Tuesday, November 27, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Smaller imported PDF images

Earlier this year I shared a technique for including PDF content on a PowerPoint slide. In issue 135 on May 29 I showed how the capture tool in Acrobat can be used to move content from a PDF file to a slide (see http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/archives.htm for this and all back issues). If you are including a lot of PDF content, you may have seen your file size grow.

One way to reduce the size of PowerPoint files that contain graphics is to use PowerPoint's built-in feature to compress graphics. I have used this to compress files up to 96%. But this does not seem to help when you have these PDF images in a PowerPoint file.

If file size is of critical importance to you because you need to e- mail the file to others, you may need to use a modified technique that will allow a smaller file size. Here are the steps you would follow:
1. Capture the PDF content using the Acrobat capture tool as you normally would. Make sure that the capture area is as large as possible by zooming in Acrobat so that you get the clearest image possible.
2. Open Windows Paint. This is a utility that comes with Windows and is usually found in the Accessories folder after you click Start and All Programs.
3. Paste the captured image into Windows Paint.
4. In Windows Paint, save the image as a PNG or JPG file (the different file types are available in the Save as type drop down list at the bottom of the File Save dialog box).
5. Use Insert - Picture - From File in PowerPoint to insert the image on a slide.

This is definitely a more involved set of steps to get PDF content into your slide, but it may reduce the file size enough to allow you to e-mail the presentation.

If you include many screen capture images in your presentation, this technique will also allow you to edit the screen captures in an image editing program and make them available for use in other presentations or documents.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Start small with visual slide transformations

In a workshop I did yesterday a participant raised a real concern that perhaps you have been wondering about as well. We had just finished going through the exercise where I put up a couple of paragraphs of text and the participants come up with visuals that could be used instead of the text. What this participant raised was that it seemed like it would take a lot of time to think of and create visuals for a whole presentation. And this was time she and her colleagues would not have in the fast paced environment they operate in. When you first start realizing that visuals can make a much larger impact than text, it can sometimes feel overwhelming to look at applying the ideas to an entire presentation. So what I suggested was to start with just one or two slides in the next presentation. Look for ways to make those slides more visual. Then, take another one or two slides in the presentation after that. And keep focusing on only one or two slides per presentation. After five presentations, you'll have ten slides that are now visual instead of paragraphs of text. You'll now be able to re-use these slides and will be more comfortable with creating visuals, which will help you create new visuals quicker. Any time you are making a change like this, start small and build your confidence and skills. In no time at all, you'll wonder what was so hard about visualizing ideas instead of writing long blocks of text.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

PowerPoint Tip: Wide screen laptops

Almost every laptop sold today is a wide screen model. The native display resolution is great and allows you to put applications side by side when working. The problem is that most projectors are not wide screen and are lower resolution. This can cause frustrating display problems for presenters when the higher resolution is sent to a projector that doesn't handle it very well. There is something you can do about this potential problem.

In PowerPoint, you can set the Slide Show Resolution to be different than the regular resolution that your laptop normally uses. This is helpful because now you can output a resolution that is more compatible with projectors and have less issues when presenting. This setting is in the Set Up Show dialog box.

I set my Slide Show Resolution to 1024 x 768, which is commonly known as XGA resolution and is the most common native resolution for projectors in use today. What this means is that when I switch to slide show mode, my display switches to the XGA resolution and the projector only sees a resolution level that it works well with.

So how does it look on my laptop screen? Well, it depends. It depends on your graphic chip set and display settings, but one of two things will usually happen. Either your laptop screen will show a horizontally stretched version of your slides, or it will show a display that has black bars on each side and is not stretched. In both cases, your laptop will show only the same number of pixels as the projector shows, which is exactly what you need when presenting.

One practice that also tends to help is to put your presentation into slide show mode before connecting to the projector. This seems to help because the projector only sees the correct resolution from the start. Otherwise, I have found a few situations where the projector picked up the wider display resolution and got a little confused.

By setting your Slide Show Resolution setting to one that is more compatible with projectors, you reduce the probability of display problems when you present.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Are you in Sales? Don't answer "No" too quickly.

Someone recently wrote that my site and work seems to be focused on sales professionals and wondered if my ideas would apply to a technical group. The concern was that an internal group in the organization was not a "sales" group. Your department may not have a title that has the word "Sales" in it, but I bet you are in sales. Hear me out.

Do you ever present to executives to gain their approval for a project?
Do you present monthly financial figures and recommendations for managers to approve?
Do you teach others procedures or skills that you want them to use on the job?
Do you hold regular update meetings to keep everyone on the team motivated towards the goals?
If you answered "Yes" to any of these four questions, you are in sales.

In all of the cases above, you are "selling" your ideas to others inside your organization. You want them to "buy" your viewpoint or recommendations and take action. So you should be working to make your PowerPoint presentations as effective as possible so that your projects get approved, recommendations implemented and colleagues motivated to be successful. If you've been wondering if your internal group could benefit from a Think Outside The Slide workshop, the answer is definitely "Yes".