PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

PowerPoint Tips and Tricks to help you look elegant.

PowerPoint Tips

  1. Put the audience first; what do they need and what will help them?
  2. Be certain about your desired outcome before you start designing slides.
  3. Read from your notes or laptop, never from the screen. Preferably don’t use notes at all; you know your stuff.
  4. Keep the amount of information on the slide to a minimum and use high quality images rather than text if appropriate.
  5. Use one font and one background for text; keep it consistent. Make sure that your theme matches you or your organisation.
  6. Make your slides clear; use contrast and a large font (two sizes max).
  7. Use short sentences; slides are visual aids not a reading test.
  8. Limit the number of points on a slide; four is enough.
  9. Limit transitions and animations; use what is appropriate to your audience.
  10. Get to know (practice!) PowerPoint tips and tricks so that you can use them elegantly.
  11. Practice – practice being brilliant. Practice out loud and practice with others.
  12. Have a back up plan – always!
  13. Finish professionally with a flourish.

PowerPoint Tricks

  1. Show presenter view on your laptop;  click on Slide Show tab, then select Set Up Show. In Multiple monitors box, select monitor to display slide show on. Tick Show Presenter View and your speaker notes will display on your laptop.
  2. F5  starts your slideshow.
  3. Shift F5  starts slideshow from current slide.
  4. Full stop or b blacks out the screen.  Repeat to return to slideshow. Turning the screen off brings your audience’s attention back to you.
  5. Comma or w whites out the screen.  Repeat to return to slideshow.
  6. Number Enter takes you to that slide e.g. “5 enter” takes you to slide, which is so much more elegant than scrolling through.
  7. Right click brings up the menu.

Remember: you are not the projectionist, you are the event – the energy comes from you.

What Stops You (or your staff) Being A Superhero – apart from a lack of cape?

I wrote an article for The Littlehampton Times recently about whether staff need to find their inner superhero. (They don’t.)  This is an extended version of that article.

Our values, beliefs, assumptions, prejudices, emotions and thinking are all interlinked.

They are formed through our experiences and have a huge impact on our behaviour. And this can be problematic. When we are anxious, our behaviour can become very unhelpful. If we are facing a phobia then our behaviour can become extreme. But our behaviour can also be affected by much more subtle and benign (to some) situations. Just when we want to react positively, we find ourselves struggling.

Typical examples of when this happens include:

  • speaking in public, talking to strangers
  • managing tricky situations
  • talking to someone who is usually aggressive
  • saying “no”
  • doing something exciting
  • being decisive

– basically any situation where we perceive a risk, even if the risk is minimal.

We want to be calm, professional, persuasive and competent. Instead we cringe, avoid things, get distressed and feel super stuck, rather than superhero. Sound familiar?

So what’s going on?

Your limbic system, that’s what.

This is the part of your brain that is trying to keep you safe. It reacts to situations it sees as threatening or risky or just unexpected. But it is very simplistic and responds as if you’re about to die. Adrenalin flows through your body to help you fight an attacker or run away from a wild animal; useful in a dangerous tribal landscape. Not so useful when the perceived danger is a shop keeper, or your friend, or an audience, or your boss!

When the adrenalin is flowing we feel stressed, we sweat, our stomachs churn; we may even shake.  Blood is switched from our normal thinking systems (our pre-frontal cortex) and from our digestive system and is sent to our muscles. We prepare to run or fight – we need to do a pooh or be sick (to lighten our load) and our muscles twitch if they aren’t used, which is why we shake. It’s all really unhelpful. We want to do something positive but our bodies are trying to stop it.

What’s the solution? Do we need to be a superhero?

  • Understand what’s happening. The limbic system is an old bit of our brains from an evolutionary perspective and is really dumb! It’s either happy or it’s really scared – no in-between. It’s like having a small child inside you shouting “we’re going to die!” But of course we aren’t. Knowing this can really help.
  • Learn to calm your limbic system. Notice what fires it off and then really think about what is going on – what is the truth about the situation. Is your anxiety warranted? If not, tell your limbic system that all is well. And then choose to ignore the symptoms. They may not go away but they will calm down.
  • Understand that the way to feel OK about a situation is to face it over and over. The first time someone drives a car they feel petrified. Only by repeating the experience and practice does someone get to the stage where driving is no big deal – fun even.

Practice makes perfect – or at least it makes things possible.

  • Practice a range of techniques to control your response, choosing how to behave rather than reacting from fear, e.g.:
    1. Visualise being excellent before an event that is worrying you, so that your limbic system knows what to expect – you being terrific and having fun.
    2. When we are feeling anxious we can lose control of our breathing; it can become shallow and rapid. Get control back by breathing OUT, hard and slowly. Then force a normal breathing pattern – shorter in breaths and longer out breaths. Practice this when you are feeling calm.
    3. Listen to your thinking – is your inner superhero or your limbic system speaking? Telling yourself that you are scared just makes things worse. Instead, talk to yourself about the reality of the situation. For instance, tell yourself that you are in control, notice that there are people around who are looking out for you, remember that what you are about to do is exciting. Research has shown that just saying “I’m excited” is enough to change your perspective and feelings.
    4. Notice and accept what’s really happening – you aren’t about to fight a sabre-tooth tiger. You may still feel anxiety but you have the strength within you to feel anxious but to choose to go ahead anyway. Because you are in charge – not your limbic system.

Your anxiety is not who you are. YOU are who you are; fabulous, shining, clever, creative, wonderful and loved.

Your limbic system is a pretty dumb thing in comparison – show it who’s boss.

No cape is required.







Your Anxiety is Not You – you are you.

All of us have certain things that trigger anxiety – these differ for each person because our life experience is different and therefore we have differing beliefs and perspectives. For some a trigger might be public speaking and for others it is dealing with someone who is a bit “difficult.” (We could have a long debate about what difficult means, but I’ll save that for another blog.)

Anxiety Is A Chemical – it’s not you.

We feel our anxiety because a specific part of our brain sees these things as threatening. Unfortunately this bit of our hard wiring reacts as if we are facing death. Therefore, our bodies get ready to run away (from a sabre-tooth tiger) or stand up and fight (with the axe wielding member of an enemy tribe.) It’s a primitive response that is not so helpful if what you are trying to do is speak to your boss! Phobias, like fear of heights, spiders, snakes, the dark etc, are extreme versions of this anxiety.

Understanding what’s going on is part of the battle. I took a friend sailing  a while back and was able to help him see a new perspective on his anxiety. I’ve written about it here. We have learned to be anxious about certain things. And we can unlearn it.

For The Future

I spoke at Chichester College’s Professional Student Graduation ceremony last night about the future. Students from Marketing, Accountancy, Human Resources and Learning & Development received their certificates and then contemplated what’s next. As the guest speaker, this is the heart of the advice I gave them.

Janet in a red dress, standing at a lecturn, addressing a room full of students
Janet Speaking about the future.

1 – Say Yes If You Can

When life offers you an opportunity, grab it with both hands even if it isn’t part of your plan and not what you were expecting. This is particularly important if someone else is saying “I think you would be great at this.” Doing a wide variety of things opens your horizons and makes you more effective.

Opportunities don’t always work out well but they are never wasted. We learn from the bad times as well as the good times. Say yes and make it yours.

2 – When You Say No, Let It Go

If you have to say no to an opportunity don’t waste your time wondering what would have happened differently – you will never know.  Sometimes we come across two paths and have to choose which one to go down. Whether you choose the path “less travelled by [1]” or the massive motorway, travelled by a million people before you, let the other path go.

3 – Stay A Student Forever

You will learn things today that in the future you will discover are not true. You must keep looking, studying, learning, challenging, testing yourself and what you know. Never give up being a student; it hasn’t finished, it has only just begun.


You can’t see the road ahead, only what is now and what has gone before. You can scream with excitement or you can scream with fear. Your choice – choose excitement.


[1] Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

Working With Fear and Intent

I work in fear. I don’t mean I’m frightened, I mean I work in arenas where anxiety stops people performing to their best. Also, I work with intent; both my intent and the intent of those I am working with. I’ve discovered over the years that being clear about your intent and challenging your fears are pretty good ways to start dealing with things.

New Managers – what stops them excelling in supporting their staff or sorting out problems? Fear of getting it wrong, or being seen as weak and so being unclear about what they are trying to achieve.

Middle and Senior Managers – what stops them being great leaders? Facing the pressure from both directions; juggling expectations coming up and demands coming down. This leads to worrying that they might not be cutting it and even imposter syndrome.

Communications – what stops people being effective in their communications? Not deciding what outcome they are after, fear of what others are thinking and fear of stuffing it up.

Dealing with change – what stops people handling this well? Fear of the unknown, not facing those fears, not exploring what choices they have available and not reaching for a positive future state.

In many situations asking two questions of ourselves and others can open up a new perspective and so move things along swimmingly:

  • what are you frightened of?
  • what are you hoping to achieve?

I’ll spend my days helping people to answer these two questions. I didn’t set out to do this work; it came and found me when I started to address my fears and wonder what my purpose was.

Free Bitesize Training on PowerPoint – come and get some ideas.

I’ve seen so many poor presentations this year; something has to be done about it!

I’m doing a 1.5 hour course on using PowerPoint – just some simple tips and starting blocks to help people present with a bit of professionalism. We’ll be at The Dome Enterprise Centre, Universtiy of Chichester Business School, Bognor on the 26th July at 5.30. Book your place and come along.

Book your tickets here.


Learning To Love PowerPoint, Not Just Live With It

PowerPoint was created in 1987. Not long after that the term “Death by PowerPoint” was no doubt also created. The OED defines death as “the final cessation of the vital functions” – you can picture presentations that appear to suck the life force out of the audience.

Business Week magazine estimated that 350 PowerPoint presentations are given every second – that’s an awful lot of people being switched off. But it doesn’t have to be like that, after all PowerPoint is just a tool and in the right hands can be used with mastery. Here are a few ideas to help you achieve this.

You are not a projectionist

If you went to see a new film and as you entered the cinema you were handed the script and told to read it for your entertainment, you would probably ask for your money back. Yet many PowerPoint presentations do just this—expect the audience to read all of the information for themselves from a series of slides. The presenter becomes a projectionist rather than a communicator. Instead, remember that you are the presentation—PowerPoint is just an aid to inject some impact, present pictures or give the audience a map of where the presentation is going. What it should never do is replace you.

Why not just write an explanatory document and e-mail it to your audience?

Why not? Because this way is more effective, more personal, gives you more chance to engage with your audience and is more interesting. Or at least it should be. The energy from your presentation comes from you. If not, then why are you there?

Don’t let your slides be more dynamic than you are

  • Nobody leaves an excellent presentation saying “that was so good; those slides were great!” A reliance on fancy transitions and bouncing graphics to try and give your presentation some excitement has a number of problems:
  • The implicit message is that your information is not interesting in its own right
  • Or that you are not interesting in your own right
  • The audience stops listening to you and instead waits to see what’s next
  • Some of the effects can make your audience seasick!

Keep control of those graphics; use only transitions and animations that genuinely enhance. If you are not sure then leave it out.

They’ll read it you know—they’re sneaky like that

If you put information in front of someone they will read it, whether this is on a slide or in a handout. You have to stage manage the sharing of the data. Use short bullet points, pictures or diagrams to give a flavour of what you are going to say and then expand the ideas. Alternatively, give your audience time to read what is in front of them.

It’s not where you start it’s where you finish (although starting well is also important)

Finish well and make that last slide something worth remembering. Think about what will be on the screen during the question and answer session. Don’t just leave any old slide up. Either ensure that the slide is a good backdrop, possibly with your name and company logo if appropriate, or turn the presentation off. If you hit the full stop key it will make the screen go black and the audience has to look at you. This can be very powerful. (Hit the full stop again and it will return to the last slide shown.) On the other hand, just leaving a slide hanging about implies that it doesn’t really matter and devalues it.

Life jackets will probably not be needed—but have one anyway

Have a back up plan for if (or when) the technology fails you. Take whatever measures you can to run your presentation on the equipment before the live event. Check compatibility of software versions and whether you are using a Mac or a PC. And be ready and able to deliver the presentation without the slides.


Practice enough that you don’t need your notes. Don’t write out your presentation word for word and then read it out because this is just dull. It removes any energy from your delivery and can be distracting for you and for the audience. Have a few bullet points written for each slide and then trust yourself. You may forget to give them some of the details, but consider this: a) the audience won’t know what you left out and b) they won’t remember all of your presentation anyway.

Your job is to make sure that the audience gets your key message and remembers it. Centre stage is the best place to do that. PowerPoint is just scenery.