[Electronic Slide Presentation]

Educational / Business meetings are becoming fairly standard. Each person receives a stapled stack of paper with small, barely readable rectangles on the left and lines to the right for note-taking. Once everyone is seated, the lights go down and somewhere in the front an electronic slide is being projected. The background is the same overly used template, the words are too small to be legible so the facilitator, using their "Stars Wars" red-light saber underlines and reads each and every word aloud. At the end of each slide, the presenter either charges to their computer to activate the next slide or they blurt out "Next Slide Please" to an assistant.

Sound familiar? The electronic slide presentation is the most used as well as the most abused multimedia creation. It has such a bad reputation. (see "PowerPoint is Evil" by Edward Tufte or "PowerPoint: Killer App" by Ruth Marcus). Here are some suggested fixes for the most common problems or blunders made with electronic presentations.

Creating Slides

Avoid the "Books on the Wall" look with line after line of wordy details of small unreadable text. Even bulleted or numbered points which features short phrases can be over done, so limit these to two or, at the most, three per slide. An even better solution is to use singular informational sentence supported by a strong, high quality image.

Sans Serif font faces are much more legible and easily read from a distance. Use Helvetica, Arial, Ventura or Gill Sans fonts. Minimum character size should be at least 24 point type. To set the font size and color in Keynote, select font and size from the font window. Choose Font and Color from the Text Inspector. In PowerPoint choose Format then Font to set all font attributes. Use dark text on light backgrounds for brightly lit rooms and the opposite for dimly lit lecture halls.

Backgrounds for text should be simple. To create backgrounds in Keynote, go to the Slide Inspector, click on the Appearance tap and choose the background type. In PowerPoint use Format, Slide Background and then chose a fill and color from the pop-up.

Avoid the use of the programs built-in background templates. Try creating backgrounds in an image editor. Title slides can be produce from digital photographs. Photographic slides may be interspersed between text slides. Many web sites provide free downloadable backgrounds.

[Free PowerPoint Backgrounds]

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PowerPoint makes it so easy to add graphics or artworks, by default when you go to Insert - clip art or Insert - movie, up comes the libraries within the program. Instead of using these tacky works, use high quality drawings and photographs by creating them yourself. If you cannot produce high quality images, companies such as The Stock Market and Dianamic Graphics sell CD / DVDs of quality copy right free images. They will also gather and taylor artworks and photographs to your needs. Search engines, Goggle and Yahoo have a large reservoir of images which are free for usage, but most are not the best quality. Other sources are on-line stock photograph sites. Two places with good, cheap art and photographs are iStockphoto, which has quality photographs for as little as a $1.00, and Stock.xchng where you can find some free images in a searchable database.

Keynote and PowerPoint allow both slide transitions and animation within slides. Use these very sparingly. I personally find a revolving door, a turning cube or text flying into a slide to be really annoying. I only use Dissolve and Whip. To animate text within a slide in PowerPoint, select the text and go to Slide Show - Presentation Animations - Dissolve. In Keynote, select the text, go to the Build Inspector, under the Build In Tab and choose from the Effect pop-up menu.

To create slide transitions: in Keynote set transitions effect in the Slide Inspector under the Transition tab, in PowerPoint, go to Slide Show - Slide Transition.

Side Bar: Effects and Transitions are two areas where Keynote is superior to PowerPoint. Its slide transition and animation effects are much more Cinematic and the presentation appear much more professional. Microsoft should create a quality cinematic Dissolve and Cross Dissolve.

I have always used the electronic slide as a platform for playing sound and showing video. Recording and editing sound or shooting editing video on a computer is commonplace these days. But many presenters are still hesitant to use this media in PowerPoint or Keynote.

Side Bar: One very critical factor for using sound or video files is that the system you will be using to give your presentation must have the necessary software to "use" the media format so that the movie or sound can be presented. At a minimum, all Window's machine should have Apple QuickTime installed and all Macs should have Windows Media Player installed. Additional other soft wares may be needed.

For sound use Mp3. Mp3 are high quality, small in size, load and play rapidly and are compatible with Keynote and PowerPoint on both the Windows and Mac. To place sound in PowerPoint, go to Insert - Movies and Sound - Sound for File and navigate to the Mp3. For Keynote, click Media on the tool bar, navigate to iTunes and drag the file to the slide canvas. If the sound file is not in iTunes drag it from its location to the slide canvas. If you use a podcast that has an art work / cover remove it before you drag-n-drop or it will show on the slide.

Embedding video can be very problematic. Mp4 video, which has many of the same advantages for video as Mp3 has for sound sound, will not play in a Windows environment unless the latest QuickTime 7 is install. And Still using Mp4 may no play correctly. Mp1s play well in PowerPoint on the PC. It is the best option for a presentation that needs to play on both Mac and Windows. If you are using either Keynote or PowerPoint on the Mac use Mp4 video. For Keynote, click Media on the tool bar, navigate to iMovie and drag the file to the slide canvas. If the video file is not in an iMovie folder, drag it from its location to the slide canvas. If you use a podcast that has an art work / cover remove it before you drag-n-drop or it will show on the slide. For PowerPoint go to Insert - Movie and Sound - Movie from File. Navigate to the file and click on the movie.

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Although both PowerPoint and Keynote have powerful chart creating elements, I rarely if ever put charts in a slide presentation. It may sound anti-business or anti education, but they are very hard to read or understand. If you must give numeric data, convert this information table data. I strongly suggest that numeric data be given as notes rather than by slide.

Finalizing a slide presentation is just as important as creating impressive slides. Check spelling! Turn on the automatic spell checking. In PowerPoint, go to Preferences: Spelling. In Keynote go to Edit: Spelling. Proof read for grammatical errors. Place all graphics, images, audio files, and movies with the presentation in a singular folder. Make sure that all pictures, sounds and movies are properly linked. In PowerPoint save the work as a PowerPoint Package. File: save as and choose PowerPoint Package. In Keynote, Save: click the triangle next to the Advanced Option and select Copy Audio And Movies Into Document option.

Presentation Tools

Any media laden presentation takes fast information exchange to play correctly. This usually takes the speed of the hard drive. If you keep two or three large presentations, however, the speed remains but the materials will fill open drive space. Compact flash cards or multimedia cards are one of the best and most economic alternative. They provide both speed and space. Place the slide show on the card and use a card reader such as the Lexar Jump Drive, to play the presentation.

[Keyspan Remote]Most people delivering presentations either hover above their computers or charge across the stage to stay within touching range of the keyboard to advance to the next slide. Using a presentation remote control allows slide advancement from as far as one hundred feet. RF (radio frequency) remotes work much better than either infrared or BlueTooth giving greater distance and more reliable operation. Some remotes add mouse controls. I would suggest the remotes which use AAA batteries as they are much easier to locate and to replace.

Delivery Style

The sole reason for creating slides is for the presentation. Many a great show has been ruined by poor or inadequate delivery style. Remember and use these principles.

Delivering a presentation should involve more than just simply reading each slide. Do not put all of the information on every slide. Use only two or three ideas and supplement these ideas with more information. Consider the information as an outline, discussion starter and motivational medium.

Move around the room, establish good eye contact and use gestures and tone of voice to greatly enhance the show. Consider providing the audience with note taking materials which will give them more to take away from the presentation. Keep the delivery interactive by asking for response from the audience to pertinent questions.

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