4 ways to simplify your PowerPoint presentations

Microsoft PowerPoint is a terrific medium because it allows you to reinforce your message with visual prompts. But too often, the power of PowerPoint is lost because the speaker doesn’t use it to help viewers focus on the message. Instead, PowerPoint itself becomes the focus.


If you want to feel more relaxed and confident the next time you’re using PowerPoint to deliver a presentation, try these four tips to maintain the focus on your topic—not the medium.

1. Make consistent style changes on all slides using the slide master

If you’re tired of changing things like bullet styles and indentations on every slide in your presentation—listen up. PowerPoint will do this for you! You only have to make the changes you want once—to the slide master. The slide master stores information about the theme and slide layouts of a presentation, including the background, color, fonts, effects, placeholder sizes, and positioning.

I use this feature in every presentation I create. It makes my life a little easier to know that each slide will be consistent without much effort on my part. Let’s take a look at how you can make changes to the bullet styles PowerPoint automatically sets up for you.

Note: The instructions for using slide masters in this section are for PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2007. For PowerPoint 2003, take this training.

To make changes to the theme or slide layouts, from anywhere within your presentation, click the View tab, and then click Slide Master. You will see a slide master, as shown here.

PowerPoint slide master with master text styles

The PowerPoint slide master stores information for your entire presentation.

The slide master includes placeholders showing the layout of text on the slides, and the style that the text will be formatted in. The slide master includes corresponding layouts to accommodate different types of information. You can apply a layout to a selected slide in Normal view: On the Home tab, in the Slides group, click the arrow next to the Layout icon.

Remember that changes you make to the layout or formatting on the slide master are automatically applied to all the slides in your presentation. If you want to change the placement or text styles for a specific slide only, start in Normal view with that slide selected. Then, make any of the types of changes mentioned here.

To change the bullet style for all first-level bullets in a presentation, make the change on the slide master:

  1. From anywhere within your presentation, click the View tab, and then click Slide Master.

  2. Click anywhere in the first bullet.

  3. Click the Home tab.

  4. In the Paragraph group, click the arrow beside the Bullets icon and then click Bullets and Numbering.

  5. Select the bullet style and attributes you want for your first-level bullets, and then click OK.

    The Bullets and Numbering dialog box

    You can change the style for all first-level bullets in your presentation.

In a similar way, you can make other adjustments to the style and format of the slide master, using formatting options on the Home tab. For example, you can change the text color and size, and you can change the indentation of the bullets from the Paragraph dialog box.

You can use slide masters for a lot more than adding repeated information or changing formatting, too.

Find more ways to use and customize master slides

In PowerPoint 2010

In PowerPoint 2007:

2. Include a date or a slide number on your slides

You can include a date, a slide number, or other information that will appear in the footer (bottom) portion of either a specific slide or all the slides in your presentation.

  1. In Normal view, click the Insert tab.

  2. In the Text group, click Header and Footer, Date and Time, or Slide Number, specify the information you want to appear, and indicate the slides it should appear on.

    Header and footer dialog box

    Specify slide number or other footer information in the Header and Footer dialog box.

In this dialog box, you can also turn on slide numbers and add footer information. Each item will appear in the placeholder and in the style indicated on the slide master.

3. Reinforce your message with automated charts

You’ve probably seen presenters who have very cool charts in their presentations. People retain information in different ways—by reading text, by seeing graphical representations, and by listening to what you say. So, if you want your audience to really remember your message, it’s important to learn to create at least simple charts in PowerPoint. With the automated formats PowerPoint provides, you have literally dozens of ways to build a unique presentation and make your message memorable. If you have Excel installed on your computer and use PowerPoint 2007 or PowerPoint 2010, the chart you create is an Excel chart, with access to all the advanced charting features available in that program.

Insert a chart or graph in your presentation

PowerPoint 2010

PowerPoint 2007

PowerPoint 2003

4. Jump easily between slides

If you didn’t know how to use a hyperlink, you wouldn’t be reading this online article. You may already use hyperlinks for quick and easy access to the web if you are connected to the Internet while making your presentation. Too often, however, a cool way to use hyperlinks within a presentation is overlooked. It happens when presenters include additional information at the back of a presentation as “backup” slides and then never refer to them because it’s too difficult to navigate to the end and then return to the main presentation. But if the information is important enough to reference in a backup slide, why not make it accessible within the slide show, too?

With PowerPoint hyperlinks, you don’t have to ignore that information at the end of your presentation, because it’s easy to jump between slides. And creating links between slides in your own presentation is just the beginning. You can also create hyperlinks in your PowerPoint presentation to slides in other presentations, email addresses, a page or file on the web, or new files.

Insert hyperlinks between slides in your presentation and to references outside your presentation

PowerPoint 2010

PowerPoint 2007

PowerPoint 2003

Note: Trying to find out whether your link works? Hyperlinks are active only when a slide show presentation is running—not while you’re working on your presentation in Normal view or in Slide Sorter view. To check links in PowerPoint 2010 and PowerPoint 2007, click the Slide Show tab. In PowerPoint 2003, on the View menu, click Slide Show.

Creating links between slides in your own presentation is just the beginning. You can also create hyperlinks in your PowerPoint presentation to slides in other presentations, email addresses, a page or file on the web, or new files.


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