Using PowerPoint Presenter View to help deliver Great Presentations

I am frequently amazed by the number of people who I meet in my training sessions who use PowerPoint as a key tool for their jobs, regularly stand up and present to groups of customers or colleagues, and have never even heard of Presenter View, let alone used it.

What does Presenter View offer?

Presenter View has been available in PowerPoint for nearly ten years, and allows you (the presenter) to see much more than the audience. Specifically, you will be able to see on your screen:

  • the current slide exactly as the audience see it (and which stage of “building” the slide you are up to)
  • your speaker notes to remind you of important points to say, and other facts to refer to in answering questions
  • all of your slides (including hidden ones to remind you they are there), shown as a series of thumbnails across the bottom, rather like a film strip (down the side in 2002/3)
  • slide <number> of <total slide count>
  • the elapsed time
  • the time of day (2007 onwards)
  • access to tools such as pen and highlighter to draw on screen and annotate slides on the fly, again without turning around (2007 onwards)

This means that you can sit or stand facing your audience without needing to keep turning around to see the screen to know where you are up to (or far worse, to read it out to your audience). It can also help you to follow good practice and avoid including lots of things on your slides to remind you what to say, by making everything easily available in your notes section. This means you can remove lots of the words from your slides – or perhaps all of them, using only a picture to illustrate your topic.

Read more about using PowerPoint presenter view to present like a pro»

Stephen Few Information Visualisation Workshops in London July 2011

If your job involves any kind of data visualisation from simple Excel charts to fully interactive management dashboards, you need to make sure that the way you display your data is as clear, unambiguous and effortless (to produce and to interpret) as possible.

Last year I attended three days of workshops by one of the foremost proponents of best practices in information visualisation, Stephen Few, founder of Perceptual Edge. Although I already had two of his books and had devoured their contents, there’s nothing like in-person training to highlight the most important ideas and make them stick. If you missed out last time around, Stephen is back in the UK from 6th to 8th July 2011, and in Vienna from 5th to 7th October.

In between interactive question and answer sessions, and some individual and group workshop time there was plenty of explanation of current understanding of how the human brain works to interpret visual displays of data. This combination of applicable, real-world best practice, backed by solid theory and research is a sound approach to take – you want to know that the ideas and principles under discussion are not just one person’s strongly-held viewpoint, but demonstrably better for interpreting, analysing, understanding and communicating your business or research data.

I already used many of the techniques which were discussed, and even teach others how to achieve these in practical situations, such as using workarounds to get Excel to do some pretty advanced chart displays, get better reports out of Dynamics CRM, and use clear visualisations when producing presentations. I still learned a great deal though, and came away from these workshops with a much clearer set of tools to explain to people how to better understand the information in your data (for analysis and decision making) and communicate this to others clearly (for reporting or dashboard style displays).

Stephen Few has many years of experience in this field, both in academic circles (he teaches in the MBA program at the University of California) and with businesses and corporations in many different industries. His mastery of the subject, leisurely delivery and down-to-earth style made these workshops as enjoyable as they were educational.

The three workshops (which map closely in content to three of Stephen’s books) are:

Show Me the Numbers: Table and Graph Design

Dashboard Design for at-a-Glance Monitoring

Now You See It: Visual Data Analysis

I highly recommend you to go on whichever of the three is most directly applicable to your role, or better still to do all three to get a fantastic all-round understanding of different aspects of this subject. You can find out more from marketingQED who organise these events over here:

Stephen Few: Information Visualisation Workshops 2011

If you can’t get to all three days, or want to do some prior reading, take a look at Stephen’s books here (note, the courses themselves each include a copy of the relevant book to take away, so you might not want to get them before attending unless you know someone who would love to take a copy of your hands afterwards!): – books by Stephen Few

Positive Advice for 2010

Susanne Dansey of Purple Cow Ideas Management has created a great Slideshare presentation with insight from a whole bunch of people from all sorts of backgrounds, with a range of skills and experience in different fields. She has collected their thoughts about the last year and their visions and advice for 2010. It’s an intriguing cross-section of quotes, perspectives, and inspiration for anyone in business, and maybe for your personal life too.

(Ideally view it full screen to avoid the jagginess in some of the fonts at the reduced size in the window here)

This also contains some great examples of varied slide layouts and clean lines, it’s worth a look just for some inspiration to brighten up your next presentation.

5 reasons to always put titles on every slide in PowerPoint

I have a golden rule which is that all slides in a PowerPoint presentation MUST have titles, which I mentioned in an earlier post about using large images in PowerPoint. Before I get hundreds of comments saying this is nonsense, and “less is more”, I just want to be very clear: every slide must have a title, they just don’t necessarily have to be visible to the audience.

The minimalist, image-led approach often recommended by followers of Presentation Zen and Beyond Bullet Points (and others) can be very powerful and really help to get your message heard and understood, but people often take it too far and actually delete the title placeholder from their slide, or use the “blank” layout. Even if you don’t want to put words on your slides to show the audience, you should still keep the title, and I’ll explain why and how to achieve this, and discuss a couple of things which might catch you out.

Read five reasons to put a title on every single PowerPoint slide »

Creating better web pages and site design

I have recently been doing some restructuring of my company website at – it’s still very plain and simple but I have tried to tick all the appropriate boxes for accessibility, usability, standards compliance and above all giving people clear information about what my company does and does not offer.

Later I may give it a bit more corporate gloss and “pictures of people in smart suits drinking cappuccinos in a meeting, and someone good looking with a headset on smiling at the camera” (to quote a friend who kindly gave me their thoughts on what it was missing).

As regular readers will know, clear presentation of information is a hot topic of mine, particularly when I am delivering software training. As I am a MOS: Master I do a lot of Microsoft Office courses, and try to focus not just on the features of the applications but also advise on good practices. This might include clear layout of a Word document, suitable formatting of an Excel chart, or the whole process of designing a professional presentation to deliver your message clearly and avoid “death by PowerPoint”.


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Einstein on PowerPoint

Albert Einstein famously said “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler” in reference to physics and its explanations of the Universe.

It might also apply to PowerPoint presentations, where it is too easy to clutter slide with too many bullets or too much information and detail. For example, a chart with comparisons of twenty products across three sales regions for the last four quarters – with all the individual sales figures attached to each part of the stacked bar, of course.

Don’t do it. Keep it simple. Provide enough information in the visual aid to make the point (eg Widgets are selling more than ever, and sales in Toyland are decreasing) but no more than that.

Use the speaker’s notes to provide you with the extra detail if you need to refer to the numbers, and include these notes in the handout so people can digest them later if they want to. Think about using some hidden slides so you have a selection of related charts and / or figures which you can show in response to a direct question, but will not bore the audience with if they seem uninterested (or simply happy to take your conclusions at face value).

Handouts are also the right place for giving the source of your data and any appropriate caveats such as how many people were surveyed in a poll, or what exchange rate has been used to compare sales across currencies.

A good technique to deliver a more professional presentation is to think about what the audience would write down if there were no handouts. What would be the really important things they chose to take away? So why try and ram anything else through their eyeballs and into their brains?

Eistein giving a blackboard presentation about PowerPoint

Footnote: you can make your own images of Einstein’s blackboard musings here:

Ceci n’est pas une brand

One of the training courses I run is about producing and delivering better PowerPoint presentations. This looks at ways to avoid Death by PowerPoint by using well-crafted, visually attractive slides to provide maximum impact and increase audience understanding and information retention.

In a future blog post I might collect some thoughts together around that topic, but for now I thought I would link to a pretty good example. Given that this is a slideshow with no presenter, there is text accompanying pictures which would not necessarily be the case if it was speaker-driven. However, it is still a great example of visual impact to deliver a strong message.

Notice that because of the limitations of SlideShare (and good taste on the part of the designer) there are no animations, no builds, just pure, simple, accessible slides. One of the disciplines I ask my course delegates to adopt is to print their slide deck in black and white, 6 slides to a page. Only if their slides are readable and make sense (and have impact) in this format will they be successful for a presentation. Maybe my new discipline should be “post it to SlideShare” which has similar limitations of size* and lack of animation .

*I know you can view it in full-screen mode but many people won’t do this, and those that do often want to see if the first couple of slides draw them in before doing that.

The Brand Gap Presentation is also an interesting insight into the topic of branding and marketing, which is often a theme which comes into choice of presentation style and touches on some of the areas I teach.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.

Huge PowerPoint files and how to avoid them

I have used PowerPoint for many years in a variety of job roles and it never ceases to amaze me that other people are able to create presentations which are, quite frankly, vast in their file sizes. There are several reasons for this, but the underlying problem is twofold:

a) users don’t think about file size until it is too late (when they realise they can’t email it, nor fit it on their memory stick nor even burn it to a single CD)

b) they don’t know how to avoid or fix the problem even if they did think about it

This means that many common causes of over-sized files go unchecked, files are used and re-used, and by the time you see there is a problem you have a huge clearing up job to do. Much better to tackle the issue at the source – when creating your presentation in the first place.

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