.

I will add it to my wishlist.

Image from

Create great docs from PowerPoint – review of George! for PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a great tool for creating presentations, but it has never been particularly good at creating documentation or handouts. However, it is a huge amount of work to maintain two completely separate sets of documents.

Enter George! for PowerPoint by Leaders Guide Pro. They kindly gave me a free license to play with the product.

This simple little addin fills the gap very nicely by providing a simple yet powerful documentation creating capability for PowerPoint.

Some of the features are:

  • Create table of contents for your handouts
  • A variety of elegant document templates, with titles, page numbers, headers and footers
  • Can create speaker notes or delegate handouts
  • Custom logos can be added to your documents
  • It is very easy to use

Here is what a typical PowerPoint handout looks like. Nothing wrong with it, but kind of boring.

boring version

But put it through George!…


Notice the header at the top, and copyright details at the bottom.


table of contents

You can finally add a table of contents to your handouts.


set-up docs

A variety of templates to choose from.


George! uses a simple process called “tagging” to create the table of contents.

Would I buy it – yes! Would I recommend it? Yes if you find yourself creating handouts on a regular basis from your presentations. If you are just using it for Speaker Notes, then the default printing capability of PowerPoint will probably be ok.

George! uses Microsoft Word to create the actual documents (I suspect the Office scripting engine), and as a result the actual document generation process is a little slow (especially for large documents). So, best to create your documents and grab a coffee or something while you wait. However the results are worth it.

You can buy George! for about $40 from Leaders Guide Pro.

A final comment: I had a few problems getting my free license to work. Nancy from Leaders Guide Pro was absolutely superb with assisting me, providing support and follow-up. Full marks for their customer support.

PowerPoint Karaoke slides

sidebar_logoOn Monday evening, I ran a PowerPoint Karaoke contest at the Cape Communicators Toastmaster Club. This is the first one that I have ran, and it was a fantastic evening!

We had about 10 people who were each given a random deck of PowerPoint slides, and they were given about three minutes to present a presentation using their slides. It was all in good fun, and we had some very interesting takes on the topics.

It is a great way to both practise your impromptu speaking skills, and to have some practise with PowerPoint.

Here is how I did it:

  1. Draw for random speaking order
  2. Draw for random topic order – I didn’t want to be too nasty and give somebody a topic that they knew absolutely nothing about, so they could select topics beforehand. I also gave them 3 minutes to prepare – basically while the previous speaker was speaking. If you are feeling nasty, give them a topic just before they speak, and let them go – much as for a Toastmasters table topic session
  3. Each speaker got 3 minutes to speak. Timing lights at 2, 2.5 and 3 minutes
  4. I used the Toastmasters Table topics contest form as a “judging form”
  5. You are basically pretty free to make up the rules, so the above is what I did; feel free to adapt and let me know what works for you.

Here are all the decks that I used:

Each deck was approximately 5 slides long. Note that they are not “real” slide decks, but made up to give the speaker something to play with. Some of the topics are a little off the wall.

Many people have asked me for a copy of the slides so that they can present the Karaoke contests at their own clubs, so here they are. Please feel free to steal and disseminate. My only request is to let me know how it goes.

Please note that I have created these slide decks from a variety of publicly available material and slides that I have built up over the years. If I have inadvertently used copyright material, please let me know and I will remove it.

Finally, thanks so much to Imation for sponsoring the event. They gave us memory sticks and  tee shirts as prized. The sticks are 1 gig, and about 1cm square – really cute. They also gave me an amazing remote wireless projector adapter. This little device plugs into your USB port on one end, and the projector on the other, and voila, you have a wireless projector!

Leave a comment and let me know how your session goes!

PowerPoint Karaoke Invite

You have heard of Karaoke

You have heard of PowerPoint

But, have you heard of PowerPoint Karaoke?

Cape Communicators Toastmasters Club

would like to invite you to a PowerPoint Karaoke Contest

You could even make the Finals,
and win a grand prize of up to $5000!

So, here is the deal:

  • You will be given a set of about 10-15 PowerPoint slides
  • You will have about 3 minutes to give a presentation using these slide
  • We will videotape your presentation, and give you details on how to upload it to YouTube
  • From then on, it is up the the USA sponsors to determine a winner from all uploaded videos

Detailed contest rules are here.

Come along and compete, or come along and watch; it promises to be loads of fun!

When: Monday 19 October, 7:00 for 7:30pm
Where: Cape Communicators Toastmasters Club, Huis Der Nederlanden, Central Square, Pinelands
Cost: R40 for non-members (cash bar, but no snacks)
RSVP: Lois Strachan [email protected], 082 859 6567 (by 16 October please)

Think of it as Table Topics for PowerPoint!