1. Use better PowerPoint templates
If you want to make an impact with your presentation, stay away from the standard templates in Microsoft PowerPoint. Instead, download something more interesting and relevant from the vast resources at Office.microsoft.com (to get there, in MS PowerPoint 2007, go to the Designs tab and choose “More Themes on Microsoft Office Online”; in MS PowerPoint 2003, go to “Templates Home” and choose “Presentations”). Browse templates by category: academic, business, healthcare, etc. There are 80 high-quality templates under the business section, for instance. Just click to download and use.
A simple Google search for “free PowerPoint templates” will yield millions of results. But before you get all elated, keep in mind that the quality of templates on most of these free sites is often terrible. They are generally badly made and look very tacky. However, Templateswise.com is a good source to search in if you are not satisfied with MS Office’s online store.
2. Get more out of SmartArt Graphics
It’s time you started using SmartArt in MS PowerPoint 2007. SmartArt graphics offer a visual representation of information such as relationships, cause and effect, process flows or flow charts.
They are not, however, an automatically generated graph or chart (where you input data and get a graphic as output). You have to write text on the graphics to illustrate your point. It helps because instead of laboriously drawing shapes and connecting arrows to show, for example, a cause-and-effect relation, you can use ready-made shapes in PowerPoint. There are seven types of SmartArt graphics: List, Process, Cycle, Hierarchy, Relationship, Matrix and Pyramid. That’s 115 ready-made SmartArt graphics at your disposal. To change fonts, go to the Home tab and select Font to choose from a drop-down list. You can also select font size. To customize, go to SmartArt Tools > Design for colour options and styles (3D, Metallic, White Outline, etc.).
3. Use images more effectively
How you use images can make or mar your presentation. Always keep in mind this basic trick when it comes to using images: Maintain the aspect ratio.
After you insert the image into a slide, you will often need to expand or contract it to fit the space allotted. Do this carefully. In almost all cases, you should stretch an image from one of the four vertices (corners, circled in blue), rather than pulling at one side of it.
Let’s take an example. In the image shown here, the picture above, to the right, is the original image. The aspect ratio (the length-to-breadth proportion) has been disturbed in the other two images. This happens when you adjust the size of the image by pulling it from the side.
The right way to stretch or shrink an image while maintaining the aspect ratio is to grab one of the four vertices with your cursor and drag to resize.
4. Embed your fonts to share presentations
If you are using a special stylized font for your presentation, keep in mind that it may end up looking very different if you run the slideshow on a different computer that doesn’t have this font.
The only way out is to embed your fonts. Go to File > PowerPoint Options > Save > Embed Fonts in the File > Embed all characters. It leads to a slight increase in file size but ensures that your presentation looks as good as it was meant to be.
5. Image file formats: picking from JPEG, GIF, BMP and PNG
The most popular file format for images is JPEG or JPG. The other formats are BMP, PNG and GIF, and this is why you need to know more about them:
Situation 1: You want to insert a screenshot in your presentation
If you save the screenshot in MS Paint, you will be asked to choose the file name extension (hence the format). Choosing BMP or JPEG at random can ruin the image quality. You need to know what you’re saving the image as and why.
Situation 2:You want to save an object as a picture
You can save a chart or SmartArt graphics as a picture and use it as a normal image anywhere (outside PowerPoint too). Just right-click on the object and choose “Save as Picture”. But again, you must know which file extension will give the best image quality.
There are two guiding parameters in selecting the format: file size of image and image quality.
Image file size
Saving an image as “.BMP” results in a large file size. The other three popular formats (PNG, JPEG and GIF) are in the same range as far as file size is concerned. A simple line graph can be 3MB in BMP and 50-60KB in other formats. So, for a smaller file size, avoid BMP.
Here, the right extension is determined by what your image contains. You might be taking a screenshot or saving a chart as a picture. If your screenshot is of text and line drawings, choose GIF or PNG for best results. If it contains photographs, choose JPEG (see table above). What happens if you take a screenshot of a pie chart and save it as GIF (the recommended format is PNG)? The colours get distorted. Similarly, a screenshot of text saved as JPEG appears hazy.
Simplify the choice
Taking all aspects into consideration, you can always ignore BMP. Also, PNG is an upgraded form of GIF. So the real choice is only between PNG and JPEG. For photographs, use JPEG; else, use PNG.
Vivek Singh, an MBA from the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad, is a marketing manager by profession. Read his blog on presentations and PowerPoint at www.allaboutpresentations.com.
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