Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Making PowerPoint Presentations Easy to Share and View

PowerPoint is a powerful tool for creating presentations -- but its very versatility is a double-edged sword. It enables you to make presentations lively and visually appealing, but if you get carried away, you'll end up with a cluttered mess that may not even work on your colleagues' or clients' machines.

Say you're using Vista and you've got a fast computer with all sorts of wacky fonts installed. You can create a real whiz-bang presentation with animations, sounds and colors galore, and a different font for every slide.

But if you send it to a client with a slower machine, an older operating system, or even a Mac -- watch out. All those fancy geegaws might not even show up! To make sure your presentation is easily viewable on a variety of systems and platforms, here are a few pieces of advice:

1. Stick to commonly installed fonts. It's hard to go wrong with a solid sans-serif font like Arial or Helvetica. It might lack the drama of a Gothic script or the pizzazz of a hand-lettered font, but you can be pretty certain it will look the same from user to user. The same goes for custom bullet points -- they might show up as plain old bullet points on somebody else's machine, so you may as well keep them simple to start.

2. Keep embedded sound or video to a minimum. According to Bit Better, a clip art publisher and PowerPoint presentation developer, sounds and videos "will not go from Mac to Windows gracefully, and you have to be very careful about how you insert the files in order to get them to 'travel' properly." Save yourself the hassle by keeping images static.

3. Don't write all the way to the edge of the screen. This might sound odd, but the reason is that, depending on which presentation medium you're using -- projector, computer, even television screen -- the aspect ratio might be slightly different than the one you built the presentation on. Make sure you have a decent white space on either side of your text so that your words don't run off the side of the screen when it's projected.

4. Beware of subtle shading and color schemes. Your viewer's screen might be more or less sensitive to color variations than your own. The graduated fill on a bar chart that goes from light yellow to bright chartreuse on your computer might just look like a mustard nightmare on an older screen. Keep your look simple, clean, and bold.

5. Run it by a friend. Check out your presentation on several different computers and operating systems to make sure it's rendering the same on all of them.

Need advice on how to tame PowerPoint or other Microsoft Office programs? Give us a call -- we can help.

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