Finding How-to’s for PowerPoint

When I present my PowerPoint training, I am often asked where people can find additional tips and help for creating their PowerPoint presentations. Here is a website to add to your resource list.

Dave Paradi has created a great list of PowerPoint resources, including videos, FAQ’s, technical help experts and support.


Finding free photos for your PowerPoint presentations

Are struggling to find good quality images that you can use in your presentations? If so, you need to watch this 4 1/2 minute long video.

It shows you how to use the photo-sharing website – to find images that you can commercially use at no cost.


Get your message across in 6’40” with Pecha-kucha

Pecha-kucha is an unusual method used to create PowerPoint presentations. The rules are simple. You can only create 20 slides, and you have to display each slide for exactly 20 seconds. This gives you 6 minutes and 40 seconds to give your presentation and get your message across (perfect timing for Toastmasters speeches!).

There is an interesting article about Pecha-kucha on Wired Magazine.

I am going to try it for my next presentation and I will let you know how it goes.

Barak Obama’s slides – how they could have looked

In my last post, I spoke about the very poor slides from a recent presentation by by Barack Obama. – the so-called "Yes we Can" speech. Firstly an apology- the slides were not created by Obama, but were created by a blogger to demonstrate how poor slides can ruin a presentation. Sorry for the miscommunication.

However, they are a great example of poor slides, so I have dissected them and shown what could have been done.

The main problems with the slides is that there is far too much text, and there is such missed opportunity for great visuals (I have left the original slides in the bottom left for reference).

I removed the agenda and second hope slide – they were redundant.

Yes we can! – simple and patriotic

Thank you – personally I don’t think that you need this slide, but if you have to have it, show visual of what/who you are thanking (I just stuck the picture of the family in to illustrate).

Time for change – representing the diverse culture of American people.

Change isn’t easy – difficult to break out of the mold – Lego people.

What we’re up against – a brick wall.

What I see – the title does not interest me. Obama is actually speaking about what he sees in his country, so I have renamed it to My country. The picture is a vivid picture of inner-city buildings with fences and graffiti.

We cannot loose hope – picture of patriotic child representing hope for the future.

What I know – also boring title. Obama is speaking about we can achieve, so I called it We can. I am not too sure about the picture of the children, perhaps a bit too cuddly. It also makes a good climatic transition into the last slide, which is…

Yes We can – some stars and strips.

Which slide deck do you prefer?

How NOT to use PowerPoint

Barack Obama?s "Yes We Can" speech injustice in PowerPoint

This is a mock-up of a slide deck from Barack Obama – "Yes we Can" speech. It was not created by Obama, but were created by a blogger to demonstrate how poor slides can ruin a presentation.

Let's go through it slide by slide.

All slides: The template is boring. It is one of the default templates that is installed with PowerPoint 2003. The lime green does not work.

Agenda: You are giving a speech, not running a day long seminar – you don't need an agenda slide.

Thank you: Thanking people is great (and important), but do you need a slide for it?

Sides 4-10: Such great opportunity to use visuals lost (change, time, diversity, status-quo, challenges, hope etc)

Slide 6: Can the people in the back row read the text? They will spend their time trying to read the slide, and miss what you are saying.

Slide 9: At last, some pictures, but clipart? How about some high-quality stock-photos illustrating your point?

Slide 11: The pot of gold is just cheezy.

What else could have been changed?

3D can distort the truth – using graphs in PowerPoint

Here is a simple exercise for you:

Have a look at this slide, and decide which slice of the pie is the largest. You will probably agree that it is either the red or the orange slice (Apple or RIM). OK, now decide what percentage of the pie Apple and RIM hold.


Of the people that I have shown this slide to, most have guessed that either

  1. Apple is larger or
  2. RIM is larger, but not by much

Everybody was surprised to see that RIM (39%) is almost double the size of Apple (20%) – everybody was fooled by the distortion created by the 3D effect on the graph.

Have a look at this slide. Now, it is quite clear that RIM is much bigger. So, when using 3D in your presentations, please have a careful look at the slides and check that you are not distorting the truth.


Note: the above data is not real data – it was just used to illustrate my point.

A picture speaks 1000 words – using graphs in PowerPoint

Sometimes we need to present complex data in our PowerPoint presentations. There are two ways to do this.

  1. Confuse your audience with the data
  2. Simplify the data into an easy to understand format

One of the easiest ways to turn data into a simplified format is to convert tables of raw data into clear graphs.

Have a look at the below table which contains one month of exchange rate figures.


What does the table tell you? Unless you are very used to looking at that sort of data, not much. Can you see the trends? How about the peaks and troughs?

Now, have a look at this picture.


Now what do you see? Does it look a bit more simple? Is it less overwhelming? Does it give you a better idea of what the data is really doing? Remember that it is exactly the same data, just presented differently.

Converting any table of data into a graph is a very effective manner to simplify it, and to make it more accessible to your audience. Here are four tips for creating a graph:

  1. Make the data and lines clear and easy to read
  2. Minimize use of 3D – it can clutter the graph
  3. Only show data that is relevant – don’t display loads of data lines
  4. Clearly hi light points of interest (eg the max and min values above)

Of course, the usual rules still apply – make sure that your slides are clear and easy to read. Let’s look at this last slide.


Spot the problems:

  1. The axis labels are too small to read
  2. The 3D does not add to the graph
  3. The graph line is difficult to read
  4. The graph is bunched up in the top of the screen – the bottom is wasted real-estate

Please – don’t ever create a graph like that!

Remember – make your slides as clear and simple as possible!