5 Seriously Helpful Ways to Conquer the Corporate PowerPoint “Deck”



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I know what you’re thinking…


that this is truly just a lost cause. However, I am here to tell you it is completely possible to change the stubborn corporate “deck” into a great presentation!

It’s no wonder these corporate presentations are called “decks” in reference to a deck of cards; the  dreadful things are AT LEAST 52 slides and very easy to lose your audience in the shuffle. I personally don’t even like to call them presentations, they are reference documents…long, boring, and tired reference documents.


So let’s dive right into the 5 ways YOU can conquer the corporate PowerPoint:


1. Think outside of the slide!

Keep text on slides to a minimum and utilize the instructor notes to dump as much information as your heart desires. When it’s time for your meeting, just select the “Notes Pages” from the printing options and distribute to your audience:


2. Do not copy and paste charts and graphs from Excel!

Attempting to do this will almost always result in distorted or ineligible objects. Use the “Shapes” tool to duplicate your charts and graphs. Yes, I know this is time consuming but this post is not titled “Quick Ways to Tame the Corporate PowerPoint Deck”.  The end result will be worth it…trust me. To get you started, click the shiny blue download button below to get your hands on a few tutorial slides on “Using PowerPoint Shapes”.

3. Use Smart Art!

Smart Art can literally turn your text (within reason) into various charts and visual representations. They even provide descriptions for each type visual to help you choose the right one for your information. If you have A LOT of text on a slide (like paragraphs) I would definitely implement tip #1 and free up some slide realty by moving a lot of your info to the instructor notes.


4. Use your brain!

I know, this is an absurd request. When you finish your presentation, quickly flip through it spending no more than two seconds on slide. This is a good way to catch slides that are too “wordy” or catch when you’ve clicked through way too many text only slides without an attention saving visual slide to break it up. This is where your brain comes in…when you identify these slides, read all the text, and think of ways to get the point across without having to literally write it out on a slide. Consider replacing text with a chart, image, process flow, or smart art. You might even find you don’t need the slide altogether…think about it.


5. Animate your content!

PowerPoint animations have a bad rep for being cheesy and distracting. Honestly this is true of anything you use the wrong way! I bet you’ll have trouble cutting with scissors if you hold them backwards too! Use animations to maintain your audience’s attention and avoid overwhelming them with information. If you don’t direct your audience’s attention they will start reading at random points of the slide which means you lost them before you even started speaking to it. Click the hyperlink below to see a previous blog post about using animations to capture your audiences attention.


Blog Post: Using PowerPoint Slide Animations to Engage Your Audience


There you have it folks, 5 ways to conquer the corporate PowerPoint “deck”. Let me know if this was useful and I will deliver additional “deck” killing strategies. Happy presenting and good luck!


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How to Remove Image Backgrounds and Borders in PowerPoint 2007



In one of my previous blog posts titled “Photoshop Quality Cropping in PowerPoint” I introduced a useful trick I used often to remove borders and backgrounds from pictures I intended to use in my presentations. If you are reading this blog post, chances are you’re on a journey for “out-of-the-box” presentation design and understand the value of using cropped pictures at some level. If you read the previous statement and you are currently thinking to yourself “assuming just makes an ass out of you and me”, I say ”touché!” and suggest after reading this post you click yourself over to some of my previous posts such as “Seeing is Believing: The Power of Images in a Presentation” and “10 Ways to Create an Extraordinary PowerPoint presentation“. Better yet! bask in the glory that is Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen blog posts on the use of visuals in presentations.

No worries, you can thank me later ;-)

Now back to the task at hand! What I failed to discuss in my first picture cropping post was the PowerPoint 2007 built-in functionality “Set Transparent Color”. This tool is aimed at achieving the very same goal of getting a sharp, border-less, background-less picture I so proudly proclaimed is achieved using my simple technique. With that said, I think it is worth while exploring how to use this tool and when it is appropriate.

I want to begin by giving everyone a “warning” of sorts that using the “Set Transparent Color” tool will not always yield it’s intended results. I will go as far as stating that in PowerPoint 2007 this tool will prove to be rather useless in MOST cases. However, a successful execution is an oh so sweet time saver.

Check it…

I will attempt to save you the time you would have spent on trial and error trying to make good use of the tool. First things first this is where to find it:

After inserting and selecting a picture, click Picture Tools > Format > Recolor > Set Transparent Color:

How does this thing work? Essentially you are isolating the desired image by making the background or border color transparent. Simple concept with not so simple implications.

The key to a successful image isolation is recognizing when you have the ideal conditions. I compare it to having all the right ingredients before baking a batch of delicious cookies. You can bake cookies without baking soda, sugar, and I guess you can even put “something” in the oven without the flour, but something tells me those “cookies” won’t be very delicious…

What are the right ingredients for a successful use of transparent color you ask?

  • The image background or border is a single color
  • The image background is absolutely not gradient in any way shape or form
  • The image does not have any kind of shadow effect
  • No part of image is the same color as the background it’s on

If your picture meets all of the above conditions, congrats! You’re going to have some nice results :-) All you have to do is click the “Set Transparent Color” tool and click the background or border color you want to banish to PowerPoint obscurity!

See my “drama-free” example below where I had the ideal conditions to successfully isolate an image:


Trust me when I say you will not always have the perfect conditions for success when it comes to the “Set Transparent Color” tool….but when you do, rest assured you are on the right path towards a kick-ass presentation.

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Using PowerPoint Slide Animations to Engage Your Audience


PowerPoint slide animations have a bad rep for being cheesy and pointless. When used the wrong way, this is completely true. We need to think of animations as more than just just a silly entrance. When used in innovative and non-conventional ways, animations can be the most powerful aspect of a presentation. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at this amazing presentation created by Duarte Design using PowerPoint 2010.

If you watched that video and feel inspired, overwhelmed, and confused at the same time, fear not, most of us are in the same boat. There are much simpler and quicker ways you can use animations to enhance your presentations.

Take a look at my quick example below:

I am starting a short list on the slide and need to get a lot of information to my audience. However, I don;t want to drown the slide with so much text it leaves their heads spinning. One of go-to solutions is an entrance/exit “note” or “”info” text.

This allows me to build my list, have a quick side note enter, exit, and continue building my list with minimal text. As an instructor or presenter this is a great way to capture the audience’s attention while drilling in some key points.

My examples shows a very clean and very blue design. However, you should feel free to have fun with it and perhaps use post it notes or a paper attached with a paper clip. Whatever you choose, be sure it is consistent with your theme.

Don’t forget to keep thinking outside the slide, enjoy!

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Create Your Own iPhone Icons in PowerPoint

July 21, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

This is more of a “just for fun” trick that may or may not come in handy during your presentation design adventures. Who doesn’t love the slick iPhone icons!? Well today is your day because I am going to show you how to create your very own iPhone-like icons using PowerPoint.

Begin by inserting a plain old rounded rectangle shape:

Next you will need to perform a rather tricky gradient transformation. Right click the shape and select the “Format Shape” option. Begin by clicking the “Gradient” radio button and select the “Radial” gradient type:

Next, select the “From Middle” gradient direction:

The next steps involve choosing the gradient stops and percentages. See my choices below and duplicate this for your shape. Remember you can use any color and achieve the same results!

Now that you have your shape at just the right color it is time to insert that attractive iPhone icon glare :-)

Insert a white oval and place it over your shape so that the bottom half of the oval reaches the middle of your shape. Also be sure that no part of the shape is peeking out on top!

Next you will make the white oval transparent (68%):

You are almost done! The next step is the fun part. You can now insert your icon image and send the oval to the front:

The last step is optional. I usually group all of my objects and “Save As” an image so i can manipulate brightness and such:


You have just created your very own iPhone icon! Now go off and create as many of these awesome little guys as you want. Enjoy!

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Faded Image Header Effect In PowerPoint

July 20, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

Begin by inserting an image or a row of small images into your slide. When considering the quantity and size of the images, think about how tall or wide you want your header to be. The header will be as tall as the height of your images and as long as the width of your Image(s). For instructional purposes I will use the three small landscape images you see below. If you need help achieving a perfect image alignment, see one of my recent posts for instructions.

Next you will insert a rectangle shape covering the entire width and length of your combined images (or single wide image). Double click the shape to bring up  shape to view the format options and select “Shape Fill”. Choose the base color for your header. I will choose a slightly lighter blue for my header.

Navigate to the shape fill options again and this time select “Gradient” –> “Linear Diagonal” (see the image below).

Next, right click your shape and select the “Format Shape” option. You should already see the gradient options when the menu pops up. Click the drop down icon and select “Stop 2″. Change the stop position to about 70% and transparency to about 20%. Click the drop down menu once again and select “Stop 1″. Confirm stop 1 position is 0% and change the transparency to about 50%. Your shape and pictures should look like my image below:

Now you can simply add text to your header by highlighting your shape and typing away. Feel free to adjust the text formatting to make it bigger and bolder. In my example below i used Calibri, font size 40, bold, and left align:

We are almost done! As a finishing touch I usually bevel my shape. Double click your shape to display the format options. Select “Shape Effects” –> “Bevel” –> “Circle” (see image below):

The faded image header is now complete! Go on and impress your audience and share your knowledge with the world. Enjoy! (and keep thinking outside the slide).

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arrange button

Little Big Deals: Nudge and Align Tools in PowerPoint

July 11, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

In a previous post I discussed how it is important to be detail oriented when developing your presentations. I have two PowerPoint tips that focus on the details. Trust me when I say the small things add up and help make your presentations look polished.

The nudge…

When I discovered the nudge in PowerPoint I was a happy guy. Sometimes I just needed to move a picture or an object ever so slightly and it seemed impossible with my mouse or space, or enter, or arrow. Then I discovered ctrl+arrows=nudge! I use it often to do quick alignments or fix any small issue with distance that bugs me.

Alignment tools…

Have you ever had multiple pictures or objects you wanted to align perfectly but was unable to get it just right? Well the alignment tools are there to make life just a little easier.

Let’s say you inserted the pictures below into your presentation and you are trying to align them with the same amount of space in between each one.

  • First select all the pictures. A quick way to do this is to hold down the shift key and click each picture individually.
  • Next step click the arrange button select “Align” –> “Distribute Horizontally”. This distributes each picture so there is the same exact amount of space between each one.

  • Then you’ll want to select”Arrange” –> “Align” again, except this time select Align Top. Your pictures are perfectly aligned and evenly spaced.

This is so much more pleasing to the eye. While it is small detail, remember that the details add up!

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timeline 5

How to Transform Simple Charts and Illustrations In PowerPoint

July 5, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

There are multiple ways to transform dull charts and illustrations into show pieces in PowerPoint. Today I will talk about using 3-D shapes and transparency.

As an example I am going to transform the dull time-line illustration you see below:

Let’s start by adding a header where you can include a title for the timeline. Remember simple is always better so let’s not seek out a template and instead insert a rectangle across the top of the slide and format it. I will do the following:

1. Remove the outline

2. Make the “Shape Fill” the same gradient blue/dark blue as the background except add a 77% Transparency to give it some contrast.

3. Bevel the rectangle (shape effects -> Bevel -> Circle option)

4. Add a text box with white 32 size font of your choice (I have Calibri) and bold.

Next we will create a backdrop for the timeline events. Let’s start with the “2010″ and “2011″ headers. For these I just used two rectangle shapes, solid fill (dark blue), and 21% transparency.

The individual months are two identical tables (1×12). I formatted with white font, gradient (blue/green) fill. Note that I just created one and then copied and pasted for the next year.

I then added 8 identical rectangles along the months as a backdrop. I formatted them the same as the two month header shapes. Note that I also changed the shape outline to a light blue to make it pop a little bit. If you are confused so far, just see the image below to see my progress:

Next we will add the timeline activities. Instead of the standard rectangle shapes originally used, I will replace them with “Cube” shapes instead (Insert -> Shapes -> Cube).

We also want to use some color to distinguish the three timeline activities. Instead of all blue let’s make it yellow -> green -> gray. I also made them gradient (light NOT dark) and 25% transparent. Remember you can simply double click these shapes and start typing so there is no need for text boxes. Just be sure to format the font (I did white, bold, 16 font).

As a side note if you want to highlight an activity for any reason, a glow is nice visually appealing way to do it. You can simply double click the shape, select Shape Effects -> Glow.

See my progress with everything mentioned above in the image below:

Notice the “Go-Live” arrow is just gradient green (light gradient) with the same glow we just did to highlight the second activity. This transformation is now complete. When you do this on your own it does not have to look exactly like mine at all. Feel free to play around with the gradient stops, colors, and fonts. Also add some animation and build effects to set the pace or accompany pre-determined talking points.

If you get anything from this is that there are things you can do to dramatically improve charts, graphs, or any kind of illustration. Remember to just think outside the slide!

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Free and Useful PowerPoint Slide Effects with Instructions

July 3, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

This post is dedicated to the free and easily attainable Microsoft online PowerPoint slide effects, transitions, and image slides with instructions included! I usually recommend this to co-workers or friends who need some inspiration when working on a new presentation. Those graphic design and presentation design experts out there may not find this totally useful, however, if everyone was an expert then i wouldn’t have started this blog.

These are easy to find, you just need PowerPoint and an Internet connection. When you click the “new” button to start a new presentation don’t click “blank document”, instead click the “presentations link on the left hand side of the window. Next, click “example slide effects with instructions”.

You should see the following page:

Download the slides and look through them for tips and tricks. There are some really useful animations and effects within each presentation. If anything they can give you some inspiration for your own graphics and animation effects.

Good luck and happy PowerPointing.

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Faded Image Background Effect in PowerPoint

July 1, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

Backgrounds and templates should never be a distraction to your audience. More often then not we fall into using templates where the colors and images demand more attention than any content you may have on the slides. If you want to use an image as part of a template it should be subtle. I will post a technique I’ve used in the past to build a template for a client.

1. Start with your desired background (I recommend trying your own gradient background, see this post to find out how)

2. Obtain an image file of your background. I suggest taking a screen shot and cropping it or using a tool like SnagIt to simply highlight your background and “save as” a jpg. in the SnagIt editor.

3. Insert the image you wish to have in the background. (consider cropping the image so it does not have a background, see this post to find out how)

4. On the toolbar select Insert -> Shapes -> Rectangle and outline your entire slide so that it fits perfectly over it

5. Right click the shape -> Format Picture -> Fill -> Picture or Texture Fill

6. Click insert from: File and choose the image file of your background you saved earlier.

7. Now in the same menu adjust the transparency so that the image on the slide starts to appear (I suggest about 19%).

You are done! Now you have a very subtle and unique background for a template or specific slide :-)

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Printing PowerPoint Notes

June 30, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

As I mentioned in the previous post. I suggest providing your audience with PPT note print outs rather than filling up your slide real estate with tons of information that will drown your presentation (and drown your audience in boredom). So take a look at the steps below to print out note handouts!

Print Results:

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Photoshop Quality Cropping in PowerPoint

June 24, 2010 under PowerPoint Tips and Tricks

There is a way to get the photoshop quality outputs we all want, using PowerPoint. I have been using this nifty trick consistently for some time now and it continues to impress my audiences.

Use the written directions below along with video that follows.

  • Insert a picture into your presentation
  • Do a quick standard crop around the object you want to capture.
  • Save the newly cropped picture (give it a meaningful name, you will need to find it shortly) §Now you’re going to draw an outline of the object using the freehand shape tool.
  • Click “Insert”> “Shapes” > “Freeform” (note you can freehand or draw point to point straight lines which I recommend)
  • Delete the picture, you don’t need it anymore.
  • Double click your object outline (now a shape). The “Format” tab should now be displayed.
  • Click “Shape Fill” > “Picture” > Find and select your cropped version of the original picture.

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