Mohammad Al-Ubaydli’s blog

Tips on Microsoft PowerPoint

Posted in Articles, My publications, Technology by Dr Mohammad Al-Ubaydli on July 1, 2004

Part 1

Content is king. MS PowerPoint has lots of power, but the points only come from you. Before you add exciting animations, colourful logos, and smooth transitions, think about what you are trying to tell your audience, and how best to tell them.

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. Include a summary of your talk on one of your first slides, and one of your last slides. On each slide, make sure the important points are in the largest font, and your less important points are in smaller font. Better still, only include important points.

  • Less is more—Mention two to four main points per slide. Never more. And never paragraphs. Your slides guide your audience to the main points, while your speech and handout fill them in on the details. Finally, keep the length of your talk short. No one in your audience will listen to you after 50 minutes, and many will switch off after 30 minutes.
  • Lay out your argument—Each slide can have different layouts. For example, some slides are all text, whereas others have a diagram on the left or right. From the Format menu, click Slide Layout, and choose the layout that best illustrates your argument.
  • Mastery—Even if all your slides have different layouts, they still have a similar look and feel. To change it, click on the View menu, then Master, and choose Slide Master. Every change you now make will apply to all your slides. When finished, click on Normal from the View menu.
  • PowerPoint makes practice makes perfect. To practise your presentation, choose Rehearse Timings from the Slide Show menu. Make sure you are able to comfortably get through your talk using only the allotted time. On the big day, overrunning is unfair on others, and cutting your talk is unfair on you.
  • Paper is your saviour. Computers are complicated, which means they crash. Always bring a paper version of your talk.

Part 2

Microsoft PowerPoint lets you draw diagrams for your essays, flowcharts for your organisation, or designs for your website. Here are some tips on how to get the most out of it.

  • Create your canvas—From the Insert menu, click New Slide. From the Format menu, click Slide Layout and choose the blank layout. You should now have a new and empty slide.
  • Tools to use—From the View menu, click on Toolbars, and make sure that there is a tick mark next to Drawing. If not, click on Drawing. The bottom of your window now has tools for your drawing. Clicking AutoShapes reveals a whole range of shapes.

Choose the shape you want, and press the mouse down on your empty slide. This will be the top left corner of your shape. While the mouse is still pressed, drag it down and right. Where you let go will become the bottom right hand corner of your shape.

  • Add some colour—At the bottom of your window is a bucket of paint – that controls a shape’s main colour. To its right is the paintbrush – that controls the border colour.
  • ALTernative movement—You can move your shapes around your slide. Press the mouse down, move it, and let go. The shape moves, but not freely, because PowerPoint uses a grid.

To escape this grid, and place shapes exactly where you want to put them, press the ALT key (or Apple key on a Macintosh) while moving your mouse.

  • Connect your thoughts—The AutoShapes menu includes a range of connectors. If you pick one and start drawing from one shape to another, PowerPoint will draw a connecting line. Even if you move the shapes around later on, PowerPoint redraws the connections correctly. This is perfect for organisational flow charts.
  • Copy right—When your diagram is finished, you can print it, or use it in any other program. From the Edit menu, click Select All. Then choose Copy, also from the Edit menu. Finally, in the other program choose Paste from the Edit menu.
published in British Medical Journal Career Focus in July 2004

[part 1] [part 2]