BOOT CAMP 166 (15/03/01)
THE POWER OF PRESENTATION part
In last week's introduction to Microsoft PowerPoint we looked
at some of the things it can do and how it can be used, this week we'll be
dealing with the practical aspects of putting together a successful AV
It is very important to have control over the display, or
know exactly on what sort of device your presentation will be shown. This will
determine the make up of your slides; it's no good preparing a set of highly
detailed or complex images if they are going to be shown on a basic PC or
ancient video projector. If in doubt play safe and set your PC's display
resolution setting to 800 x 600, which is suitable for all but the oldest PCs
and display devices.
If you haven't used PowerPoint before the Auto Content Wizard
will help you decide basic content and style. The range of options is limited
but it does allow you to put together a simple presentation in a matter of
minutes simply by substituting text in a set of ready-made templates. Once you
have finished you can tinker around with the layout, colours and the background,
by right clicking on any element within a slide. However, the downside is that
it will look like every other PowerPoint presentation, which may lessen its
impact with a lot of audiences.
You can easily create your own unique design whilst still
making use of PowerPoint's many templates and styles to save time and effort.
Begin with a blank sheet by exiting the Auto Content wizard and click on New on
the File menu to bring up the New Presentation dialogue box, select the General
tab and choose Blank Presentation, if you want to start from scratch, or Auto
Content Wizard if you want to adapt a ready made template, which you can choose
by selecting the Design tab. Either way clicking OK will take you to the
AutoLayout window where you can choose a basic design style. Click OK and the
first slide appears on the screen. Now go to the View menu, select Master, then
SlideMaster. This is one of PowerPoint's useful time-saving features and it
allows you to create a uniform style, including inserting a logo or graphic, set
the typeface and size and colours, for every slide.
The choice of fonts is very important. Simple bold typefaces
work best and can be read easily. Fancy faces and even popular print styles,
like Times Roman, and most serif faces, can become quite hard to read at a
distance of more than a few metres. You can keep a check on readability by
stepping back from the screen every few minutes; if possible try it out on the
same type of display device that your audience will be seeing it on.
There is a quick way to work out the relationship between the
size of the display and the optimum character size by allowing approximately one
metre viewing distance for every centimetre of character height. For example, on
a 15-inch monitor 72 point text will be a little over 2cm in height and that can
be easily read at a distance of between 2 and 3 metres. Consequently, if the
rearmost members of the audience are going to be more than 5 or 6 metres from
the screen then character height needs to be between 5 and 6cm, which also means
you have to increase the size of the display proportionately.
Great care needs to be taken in the choice of colours for
text and backgrounds. Black text on a white or light yellow is the most readable
option. Colour combinations to avoid are reds and blues, which can appear to
'move' and never mix red and green for text and background as, in addition to
looking awful, can cause real problems for the 10% of your audience who suffer
from the commonest forms of 'colour
blindness'. Use photographs and
illustrations sparingly and try not to use standard 'clip-art' graphics, which
everyone has seen a thousand times – it's a good excuse to put your scanner and
digital camera to practical use.
One of the biggest problems with PowerPoint presentations,
and the quickest way to loose an audience, is to over-use effects and
transitions. Never loose sight of the fact that the purpose of an AV
presentation is to convey information in a form that's easily digested, not to
show how clever you are and how many effects you've discovered. However, used in moderation they can add
impact. Obvious examples include a bulleted list showing line by line, bar
graphs can be made to appear in stages and the old classic, 'typewriter text' --
where words appear on the screen a letter at a time -- is a good way of forcing
your audience to actually read what's on the screen, but you can only get away
with it a couple of times, repeat it too often and it'll be ignored.
Much the same applies to sound effects. Short sharp sounds to
accompany bullet points as they appear on the screen are useful for getting the
attention of a sleepy audience; good news can be emphasised by cheers or a happy
tune, bad news can be stressed by breaking glass or booing, but do it only once
or twice or it will sound hackneyed.
Check spelling and grammar thoroughly, then get someone else
to check it. A single spelling mistake, especially if it is repeated on
subsequent slides, will destroy your presentation and guarantee the audience
starts playing 'spot the blooper'. Check your facts then check them again!
Some finishing touches worth remembering are to check the
item 'Loop Continuously until Esc' on the Set Up Show dialogue box on the Slide
Show menu. This will prevent your show from ending on an editing screen, which
looks sloppy. A wireless mouse, or a regular mouse with a long cable will let
move around and communicate more easily with the audience. The keyboard shortcut
Ctrl + P lets you draw or sketch on the screen, the 'W' and 'B' keys turn the
screen white or black, which can be handy if you need to pause for a moment and
make sure the display PC's screensaver and power management are switched off
before you begin.
Next week – Scanners and cameras
A measure of how much fine detail a video screen can display.
To change the setting on a Windows PC go to Start > Settings > Control
Panel, select the Display icon and the Settings tab
Typeface, such as Times Roman, with decorative 'feet' at the
end of vertical and horizontal strokes
The change from one slide to another, PowerPoint includes a
wide selection of 'wipes', 'fades' and 'dissolves'
How does your PC or laptop sound? Probably pretty awful, by
hi-fi standards, especially if you are using cheapo speakers and the titchy
speakers fitted to most laptops are bound to sound tinny, but there may be
something you can do about it, without spending any money, if you are using
Windows 98 or ME. There's a little known speaker configuration utility that
allows you to tailor the sound of your PC according to the size and type of
speakers. Go to Start > Settings > Control Panel and select Multimedia,
make sure the Audio tab is selected and click the Advanced Properties button. On
the Speakers page Desktop Stereo Speakers will probably be selected, but it's
surprising how many laptops have that setting too. Try some of the other options
– you may have to reboot for any changes to take effect -- and the differences
can be quite small but it's well worth trying. Whilst you are at it you may want
to look at the Performance tab and if your PC is a relatively speedy model with
a plenty of RAM, move the two sliders to the maximum setting.