How to Write a PowerPoint Slide Presentation

  • Steve Puffenberger
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How to Write a PowerPoint Slide Presentation

The secret that puts the Power in PowerPoint

I’ve often referred to Microsoft® PowerPoint™ as the “Swiss Army Knife®” of graphic software. It can do practically anything, and yet it is maligned for being “boring.”  As with anything it’s all with how you use it, so I’m going to tip you off to the #1 best feature – the primary thing that makes PowerPoint stand out from all the other presentation programs: the Outliner.

Whoa.  That sounds even more boring.  The “Outliner” is the #1 feature?  Well yes, because when all your copy is in the Outliner (or the default placeholders) you can change the formatting of your ENTIRE presentation in an instant.

Writing PowerPoint Slide Presentations with the Outliner

So when you first open PowerPoint, you’ll see these placeholders, “Click to add title.” “Click to add Subtitle.”  Well when you click and add a title (or any other text in a placeholder), what you type is automatically placed in the Outliner. As long as you add copy within the defined placeholders, you are adding text to the outliner where it takes on its magical properties.

And while you can tediously go through and enter text in placeholders, it's much faster and easier to enter your text in the Outliner itself.

To access the Outliner (in more recent versions), you click the “normal” button of the four view state buttons at the bottom right of the screen, (Normal, Slide Sorter, Reading View and Slide Show”). This replaces the slide thumbnails on the left with a text layout "outline" of the copy in your presentation.

With the outline in view you can edit the outline just as you would an outline in Word, and it will populate the text boxes for you. When you type (or paste) next to the slide number, that becomes the title of the slide, and fills in the "title" text placeholder. Hitting Return creates a new slide. But if you hit Tab, that line in the outline turns into a top level bullet point for the previous slide. Hit Return and you get another bullet point at top level. Tab again and you get a sub-bullet. Tab again for a sub-sub bullet.  Shift+tab and your text demotes back up until your line of copy becomes the title for a new slide.  

And now the fun can begin.  Once you have content in the outliner, click that "Normal" button again to see the thumbnails, and you can fine tune your show. This makes writing a PowerPoint slide presentation a breeze.

Formatting Text in the Outliner

Once a presentation is written, the fun of formatting begins.

To format the show in an instant, go to the Design ribbon tab and pick a template. The show will take on whatever look you choose! Under "Layout" you can choose any of the layouts that exist in the template to better fit the type the slide's content. And you can edit those layouts in to make a fully customized template all your own by choosing Vies | Slide Master. As long as text is in placeholders, it will take on the font, color and positioning of the slide master template layout you choose, and if you adjust anything in a  Layout, all the slides associated with it will update immediately.

But here’s where the trouble lies.  If you put your text in a "Text Box" (under Insert | Shapes), while you can drop text anywhere within the slide, that sort of text is NOT connected to the outline, and if you try a global formatting move, it will not update. Each instance of the text box will have to be updated manually. That’s a real problem if you get into a situation where you need to adjust colors because of too much ambient light. Keep everything in the outliner (or placeholders), and you find the power within PowerPoint.

Taking the Headache out of Writing PowerPoint Presentations

The other way you can put the Power into PowerPoint is by partnering with us at Advent Media. If you give us a plain-Jane outline of a show, we can very affordably create a custom, one-of-a-kind template that will make your presentation stand out from the competition – and be readable even in the worst projection situations. We call these PowerPoint Facelifts. 

One of the other PowerPoint services we offer is called "Distillation." We assume that when you write your PowerPoint slide presentation in the outliner, it's going to be verbose. All the experts say, and we concur, that you should not put sentences or paragraphs on slides and then read them, but you should display key words, phrases and images that cue you on what to say and reinforce your message. In distillation we help you distill your verbose text to the key words and phrases that reinforce your point - which is the point of PowerPoint.

And, you can get us involved from the beginning as your "Presentation Partner," where we'll build, edit and even help you run your presentation. When you work with us, you never have to say to your audience, “I’m sorry you can’t read that.” Make the call today and find out how powerful a professional PowerPoint deck can be.

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