Tag Archives: powerpoint

Three Presentation Mistakes

Last weekend I attended the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I really enjoy this conference, the speakers are great and the topics really relevant to my volunteer work with the Redcliff Public Library. So what does this have to do with presentation mistakes? It was interesting to see the kind of presentation mistakes that speakers who are good at presenting make.

Mistake Number 1

Our old friend – too much text on the slide. Even good speakers do this, even though they shouldn’t. I suspect because they worry about leaving something out of their presentation.

All the sentences, all the text
All the text, nothing missing. (Dummy text courtesy the Bacon Ipsum generator)

Once again, I’d like to join my voice to all the presentation experts telling you NOT to put all your text on the slide. But, I know it will happen anyway, so what can we do to improve a slide like this?

Remove Bullets

Bullet points add nothing
Same slide – fewer bullets

If you are going to write full sentences with punctuation, then bullets are completely unnecessary. They take the viewer’s eye away from the content of the sentence. Save bullet points for sentence fragments, which is what they are designed for.

One Sentence Per Slide

One sentence per slide
Give each Sentence its’ own slide

Help the audience focus its’ attention by restricting yourself to one sentence per slide at a time.

Position Sentence Text

Control Text Wrapping
Control text wrapping to effectively position your message

There is no rule in PowerPoint (or any presentation software) that requires you to use the default text wrapping. Add line breaks to force text to wrap for greater readability and easier recall. Notice how the ham jumps out from the rest of the text, when it is forced onto its’ own line. Think about the part of the sentence you wish to emphasize and add line breaks accordingly. Also, if the sentence is on its’ own slide, there will be room to do this.

Mistake Number 2

Smart Art can cause problems of its’ own. In particular, the seductive way it shrinks text to fit into the graphic makes people forget to edit. (See mistake number 1)

Smart Art can be a problem
Smart Art isn’t as smart as you think

Also, the default colour schemes means a lovely rainbow of colours. How is this a bad thing you ask? Well, inevitably you get a colour combination like point three in the graphic above. White text on a yellow background. That’s readable on a computer monitor, but when projected onto a screen it doesn’t have enough contrast.
The rainbow effect above, does something else as well. It wastes the potential usefulness of those colours. Colour is a great way of adding organization and hierarchy to a presentation. In the slide above, perhaps green refers to free-range meat, blue to fish, yellow to poultry, red to spicy foods, and I have no idea what pink would refer to. Because there is no organization being used here, just the random default applied by Smart Art.
Ignoring the organizational impact of colour, is like leaving money on the table.

Mistake Number 3

This last mistake is a little bit of mistake 1 AND mistake 2 combined, and it comes from using Smart Art process graphics like the one below:

Smart Art Process graphic
Here is a process with multiple steps and a lot of text.
Every time, a process graphic like this leads to the speaker saying “I know this is hard to read, but”.
Hmmm, yes it IS hard to read, but I can understand the desire to help people understand the flow of a process. So why not introduce your process in a series of slides like this:
Showing a step in a process
Introduce your process in a series of slides.

In this sample slide I’ve taken the process and reduced to a smaller graphic in the top left corner. Here it will act as a map to show people where we are. I’ve toned down the colours of the steps that are not being talked about on this slide. I’ve left the bright blue alone, because we are talking about the blue step on this slide. I’ve cut out the blue step and enlarged it, so the text will be easier to read. It is easy to imagine each step in turn being featured on a separate slide and highlighted on the map.

Once again, thanks to everyone who spoke at the Southern Alberta Library Conference. I learn a lot about how to be a better library board member every time I attend. And, if you are a resident of Alberta; consider volunteering in your local library. It really is the best volunteer gig around. Such a positive environment that really makes a difference in the community!

I offer presentation design services and coaching. Feel free to send me an email.

Duotone Photo Technique

Duotone Photos

I’ve been showing you how to use PowerPoint to quickly create stencil and lace effects.  Now, let’s look at creating duotone photos. In addition to making a photo look very modern, duotone is a useful technique for using less than stellar photos.

a photo of a cat in a kitchen
Cat in the Kitchen

While the cat might be photogenic, the background is not. I want to move from the photo above to the duotone below, which is suitable for adding a quote.

Cats have it all quote by Rod McKuen
So true

The first step is to crop the picture as closely as possible.

Close up of cat's face
Just the handsome face here – no clutter

But unfortunately, once enlarged you see the photo is a little blurry. This won’t be a problem going forward and it shows how this technique can cope with less than perfect photos.

Going to Picture Corrections:
Brightness was set to 65%
Contrast to 100%

Picture Color: Saturation was set to zero.

Photo after adjustment
The Adjusted Photo

There is a bit of guesswork here, as I had to bring up Brightness enough to wash out the dark corner of the chair the cat is on, yet leave as much detail as possible. You’ll note that this brings out a lot of light spots on the pupils as well.

Why not just Recolor the picture to Black and White? In this case, I felt that recoloring removed too much detail from the photo. In the case of a different photo, recoloring might be the quickest and easiest method.  I’d definitely try it first and see if I liked the results.

I’ve drawn a rectangle and filled it with a bright colour for contrast, this has been placed under the photo.

Now I can make the white portion of the photo transparent, by selecting Picture Tools>Format>Color>Set Transparent Color  and clicking on a white portion of the picture.

Showing the black portion of the cat photo
The black portion of the photo remains.

What’s also hard to see in the above picture is that the photo has a lot of small grey artifacts in the borders of the fur. This is exactly what we added in when making the lace picture earlier, but here it is unwanted. An additional step is required for this photo (again for some photos it might be unnecessary).

But before I do that – I’m going to use the Ink command and touch up the pupils to remove some of the glints. Ink is only available in Office 365.

excess glint repair using Ink tool
Showing Glint repair using ink tool.

After filling in the glints on the pupils, I grouped the ink layer with the photo. Then I copied and pasted the photo (and ink layer) as a picture.  PowerPoint remembers all the photo editing done to a picture (which is why the Reset command works) and applies those steps cumulatively. I want to start fresh and apply the Recolor command to strip out the grey artifacts without losing a lot of detail. After recoloring the photo to 25% Black and White I set the White color to transparent

photo after removing artifacts
The same photo, but now with a crisper look

Again, I grouped the photo with bright background rectangle, pasted it as a picture and this time set the black portion as transparent. This is similar to the photo stencil.

transparent cat
Photo with transparent cat

In the final step, set a gradient fill in your chosen colour scheme to colour the duotone.

Using the background to colour the duotone
Setting the background of the slide to colour the duotone

The main elements of this technique are applicable to a number of photo effects. Try them out and see what you get!


Making Lace Photos


In the last post, I showed how to turn a photo into a stencil. This time, we’ll be adding a lace effect to this photo.

A Wedding Kiss photo
Wedding Kiss – Courtesy Pixabay and Peter Klaus

Using this photo:

Close up of a Chrysanthemum
Chrysanthemum from Windows 10 default photo set

After inserting the photo and changing the background colour, go to Picture Tools>Format>Picture Corrections. Set Sharpness to 100%. The picture may look worse at this point, but don’t worry.

Chrysanthemum photo with Sharpness
The photo has had Sharpness applied to the maximum

Now, set Contrast to 100%. Yep, it definitely looks worse.

Chrysanthemum photo 100% Contrast
Photo with 100% Contrast applied

Select Picture Color and adjust Saturation to 0%

After saturation is reduced to zero
Photo with Saturation reduced to zero

Things are looking up again. Select Picture Tools>Format>Color>Set Transparent Color.  Click on a black portion of the picture.

Using Transparency to remove portions of the photo
The photo with black portions removed

Now is the time for a little cropping and copying that will make the lace effect stand out.

The cropped and mirrored photo
Cropping and mirroring the photo, makes it look more “lace like”

And finally, layer the lace over the Wedding Kiss photo for the result.

The resulting photo
The combined photo

Next week, I show how a variation of these techniques creates a duotone photo.

Photo Stencils

Duotone photos are the current thing online and you can buy software or use a service to convert your photos into duotone photos. But did you know that you can easily create duotone photos in PowerPoint?

Along the way to this technique, I’ll show you how to make stencils and lace out of your photos as well.


Windows 10 default penguin photo
Windows 10 default penguin photo

I’m going to use this photo of penguins to make a stencil type image. I’m using Office 365, but this can be done in PowerPoint 2010 as well. I’ve also changed the background colour of my slides. This isn’t necessary, but will make the images easier to understand.

After inserting the photo and changing the background colour, go to Picture Tools>Format>Artistic Effects. You can use either the Photocopy effect or the Cutout effect. The main difference will be the amount of small detail retained by the photo. I like the Cutout option with this photo.

Picture of penguins with Cutout Effect applied
The first step in creating a stencil, applying the Cutout Effect


Reduce the number of shades to 1

The picture with a reduced number of shades
The Cutout now has a the number of shades reduced to zero

Select Picture Corrections and adjust Contrast to 100%

After the contrast is set to maximum
The contrast on the picture is now 100%

Select Picture Color and adjust Saturation to 0%

After saturation has been set to zero
Saturation on the picture is now set to zero, removing the small blue highlights that were visible before.

Even if you are on Office 365, you’ll need to use the Ribbon. The Set Transparent Color command is not on the Picture Color Tab. Select Picture Tools>Format>Color>Set Transparent Color.  Click on a black portion of the picture. Voila! A stencil of Penguins that takes on the colour of the slide background.

The resulting stencil effect
After the black portions of the picture have been removed, the slide background is visible.

Next, I’ll show a variation on this technique to make a “lace” overlay.


Making Powerful Image Quotes

For those of you who haven’t had one of my seminars on using PowerPoint to create powerful image quotes for your social media feed; now’s the time to get out into the garden with your camera phone and take a few photos.

photo of chrysanthemum plant

You need to create a stockpile of good background photos that you can use for fresh quotes. And summertime in your garden is a great time and place to do this.

Closeups of plants and flowers make a great background for a variety of quotes – like this one I found on the Olds Municipal Library Facebook feed.

picture of sunflowers behind a quote from Jo Walton
A wonderful quote from Jo Walton.

You can see how they use a transparent overlay over part of the picture to help the text stand out.

You may not have an immediate need for those pictures, but you can set them aside for later use, like this image of purple pink chrysanthemums (my chrysanthemums are looking particularly lovely this year, due to the fact I’ve just bought them).

You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” ― Dr. Seuss
The colour of these flowers, will do nicely for a different Valentines’ Day image quote.

You don’t need a fancy camera to get these pictures, the camera on your phone will do just fine. But do make sure you take your pictures in both horizontal and vertical orientations to make sure you have more layout options later on.

A picture in landscape and portrait orientation
When you don’t know how you’ll be using those photos, options are very good.

Don’t just focus on flowers (hehe, see what I did there), leaves and foliage are useful too.

a mirrored image of foliage
Hey! I think I see a face in there!

Don’t forget that the same picture can be used multiple ways, once you start throwing colour filters and special effects at it.

comparison of two photos with colour filters applied
Left is original photo – the right has the saturation cranked up.

Oh, and that image has been flipped, since I like the leaves appearing on the right side of the photo better.

A final tip, when saving your image quotes, use the PNG format, it creates fewer artifacts (small jiggly lines that make text harder to read) than JPEG.

Finally, be sure to create your image quotes in the right dimensions Facebook, Twitter etc. I have have some pre-sized templates that you can use.

Eat Your Waffles

Ok, don’t eat the waffle chart

In a previous post, I discussed making a Button Bar Chart. That whole process really inspired me to think about simplified charts for presentations.

Which got me thinking about Waffle Charts.

4 category waffle chart
Note how the smallest group stands out

Waffle charts are excellent for looking at data sets where the smallest numbers are the important ones. You can use colour (as I have above) to make those numbers stand out.

But oddly, I don’t see people using a lot of waffle charts in their presentations. And there is no template for a waffle chart in Excel.

You can find some interesting ideas about building Excel waffle charts for dashboard purposes and I recommend this article to you: Interactive Waffle Charts in Excel

However, I was looking for something different. Something that wouldn’t have me counting and colouring cells manually (shudder).

Building the Waffle

I chose to build the waffle chart using a series of conditional formatting rules. The first step was creating the formula to count the cells of the waffle.

Waffle chart base formula
Counting the cells in a 100 grid waffle

In case the picture is a bit small, the formula used here is:

This uses the row and column position of the cell to count from 1 to 100 in a 10 by 10 grid.

I then built on that base formula with this monster formula:

=IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=’5 Category Waffle’!$A$2,’5 Category Waffle’!$A$2, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2+’5 Category Waffle’!$A$3),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$3, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$4),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$4, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$5),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$5, IF((((MOD(ROW()+8,10))*10)+COLUMN()-1)<=SUM(‘5 Category Waffle’!$A$2:$A$6),’5 Category Waffle’!$A$6,0)))))

The sheet BTW is called 5 Category Waffle.

5 category formula
The 5 category waffle formula result

The formula checks the position number of the cell generated by the base formula and sees if it is less than or equal to the number of values in each category in column A. It then returns the value of the category in each cell.

Because I wanted to put symbols in the cell like these examples.

talking head icon used in waffle chart
Talking Heads waffle chart
bomb icon waffle chart
Bombs waffle chart

I took that monster formula and made it into a named formula.



This made building the conditional formatting rules much easier to do(simply because the conditional formatting dialog is so cramped).

Lastly, I built a series of conditional formatting rules to change the background colour of the cell based on the value returned by the formula. For the waffles using symbols, the rule formats the colour of the font, instead of the background.

A couple of additional pointers

  • To create a perfect grid, switch the view in Excel to Page Layout View. Page Layout View uses the same measurement scale for both row height and column width.  Set your measurements here.
  • For the symbol waffles, use the File> Options>Advanced> Display Options for this worksheet and turn off the display of gridlines. That way when you copy the waffle, the gridlines will be invisible.


Button Bar Chart

Simple or Complicated?

Simple or complicated? It’s been my observation that anyone can make a subject sound complicated – but it takes real understanding of a topic to simplify it in a way that is meaningful.

This is why, when I saw this sample slide below from designer Julie Terberg, I sat up and paid attention. Here is a wonderful example of a chart that is simple in a beautiful and useful way. Immediately, you can see that an audience would find this chart easy to read and understand

Button Bar Chart by Julie Terberg
Julie Terberg’s Button Bar Chart from her #SlideADayProject project

I paid even more attention when I saw the way that Neil Malek put together an Excel version of the chart. Neil introduces a clever technique using shapes in data labels.  Here is the YouTube video:

Unfortunately, Neil’s clever technique is only available in Office 2016. I wanted to build the chart in Office 2010, for the benefit of my clients still using 2010.

Button Bar Chart Slide example
Button Bar Chart Slide, in PowerPoint 2010

I think that in the end, I succeeded. If you are interested in building this chart, and like me you are restricted to Office 2010, then I have a few pointers for you.

Button Bar Chart Pointers

  • Data Labels in 2010 can not use shapes. Instead, I tweaked the Shadow setting for the label, by setting the colour to match the fill on the label and the size to 150%. I left all other settings to zero. Shaping the label this way means that you can never achieve the circle that Julie used in her example. Instead, the best you can do is a lozenge shape. You can modify this when you change the font size in the label.
  • But once you’ve used the Shadow to enlarge your button, you can’t use it to shadow the data label. I solved this problem with an old fashioned solution. I made two charts (a 2016 and a 2017 chart). The two charts are grouped together.  Each chart has a data label for the year and a data label for the shadow. In the example below those labels are using the 1 values. The column labelled 2016 value is the length of the bar.
Where the data for the chart comes from
Button Bar Chart Data layout
  • The Shadow column must proceed the 2016 column or your shadow will wind up on top of the 2016 label. Also format your labels in that order as well, or the shadow will temporarily be on top of the 2016 label.
  • Format your shadow and label to the same font size.
  • The Chart Element selector on the Format Tab of the Chart Tools ribbon is your friend. Its’ really the only reasonable way to select the shadow data labels once they are under the visible label.
  • Link the label text to the cell in in Excel by using the formula bar and typing in the linking formula to the cell. This allows you to update the chart, by changing the text in the cell. A bit finicky to set up; but it will save a ton of time in the long run.
  • The best way to take this chart into PowerPoint is by copying/pasting the chart – as an image. Which means that you’ll need to presize the chart in Excel, so that text is not distorted by resizing once it is pasted into PowerPoint. Again, its a bit finicky – but worth it.
  • In PowerPoint, I created a layout, with text placeholders on the left and bottom of the slide.

    Layout has placeholders
    Layout has text placeholders on left and bottom of slide

All in all, a pretty reasonable version of Julie’s stellar design.

If you want to follow Julie Terberg and Neil Malek on Twitter, you’ll find them here.

PowerPoint – Organizing your colours

I find it useful when creating a presentation that has a custom colour palette to create a custom layout like the one below:

Slide Master containing information about the Colour Palette used in presentation
Colour Palette Assignment Slide Layout – accessible via Master view, or by selecting the layout

You’ll note that the RGB values for the colours are listed, and this is because prior to PowerPoint 2013, the eyedropper tool was not available. I also find it tremendously helpful to note what I use each colour for, so that when I open this file in a couple of years from now there will be a little less detective work.

Pictures and Transparency

In my last post, I mentioned I was working on a Jeopardy game in PowerPoint. In this game I want to present a series of visual clues before the answer is revealed. The audience is presented with the foreign cover for a popular book and has to guess the name of the book.

Book cover transition from greek to english cover version
Can you guess the book, by seeing its foreign (Greek) version cover?

I want to slowly reveal the English book cover, by gradually making the foreign cover more transparent. With this particular cover, I also wanted to crop the foreign cover image to reveal additional clues. Each clue will be revealed by a click of the mouse.

Hmm is this a problem? I can not control image transparency in PowerPoint, there is no option for this in the Picture Tools menu.

Nope, no problem at all. You can control image transparency by:

  1. Create a shape the same dimensions as your picture.
  2. Remove the outline for the shape.
  3. Change the fill option to Picture or Texture Fill and insert the picture file.
  4. Transparency will now be available

Its’ interesting that placing a picture inside a shape allows you to manipulate that picture as if it was a shape. This concept allows me to play with things like irregularly shaped (non-rectangular) images as well.


Thursday – PowerPoint Links

I’ve just been working on a PowerPoint template for a Jeopardy style game. I inherited this template, and as frequently happens a little cleanup is necessary to ensure the PowerPoint template works as desired.

To help you visualize the problem – a picture of the game board

Jeopardy Game Board 1st slide
The Game Board

Each square hyperlinks to a separate slide with the question (and answer).

I felt there were a number of improvements I could do to make the presentation easier to use and maintain. I won’t go into every change today, but a couple of changes involved hyperlinks
(shortcut key Ctrl + K, if you are editing 25 hyperlinks, then the reason for using a shortcut key becomes obvious).

The first maintenance problem I ran into was that the previous designer had applied the hyperlink to both the shape AND the text on the shape (now there are 50 hyperlinks – if you are counting).

Button shape with text selected
Shape with text on top

They did this for a very good reason; that the text on a hyperlinked shape does not change state like normal hyperlink does (the state change shows if the link has been visited or not).

So if the slides the shapes are linked to are reordered or edited, the links have to be painstakingly tracked down and edited and since essentially the links are layered one on top of each other it is a real pain.

I had a better plan. Move the button shapes to the Slide Master (after creating a layout designed for the Game Board slide). Then insert text placeholders (yes, 25 of them) for the dollar values. Position the placeholders over each button. No hyperlinks here.

Now moving back to the Game Board slide in Normal View, I can hyperlink the text box. Text boxes behave differently from shapes, and do change state to show the link has been visited.

Another advantage of the text placeholder is that if the user inadvertently moves the text boxes, the Reset command will snap them back into position. (A definitely plus when editing 25 text boxes).

The other visual difficulty I had, was with the colours of the hyperlinks themselves. They didn’t have a strong contrast with my (new) button colour, and the visited colour was still (kinda) visible. I wanted a strong link colour and once visited I wanted the link to disappear. I could add animations, but why bother when I could solve both problems easily by changing the link colours in the Color Theme.

Theme Colour Panel PowerPoint 2016
Theme Colour Panel PowerPoint 2016

Here is the theme colour panel after I adjusted the Hyperlink and Followed Hyperlink Colours.

The colours in the theme were picked after playing with the free https://coolors.co/ app I also got some good advice from this article. The image at the top of the article is the colour palette created by the Coolors.co app – translated into RGB. I usually add this information as a layout in the slide master.