When Used With Tact, These Techniques can Help to Make Your Presentations Fun and Engaging
It'd easy to bash PowerPoint, especially given the poor uses we see all too often … plain boring slides with no personality, or worse yet … slides that are inundated with text, delivered by monotone lecturers lacking enthusiasm. But this much maligned yet widely used application is capable of so much more! Just give PowerPoint a chance.
Those who are experienced with some of these functions may find them a bit mundane, but I still remember how cool it was to find and use them for the first time. While many may be aware of some of these techniques, I think most readers will find something fun and new here.
Following are 10 pretty cool things you can do with the popular presentation tool. Some are really easy, others will take more time and effort to get familiar with. Just be sure not to go overboard with these – especially when getting started with PowerPoint – use them sparingly for emphasis and to keep it interesting, not to create a kaleidoscope of visual chaos.
PowerPoint's Animation capabilities are an easy way to bring some fun and pizzazz to your slides, with just a few clicks. Just click on some content on a slide that you want try an Animation with, then click on the Animations menu. You will see options like “Appear”, “Fade” “Fly In”, etc. Click one to see what it will look like when applied to the content you've selected! Note that it's pretty easy to tweak how the animation works with the controls on the right of the Animation window – Effect Options, Trigger (does it start when you click, immediately after another animation, etc.?), Duration, Delay, etc. Don't be afraid to experiment!
Again, you'll want to exercise some restraint here (before your audience puts you in restraints!). It's easy to get carried away with these and create a dizzying array of flashing, whirling content … please don't.
Here is a more detailed overview of using PowerPoint Animations.
2. Motion Paths
One of the most flexible Animations available in PowerPoint is the Motion Path. Objects can move across the screen and you can adjust the path they follow as they do so. If you click the ‘Add Animations' button from within the Animations menu, this will bring up a menu of the various Entrance, Exit, Emphasis, etc., Animations, including Motion Paths (you may have to scroll down to see these, or select ‘More Motion Paths'). The basic Motion Paths provided include Lines, Arcs, Turns, Shapes, Loops, and a Custom Path (this is the one that lets you define the path). If you select ‘More Motion Paths', you'll see a whole bunch of pre-configured paths, like “4 Point Star” and ‘Tear Drop”.
Give it a try (and see No. 4 below for a fun example of Motion Paths in action)!
3. Text and Image Emphasis
One set of Animations are for “Emphasis”. When you click the Add Animation button on the Animations menu, you see these. As long as you've selected an object before you click the menu options, you'll be able to hover over Emphasis options like Teeter, Wave, Grow/Shrink, etc., to see how they will look when applied. Remember, you can tweak things about the Animations, so you may be able to get it to act rather differently and achieve a desired effect.
4. Follow the Bouncing Ball
Okay, so if you're of a certain age, the phrase “follow the bouncing ball” brings to mind images of a small white cartoon ball bouncing merrily along above a scrolling line of song lyrics at the bottom of the screen while some scene plays out above them. This is a fun, nostalgic effect. It uses the Motion Path effect to achieve the end result.
In the music video below, you'll see how I used this technique along with quite a few of the other Animation tools to create a fun music video for my song, Hurtin' Up My Heart. Here's the instructions I found online that showed me how to do this.
5. Narrate over Slides
This is also probably easier than you thought! There are a couple of ways to tackle this. They're both discussed in the video below.
6. Use PowerPoint as a Blank Template for Building Video Content
By combining Animations and other PowerPoint techniques and functions with a Screencasting tool, it's pretty easy to create video content that looks professional. By using a blank background, or a picture as your background, viewers will have no idea you even used PowerPoint. I used this technique to make parts of the music video in #4 above.
7. Embed a YouTube Video in your PowerPoint Presentation
Okay, so I confess, I'd never tried this until I wrote this article. Turns out it's a piece of cake! Find the video you want to embed, click the Share link and then the Embed link and copy the Embed code. Then, back in PowerPoint, just click the Insert Menu and choose Video, then select Video from Website and paste in the embed code for any YouTube video. Done! It's easy – try it.
8. Create an Animated GIF from a PowerPoint Slide
You can save a PowerPoint slide as a GIF and then use a program like GIMP to create your own animated GIF! This Wikipedia entry provides further details (there are other GIF animator programs out there as well).
9. Find and Use Your own Unique Templates
I love to seek inspiration when starting a new slide deck or animation by seeking out a new template. There are lots of good free ones available on the Web (there are also a lot of purveyors of templates for a fee, but I have not used any of them). Here's over 44,000 free presentation templates from PresentationsMagazine.com!
10. Embed a Functioning Excel Worksheet into a Presentation
Did you know you can have a totally functional Excel Worksheet embedded in a PowerPoint slide? This is super easy, just a couple of clicks. Click the Insert Menu, then choose Object from the menu ribbon. Then either click on Excel Worksheet under ‘Create new' or click ‘Create from File' and browse out to an Excel worksheet and select it. Realize that a large format worksheet isn't going to work well here, but if you create or insert a small functional worksheet, it should be easy to navigate and use.
Of course, these aren't the only cool things you can do with PowerPoint. We welcome your ideas and input. Tell us about your favorite creative things to do using PowerPoint!