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Workshop report: Getting the best from PowerPoint


This is the transcript from the online workshop held on Tuesday 20 March on the topic of getting the best from PowerPoint.

Scott Stein Hi Stephanie...didn't think I'd make it...the office Internet connection went haywire.

Scott Stein Hello Alison, Tracy.

Alison Hello folks! I'm Alison Clark of WORDS in ACTION.

Stephanie Phillips Hi Scott - glad you did!

Stephanie Phillips Hi Alison, Tracy, thanks for coming along.

Stephanie Phillips For those of you who don't know, Scott is coming live from the US at some ungodly hour in the morning, so thanks Scott!

Stephanie Phillips I guess we'll just wait a few moments to see who else is going to come along.

Scott Stein We have a super-fast connection, fancy computers and all that, and I couldn't get on the Internet until 6:51

Scott Stein No problem. Gets me an early start on the day.

Scott Stein Welcome Robin. Glad you can join us!

Scott Stein Good Morn--er, afternoon Tom.

Robin Cox Thanks, Scott. I'm interested to know how we can attract and retain learners' interest.

Tracy Mellor Hi - sorry, not concentrating - doing two things at once!

Stephanie Phillips Hi Robin, Tom, thanks for coming.

Stephanie Phillips Scott - do you want to get started with some introductions?

Robin Cox Hi Stephanie, and folks.

Tom Pittaway Tom P.Hi all, it's 9am here in Canada

Scott Stein Sure. Well, Stephanie has already told you that I'm coming live from the US. I work for a communications training company here in Texas.

Scott Stein I've done PowerPoint for a few years now, and have done approximately 35-40 presentations here, ranging from 15-300 slides.

Scott Stein I've been in Training and Development/Performance Consulting for about 10 years in various capacities.

Scott Stein But that's me. Who else have we with us this afternoon? Alison?

Tom Pittaway Will your presentation be in PP97 or PP2000?

Scott Stein Actually, these workshops are done in text in Volano chat. There are live PPT online presentation schema--Mshow, etc.

Stephanie Phillips Tom - we're looking at using a system to do this sort of thing in the near future, but it's straightforward Volano for now I'm afraid!

Robin Cox But these are the techie bits. What about the content? How do you use PPT to grab 'em?

Stephanie Phillips Can we get a quick feel for where people are with PowerPoint at the moment? novices, experts?

Robin Cox Middle.

Scott Stein If you all would, could you briefly introduce yourself, where you're from, etc.

Alison Yes, hi - I run a coaching/training/facilitation company and have never used PowerPoint. Much of what I do is very person-to-person and interactive with less emphasis on communicating factual information but I'm interested to learn how it could enhance my presentations.

Stephanie Phillips Just so Scott has an idea of his audience.

Tom Pittaway Novice.

Robin Cox I work for an e-learning provider as a designer and coach.

Tracy Mellor I'm a Sales Training Manager and do a lot of PPT.

sue curd I've dabbled with PowerPoint and have looked at importing presentations into html with varying degrees of success.

Alison Alison -here I'm novice -see the unnamed contribution above!

Scott Stein Anyone else?

Julia Hi I'm Julia.

Scott Stein Don't be shy--we can't we if you've spilled mustard on yourself at lunch.

Scott Stein Hello Julia. What's your PPT level of experience?

Julia Not too bad - I work as an FE college tutor.

Rob Hudson Hi everyone, I'm a novice.

Stephen Vickers Hello everyone.

Stephanie Phillips Hi Stephen, novice or expert?

Stephen Vickers Can I choose the middle ground?

Julia I think I should have a profile so I am going to log off and log back in - see you soon.

Stephanie Phillips Of course!

Robin Cox Fine by me!

Stephanie Phillips Okay, thanks all - Scott, do you want to get started?

Scott Stein Alright...ladies and gentlemen..let's get started.

Scott Stein First, you all must know that PPT (PowerPoint) wasn't a creation of Microsoft's! It started out in about 1986 from a company called Forethought, and Microsoft bought them in 1987 for a mere $14 million USD.

Stephanie Phillips They must be happy about that!

Scott Stein Not bad for a guy that couldn't get venture capitalists interested in his product. There were too many slide making products on the market. None for PC however.

Scott Stein Used to cost $250 USD an hour to get slides made through service bureaus--still available today, but PPT has brought graphic design to the masses.

Scott Stein That's both good and bad. Good = we have control; Bad = some of us are less than graphically "astute."

Julia Bateman Hi I'm back !

Scott Stein For our experienced PPT users, how easy/difficult was PPT for you to learn?

sue curd Yes, I agree I'm not a fan of using the "build" feature

Robin Cox Easier than I thought it would be.

Scott Stein Tracy?

Tom Pittaway Fairly easy, then one hits a plateau.

Tracy Mellor It's quite intuitive - although the short cuts are endless

sue curd I found PPT some years ago difficult compared with Freelance that seemed at the time to more easily let you start with a blank page. I've just taught our administrator the rudiments and she seems to be flying with it - times change!!

Caragh I'm afraid I am a user who has never learnt to use it properly

Scott Stein I force-fed myself in an evening, wowed a sales audience, and hit the road ever since. If you're familiar with MS Office products, PPT is easy to learn...

Scott Stein at least the operation of the programme

Susan Broatch Yes I agree with Tom, its making use of the full potential of PPT that's the problem for me - Tutor in open learning.

Julia Bateman I have always picked it up as I went along.

Scott Stein If you have any experience in using Draw with Word or any other graphics software (PageMaker, Quark, etc.), PPT can be easily added to your repertoire.

Stephanie Phillips Thanks Scott - any useful tips then, that people may not know about?

Scott Stein If any of you have read my tips in the PowerPoint Centre, you know that my biggest concern is not the learning of how to use the programme, but the lack of graphic design skills.

Robin Cox The content issue!

Caragh I am always impressed when I see other peoples presentations with graphics instead of sentences - looks much more professional.

Robin Cox Scott, let's be frank. Wouldn't PPT be better without the bullet templates?

Scott Stein Well, tips-wise: First, like good writing, know what you want to say. Don't start preparing your presentation on PPT. You can get caught in the form vs. content problem there.

Tracy Mellor too many bullet points, too many slides, too many pictures, awful builds and sound
Stephanie Phillips (for info, you can get to the PowerPoint pages at

Scott Stein Hmmm.....drop bullets? I don't really think so, but again, the use of bullets and layout becomes a design issue, not a PPT use issue.

Robin Cox But the temptation is there...

Julia Bateman I don't think I want to drop bullets just use less of them.

Stephanie Phillips I think there's an issue with trying to decide what to add and what to leave out of slides, but I guess this isn't specific to PowerPoint.

Scott Stein Again, to start a presentation, like starting a letter, you must know what you want to do. You don't go to Word and let is drive your writing, so don't let PPT drive your presentation. It's a tool only.

Stephen Vickers What are the rules that define the use of graphics over the need to get across the message of the presentation?

Scott Stein Stephen--how much time do we have this afternoon?

Stephen Vickers Simplicity would suffice!!!

Scott Stein Actually, next month, I'm going to review some software that helps to teach graphic design using PPT--Design Sense for Presentations from Proximity Learning.

Scott Stein A large part of the problem with what I see going wrong is design issues (too many bullets, wild colours, strange animation/graphics, etc.)

Julia Bateman I always try to keep it simple.

Tom Pittaway I try to determine what the viewer needs to know and what would be nice to know and then dump all the nice to know.

Scott Stein Most of you, if you can log on here and participate in the discussion, have proved that you have the technical skills to use PPT. It's a matter of practice after that.

Robin Cox There are also some good ideas on the Designing Web Sites URLs.

Scott Stein Ah, the content discussion! Yes, Tom, and a lot of how you use PPT is a matter of the audience and purpose of your presentation.

Scott Stein Robin, got any recommendations?

Scott Stein For the colour issue of design--try It will be a great resource for choosing good colour schemes.

Robin Cox KISS. Then remember to speak to me in my language. How's that for starters? In the UK it's hard to find PPT. Our culture prefers the gifted speaker who doesn't need it!

Scott Stein Well, to be honest, everyone prefers the gifted speaker who uses PPT to illustrate points, not make points.

Robin Cox I agree.

Tom Pittaway I recently (yesterday) discovered the Link feature. I think that has a great deal of potential for adding graphics, full slide or part slide.

Scott Stein Some people have gotten starry-eyed with the tool and have forgotten that while we all enjoy TV, we'd like to follow a story, movie, game, etc.

Tom Pittaway Yes, but a good illustration can cut through a lot of long winded prose.

Scott Stein Tom, when adding graphics, most clip art is embedded, and becomes part of the ppt slideshow. .avi's (and I use a lot of these in PPT) are like web graphics--when linked, they need to reside in the folder they were first linked from or they won't work.

Julia Bateman I recently gave a presentation with a hyperlink only to find my projector didn't have the correct resolution to take the Internet browser screen (not much point!) I am purchasing a new projector now.

Scott Stein I believe the expression is, "A picture's worth a 1000 words."

Robin Cox I think this is why PPT can be hard to find. Even large companies still use (in the UK) OHPs rather than projection screens.

Scott Stein The projector issue is a fun one. Projectors are becoming light, less than 2 kilos, and brighter. But there are times when they crash the best PPT slideshow.

Julia Bateman Luckily haven't had that happen YET.....

Tracy Mellor Scott - How do one include moving animation in ones presentations?

Scott Stein Robin, I've received the same feedback from people in Australia and New Zealand as well. Tom, how about PPT use in Canada?

Tom Pittaway Very commonly used in education and training.

Alison Suillivan how can I get hold of an inexpensive projector that will work reliably?

Scott Stein More prevalent in North America it seems.

Julia Bateman I'd like to know that also Tracy.

Scott Stein Alison--check www. It's a good resource for projector reviews. Also Presenter's University.

Stephen Vickers That would be really useful (Julia,Tracy).

Robin Cox Mind you, PPT can make excellent OHP slides!

Susan Broatch Scott, can you give us some tips (technical and design!)on Slide Masters, especially in relation to standardising some basic builds throughout the presentation.

Irena Hi, sorry to come in the middle of things...I'm a software trainer and I think PPT is one of my users favourite tool

Scott Stein Tracy-- there are a number of ways to create animation.

Tom Pittaway I think the OHPs that Robin was referring to used the big transparencies and these are still popular because most offices have colour copiers on which to make them.

Tracy Mellor Go on then, sock 'em to me!

Scott Stein If you insert graphics, right click and choose "custom animation." This will give you the standard PPT animations to choose from.

Alison Suillivan I should have said hello, came in late and for the first time, thanks for the info re projector
Scott Stein If you get creative, you can draw shapes, etc. and have them move in patterns to show a picture. This is what animators do for cartoons. It is much the same with PPT.

Robin Cox Tom, that's right.

Julia Bateman I'm afraid my projector will be re-cycled into the college I work for so can help I'm afraid with the in-expensive projector.

Alison Suillivan I use PowerPoint both for transparencies and with the projector, but know it can do more than I am doing - any pointers ?

Scott Stein If you are familiar with or know someone who is familiar with Flash for websites, they could show you the process.

Scott Stein Alison, PPT is being used for a variety of things these days. Your uses are the most common....

Scott Stein However, PPT is increasingly being posted on the web (either as it's native format or as HTML), and it's being used in online seminars.

Robin Cox This is true...

Scott Stein It would be great to have that tool here (and Stephanie mentioned that TZ is working on that).

Alison Suillivan I have used the drive in and out for animation, but don't want to make the info too busy, can you put pictures on that reveal after the words?

Scott Stein Mshow, Learnlinc, Placeware, and Interwise (websites = are all examples of services being used by large companies to present with PPT

Stephanie Phillips Yes, it's likely that we'll be able to run these sessions using a system such as Centra in the next few months.

Julia Bateman Apologies everyone but I must get back to work - thanks for the chat.

Scott Stein Alison, yes. You will have to choose to "flash" your word (an animation choice) slowly, and then have the word come on after the flashed picture.

Scott Stein Bye Julia, thanks for coming by.

Scott Stein Another place to check out new PPT use is

Tom Pittaway I participated in a workshop on Metadata last week which used a PPT show off the web for the visuals and an audio teleconference for the communication. It was great but cost me an arm and a leg to connect to the audio bridge.

Scott Stein Large companies with e-learning are using PPT to hold class, as it can be shown interactively (cf. companies mentioned above) with students around the globe.

Alison Suillivan a basic question, but I cannot see my screen when I'm attached to the projector I have a Compaq armada - any clues?

Scott Stein Try holding your FNC (function) key and pressing the PROJECTOR key a couple of times. You may have to wait a bit before the screen changes.

Stephen Vickers Thank you for the information guys. I must return to work.

Susan Broatch Scott, I'm back with my slide master question: what are your tips (technical and design) to achieve standard basic builds which will apply to every slide.

Scott Stein Each laptop is different, but on one that I use, if I hold fnc and press once, I see the presentation on the screen but not the laptop screen. If I hold fnc and hit the projector again, it shows on both.

Scott Stein Goodbye Stephen....Susan, your question.

Scott Stein When designing a slide master, of course go to MASTER SLIDE, and building a look that you want on every slide. Again, I'd suggest planning out what you want before you stare at that blank master slide (unless that is inspiring to you).

Stephanie Phillips Scott - unfortunately we're going to run out of time very shortly. Do you want to start summing up?

Scott Stein AACk! Susan, email me and I'll be happy to share some ideas. I like looking around at web pages to get design ideas.

Susan Broatch Scott: can you do this with animation build as well as looks.

Scott Stein As we all can see, there are many questions about using PPT, both technical and design-wise.

Robin Cox Scope for another workshop?

Scott Stein I'd recommend that no-one give up on using PowerPoint--apparently it's here to stay in the US and Canada--just because you've seen some really BAD uses.

Alison Suillivan yes please , I will try to get in at the start and have my questions ready

Stephanie Phillips Irena would like a session for trainers - Scott, would you be happy to do this?

Alison I've appreciated 'listening in' - food for thought!

Scott Stein I've seen top trainers in the US do horrible PPT presentations -- makes me want to give them a business card. But I try to listen to what they have to say.

Scott Stein I'd be happy to do a session for's my bread and butter.

Stephanie Phillips i.e. trainers of software, rather than those using it to train..

Tom Pittaway Thanks for a great intro to TZ workshops. I hope to participate in more.

Stephanie Phillips At least I think that's what she'd like - Irena?

Scott Stein Ah.....those who are charged with the responsibility of helping others learn PowerPoint?

Irena Yep! that's what I would like :-)

Scott Stein Sounds good to me. That'll involved some education theory and practice.

Irena I can email you the stuff I use to train and we can take it from there...

Scott Stein Great. That'll help me know where to start from.

Stephanie Phillips Great - we'll see if we can get something sorted over the next few months. Thanks to everyone for coming along, and thanks again to Scott for taking the time to run the session today.

Susan Broatch Looking forward to the next lunch time PowerPoint Forum, thanks Scott, Susan, Operational Management Trainer, UK

Irena Thanks Scott

Alison Thank you!

Stephanie Phillips Irena - to see Scott's e-mail address, click on his name in the left hand pane on the page.

Scott Stein Happy to do it. Enjoyed it. If only I could type faster!

Stephanie Phillips Yes, that's always a problem! Thanks again all for coming along.

Robin Cox Thanks Scott, thanks Stephanie.

Stephanie Phillips Happy to wind things up there Scott?

Scott Stein I suppose we must. Thanks to you all. It's been quite enjoyable and stimulating.

Stephanie Phillips Okay - bye all, hope to see you here again soon.


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