Now the previous post has given you an overview of the basics for creating a great presentation, the following information will focus on ‘how to’ actually produce it.
Choose your Tool
Your first decision when creating a presentation is deciding which tool best suits the purpose. The main players for presentations are PowerPoint (Windows), Keynote (Mac) and Prezi (Online).
There are also mobile apps that create presentations, which are useful if you are on the move.
PowerPoint is the best known application in this area. Superb presentations can be created using PowerPoint – Nancy Duarte has created an amazing example of just how far PowerPoint can be pushed, which can be viewed here. PowerPoint is easy to use, although it can sometimes be a little unreliable when embedding video, (more on this later) and many of its pre-designed themes and templates are less than appealing.
Keynote is only available to those operating on the Mac platform. It performs the same role as PowerPoint, however some argue its design is sleeker and it is known to be able to handle video and music files more capably than PowerPoint.
Prezi is a relative newcomer, but it is growing in popularity. Prezi is online, and stores your presentations ‘in the cloud’, although for a modest subscription you can download a desktop editor, which allows you to work in an offline mode.
Prezi is not based on linear slides, but has an unlimited canvas, onto which you place your content. As you design your Prezi, you create a ‘path’ which directs the order in which this content is presented. Being a canvas, Prezi is terrific for creating non-linear presentations, as you can zoom in and out to view the big picture or focus on smaller details, and the design is not limited by slide size. A tutorial on getting started with Prezi can be downloaded here. Click the image to view a brief Prezi on what Prezi is all about.
A beautiful mobile device presentation app is Haiku Deck. The focus of Haiku Deck is to create image based slides, with minimal text. Built into the app is a search of Creative Commons licenced images, and it automatically places the attribution onto the image, which is a huge time saver. If you have access to an iPad, it is worth exploring. Below is an example of a Haiku Deck slide.
- Slide Layout
Avoid using the standard templates, if at all possible. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, they are not original or memorable. As PowerPoint is used so commonly, the layouts will make your slides seem just like everyone else’s. Secondly, the templates provided encourage the creation of slideuments – encouraging headings and subheadings, dot points and even two columns of information on the one slide.
- Colour Matters
What looks amazing on the computer may not display as well when projected on a screen. The size and brightness of the room and strength of the projector can impact upon the colours, rendering some colour combinations unreadable. Another consideration is that approximately 8% of men suffer from colour-blindness (Victorian Department of Health and Safety,2013). Therefore the choice of background colour, text colour and the use of contrast are all important.
- Finding Quality Images
The vast majority of images found through Google Images are copyrighted. When presenting to an audience, replicating images you do not have permission to use breaches copyright. Fortunately, there are a number of sources of images you can use, and these sources are growing.Creative Commons licenced images are an alternative to copyrighted images. Whereas copyright works on an all rights reserved model, Creative Commons licences allow the creator of the work to state which rights they choose to reserve (e.g. non-commercial indicates the creator reserves the right to prohibit commercial use of their creation). Images can also be labelled Public Domain, which means anyone is free to use them. These images are usually commonly used symbols, or images that have passed out of copyright.
A comprehensive explanation of Creative Commons, Public Domain and Copyright is available on the Copyright and Copyleft wiki.
If you have a budget for the presentation, you can purchase images from one of the many stock photo companies online. We have found iStockphoto to have an excellent range, and reasonably priced.
If you have no funds, don’t despair! There are many other excellent sources of creative commons licenced and free images and quality clipart.
Flickr Creative Commons – a huge range of photos all licenced to be used under various CC Licences.
Wikimedia Commons – a database of over 16 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute.
Clker royalty free public domain clip art in vector format and in image PNG format. It also allows you to make simple edits to these images.
- Inserting Video
Inserting a video from file is essentially the same as inserting an image. You browse to where the file is located, and click insert. There are a number of caveats on this simple process.
a) Keep the video file and the PowerPoint file in the same folder. The video is not embedded into the PowerPoint, it ‘links’ to it, so if you move the PowerPoint (say onto a data key to transport to the presentation location) and you don’t move the video file as well, the video will fail to load. Moving the entire folder with all linked files goes some way to resolving this (although it is good to test at the presentation location, as sometimes videos need to be ‘reinserted’).
b) If you have a video stored as a file on your hard drive, you should either own this video or have permission to store it. Downloading YouTube videos without the permission of the creator is a breach of copyright.
Inserting a video from a website can be problematic. There are multiple requests for assistance online from PowerPoint users for whom this process just simply doesn’t work. The process seems simple:
Step 1: Copy the embed code from the video you wish to include. Note you must choose the ‘old embed code’ option.
Step 2: Paste into PowerPoint in the appropriate field under Insert Video from Website.
This process has never worked successfully for us, on a range of different computers. The video appears as a black box that will not play, or there is an error which requires Adobe Flash to be updated (even when the latest version is installed).
Fortunately, there are two alternatives:
a) Hyperlink to the video
b) Use a third party plug-in such as AuthorStream
Hyperlinking to the video means you temporarily leave the presentation, and go to where the video is situated to view. This can be disruptive during a presentation, however it does mean you can link to any video on any website (YouTube, Vimeo, TeacherTube etc). You can also link to a video edited on SafeShare TV, so that all of the annoying ads are removed. A tutorial on how to hyperlink to Safeshare TV can be downloaded here.
A third party plug-in such as AuthorStream allows you to embed YouTube or Vimeo videos directly into the slideshow so that they can be seamlessly displayed as part of the presentation.
Download Authorstream and follow the directions to install. Once it is installed, in PowerPoint a new tab will appear on the ribbon at the top of the screen.
Embedding the video is simply a matter of pasting the video hyperlink (not the embed code) into the window, as below.
Please note that embedded videos require an internet connection to operate.
Embedding video from clipart is quite straight forward, however the limited range of videos available from clipart means this option is rarely chosen. The videos available are generally classified as animations, and add little to formal presentations.
If you have many videos to embed, it may be easier to choose Prezi as your presentation tool. To embed video into Prezi, simply paste the link where you want the video to appear, and as long as you have an internet connection, the process is complete.
- Fonts are important
Choice of font is essential if you wish to have readable slides. If at all possible, choose no more than two fonts; a headline font and a text font. Make use of bold and italic options if you need further differentiation.
Nancy Duarte explains font choice very well in her book, Slideology. Essentially, there are two types of fonts; serif and sans serif.
Serifs are the small strokes at the end of letters that aid readability – you can see them
Serif fonts are good for long chunks of text. San Serif fonts don’t have the serifs, and are
Once you have selected the font, don’t make the mistake of keeping it too small. Even though it may be readable on the computer screen, once projected this may change. As a general rule, stick to 24pt and above, larger if you are presenting in a large room and some audience members may be seated far from the screen.
Choice of font does not have to be limited to those available in the application. There are several websites where you can download free fonts for maximum impact. Two excellent sites are
(click on the logos to go to the sites).
One thing to note if you are using downloaded fonts – they will only work on the computer where the fonts are installed. This is vital to know, as many presentations are created on one computer and transferred for presentation onto a different computer. If you know the presentation is going to be moved, it is best to stick to one of the pre-installed fonts, or save the presentation in PDF format, which will prevent the fonts from changing no matter what computer is being used.
Avoid the overuse of bullet points!
Want to know more?
These two posts on creating presentations that work have drawn on the work of several experts in this area; Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Seth Godin. A full bibliography of references used is below for further reading and information.
5 Ways to Make PowerPoint Sing! (And Dance!). (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2010/01/5-ways-to-make-powerpoint-sing-and-dance/
Department of Human Services, Victoria. (n.d.). Colour blindness. Better Health Channel. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Colour_blindness
Duarte, N. (2008). slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations (1st ed.). O’Reilly Media.
Godin, S. (2001, January 10). Really Bad PowerPoint: (and how to avoid it): Seth Godin: Amazon.com: Books. Do You Zoom Inc.
Hooker, D. (2012, March 25). Get Started with Prezi. Prezi Support. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from https://prezi.zendesk.com/entries/23448918-Get-Started-with-Prezi
Lessons from TED: 5 Simple Tweaks. (n.d.). Duarte Blog. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://blog.duarte.com/2009/02/lessons-from-ted-5-simple-tweaks/
Reynolds, G. (2011). Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (2nd Edition) (2nd ed.). New Riders.