Saturday, April 29, 2006

Compressing PowerPoint files with photos

Once again yesterday I saw the power of compressing photos in PowerPoint 2003 (sorry, for those with earlier version this feature isn't in your software). I was working with someone who was doing a presentation for a community group on a recent trip to Africa and almost the entire show was photos the group had taken. They had 66 slides done so far with about 80-90 photos. The PowerPoint file was a whopping 101 MB! This was all due to the photos being imported at the high resolution they were taken. Did you know that a 4 megapixel photo has almost 5 times the number of pixels than a normal screen could ever use? All those extra pixels get stored by PowerPoint but never used, leading to file bloat as I saw in this case. The solution is to double click on one of the photos in the presentation to bring up the Format Picture dialog box. On the Picture tab, click on the Compress button. In the Compress Pictures dialog box that is displayed, select All Pictures in the document and Web/Screen resolution and click OK. If you have many pictures, this operation will take a while, as it did in this case. When it is done, save the file to a new name (this is a quirk of PowerPoint that it does not release the extra space unless the file is saved under a new name). In the presentation I was working with yesterday, it shrunk from 101MB to 5.9MB - a 94% reduction! If you want more information on reducing the size of photos to avoid PowerPoint file bloat, check out my article at . It includes reference to a utility that will work for those with earlier PowerPoint versions.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Is a PowerPoint substitute?

You may have heard a lot this week about the new service at They have created web-based applications that do most of what Word, Excel and PowerPoint do, but run in any browser. The great advantage of course is cost - they offer it for free (I am sure there are some ads coming soon to the screen). I signed up to test their presentation application as a substitute for PowerPoint. I must say my first impression is to be very impressed. The screen opens up and looks almost exactly like PowerPoint. I created a simple presentation and downloaded it to my computer and it was readable in PowerPoint 2003. There are of course some features missing, like incorporating audio and video and some of the options on animation to name just two that I discovered in the first few minutes of working with it. But overall, it is quite a good piece of work and worth considering if you are stuck without your computer and need to create a presentation quickly. I can also see it as an outlining tool to develop presentations since it also offers the ability to let others see and make changes (but I haven't tested these features yet). Having said all that, I don't see it as a complete substitute for PowerPoint because of the missing features and the inability to show it full screen in presentation mode without the browser showing. I see it more as a potentially valuable addition to our toolbox that can help in certain situations. As I discover more I'll let you know.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Multiple Presenters Using PowerPoint

I had two situations recently where I have been asked for what options you have when you are doing a presentation with multiple presenters, each having their own PowerPoint slides. In one situation, there are two presenters doing a session and they will be switching back and forth between their slides but they aren't sure when the switch will take place based on the audience reaction to the content. In this case, I suggested that they ask the A/V company to supply a projector with two computer inputs (many of the mid to upper range projectors have multiple computer inputs). Each presenter will connect their laptop to one of the inputs on the projector. During the presentation, when they want to switch between the slides, they will simply switch the input on the projector to display the correct laptop input. The other situation is a panel discussion I am involved in. There are three of us who are using PowerPoint, but it is sequential and we know when the presenters will switch. So in this case, we are going to load all of the presentations onto my laptop and we will just hand the remote to the next presenter when it is their turn. Every multiple presenter situation will be different and you need to think of what will look as seamless as possible for the audience when you look at how to set it up.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

PowerPoint Tip - Adding Audio Clips to your presentation

(Tip from today's newsletter) Last issue we talked about video in your presentation, this issue we will cover audio clips. First, when would you want to use an audio clip over a video clip? Well, sometimes you can't get a video clip because of the circumstances or because you don't have the equipment at hand. Also, sometimes it is the sound and not the visual that is important, like when using a clip from a radio show or noise from nature. And sometimes you want to use music which doesn't require any visual with it. So, what do you need to be concerned with when wanting to use audio. First, the quality of the clip is critical because when amplified, any distortion in the sound will be magnified. Get the best quality clip you can find. Second, save the audio in either the WMA (Windows Media Audio) format or the popular MP3 format. Both are high quality compressed formats that work well in PowerPoint. Don't use WAV files unless it is a very short clip since WAV files tend to be quite large. Next, make any edits to the audio clip before you insert it in the slide. The program I use is Audacity, which can be downloaded for no charge and handles WAV and MP3 files. One edit that I often make to audio files is to fade the sound out at the end of the clip over one to two seconds instead of the sound stopping abruptly at the end of the clip. This makes it sound more professional and Audacity can do this easily. If you want to use music, make sure you have a license to do so (from organizations such as SOCAN, ASCAP or BMI) or you are using royalty free music that allows you to perform the song in public as part of your presentation. Finally, after you insert an audio clip on your slide, set the various options that allow you to control when the clip plays, whether it repeats or not and whether it continues when you move to the next slide. The next time you are using an audio clip or music in your presentation, remember these tips that will make it smoother to incorporate and use.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

What to do when a Fire Alarm Goes Off

A couple of days ago I was presenting to an association and the meeting was held in a board room on the 44th floor of an office tower. About one third of the way into my presentation, we hear the loud beeping that indicates a potential fire situation. As anyone who works in one of these towers knows, you wait for the instructions to come over the loudspeakers to see what to do next. Usually they instruct you that they are investigating a condition and to stand by for further instructions. But not this time. The announcement was that a fire situation existed in our area and we were to evacuate immediately. What would you do as a presenter? Fortunately, I have learned from my CAPS and NSA colleagues that as a presenter, you must continue to keep your focus on what is best for your audience. I turned to the three people from the firm whose offices we were in and asked them where we go. They explained where the stairs were and I made sure that everyone followed the directions to the stairs. As a presenter, I believe it is my job to be the last one out of the room, to make sure I take care of my audience first. So after the last person left, I closed the door and followed the group down the stairs. We found out it was a false alarm after going down 14 floors, so everything was OK in the end and we all came back to the meeting room and finished the session. But I share this because a number of people said to me that they are not sure every presenter would have been the last person out of the room. One of the key points in my presentation philosophy is that the presentation is about the audience, not you or your slides, and I consider that my responsibility in an emergency situation is no different. Next time you present, be prepared for any emergency situation - know where the exits are and calmly direct your group towards the appropriate exit and follow them after you ensure everyone has left the room.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Is PowerPoint always necessary?

I saw a great professional speaker present last night at a meeting and he used no visual aids at all. At the same meeting I had a conversation with another person on whether he should use PowerPoint for the presentation he is planning. Even though my expertise is helping people create and deliver effective PowerPoint presentations, one of the most important roles I see myself playing is advising people on whether PowerPoint should be used at all. In last night's presentation, visual aids would not have added anything to the solid points being made through the use of well told stories. In the case of the other conversation, I suggested he use only a few selected slides to illustrate ceratin visual points, but most of the time leave the screen blank. About a year and a half ago I wrote an article on when PowerPoint would be a good choice and I suggest you read it for more ideas on this topic. The article is at: .

Friday, April 07, 2006

New article for Sales Executives - Would you buy after watching your company's PowerPoint sales presentation?

After again hearing a sales executive share their shock at going on the road with one of their reps and being embarrased at the poor presentation done for one of their clients, Richard Peterson and I wrote an article for all sales executives. It highlights the three most common problems with PowerPoint sales presentations and explains why a common solution tried by many firms simply does not work. We also suggest a better approach. Read the full article at:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Importance of a Structure for your PowerPoint presentation

I was working with a new consulting client yesterday and it emphasized the importance of having a good structure before you start developing slides. He called me becuase he has an important presentation coming up at the major conference for one of his client groups and he needs to make a great impression. We started yesterday by me asking questions and then doing lots of listening. By the time he was done about an hour later, I had figured out what the four key points of his 30 minute presentation were going to be and had organized some of the key sub-points he had mentioned into those four areas. His next steps are to take the outline we created and add meat to it with more sub-points and facts, data, videos and pictures that illustrate the sub-points. If you create a good structure for your presentation, your slides will essentially create themselves and you will have a smooth presentation.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

PowerPoint Tip - Biggest issues with video on slides

This past Saturday I attended a conference for parents that was hosted by our school board and was once again reminded of the challenges that many presenters face when trying to incorporate video into their presentation. In one of the sessions I attended, the presenters wanted to start with a clip from a Disney movie (I didn't want to ask if they had permission to do so). They started by dropping out of the PowerPoint show mode and trying to run the DVD from a media player application. It hadn't been set up properly, so they had to restart the media player, then start the DVD playing from the beginning, fast forward through the parts they didn't want to use (we saw all of this by the way) and finally got to the clip they wanted to show. We watched and when it was done, my one question was, "What did that add to our experience?" The point of the clip could have been made with one sentence and the clip did not illustrate the point better than they could have by just stating it. Instead, we watched them struggle with the video for minutes. The problems were not restricted to this session. One session my wife went to experienced more problems using video in PowerPoint. It illustrated ever so clearly why the number one question I get is how to incorporate video clips into PowerPoint presentations. The first question I have to anyone who wants to use a video clip is, "What will it add to the experience of your audience?" Most times I get a long pause after I ask the question, then a response about how cool it will be to show video. My philosophy is that "clear is more important than cool", so only use video when it illustrates a point in a way that you simply cannot. Video testimonials are a great example of where a client can say something about your product that you just would not be able to say. There is seemingly little clear information on how to incorporate video clips well. That's why last week I launched my latest video tutorial to show you how to incorporate video into your presentations. It shows you how to avoid the problems I saw this weekend and explains how to run a DVD clip in a presentation. You do switch out of PowerPoint, but there are two much cleaner ways to do it than dropping out of slide show mode - one of them is to use the Alt+Tab key combination to switch applications (a Windows standard key sequence). I explain the simple secret to using video files that can be sent with the presentation file and still work when someone else receives them (I heard this lament from one of the presenters this weekend at a break) - put them all in the same folder before starting. I also show how to take video that you record on a digital camera or camcorder and move it to your computer, edit it, and save it into the preferred format (WMV) using Windows Movie Maker. Videos you shoot are almost always better than a pre-recorded clip that you try to make fit a purpose. You can get more information on the video tutorial at: .