Everyone at some point or another has sat through a clunky PowerPoint presentation.

Maybe it was too long or the slides were so busy they were unreadable even to those seated in the front row. Maybe there were long pauses between slide changes, or videos that didn’t play.

Whatever the cause, presenters often get instantaneous feedback on how they’re doing – by the number of audience members distracted by the tiny glow of their smartphones.

The internet is full of tips and tricks on how to win back the attention of the audience, but we’ve instead focused on some neat ways you can use PowerPoint (and its add-ons) so as not to lose their attention in the first place:

  1. Blackout

When you’re presenting, you might want to occasionally switch off your slides for emphasis. In this case, you can use the ‘B’ key to temporarily blackout your screen, drawing the attention of the audience to you as you make your key points.

  1. Slide emphasis

Sometimes despite best practice, you simply have to show a complex slide with unreadable text. Maybe it’s an IT topology or an architectural framework. But you can make it work.

Use “call outs” –  basically a highlight on a small section of the slide that makes it easier for the audience to see the point.

There are a few ways you can do this in PowerPoint – using Zoom In, some handy cut-and-paste or by adding colour.

For a more sophisticated look, you can also take advantage of some neat transition effects and image editing functions in PowerPoint to create highlights. You can see a tutorial here.

Outside PowerPoint, there are several plug-ins available for Windows and Mac users that can “dim background clutter” on your screen, which could be useful if you plan to switch from slides into a product demo or non-embedded video.

  1. One-click memory refresher

PowerPoint has a lot of keyboard shortcuts. If you don’t plan on remembering all of them, at least remember this one: the F1 key.

Pressing F1 while in slide mode pops up a little cheat sheet of keyboard shortcuts and what they do. You can see the full list here but in case memory fails you, an easy reminder isn’t far away.

  1. Less is more

Author Garr Reynolds advises removing so much text from your slides that they become meaningless without you there to present them. He believes – and rightly so – that some decks are so busy that they take over from the narration. PowerPoint should support you, not substitute you.

  1. Outline View

One potential shortcut to creating a large slide deck could be to use the Outline View in PowerPoint. A post to Articulate’s forums says it can be used, for example, to add titles to a large number of slides when you begin creating a new deck.

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