DigiThings Thing 2: PowerPoint

I’m sure that most of you are already fairly familiar with this application, so, rather than cover the wide range of tools available in PowerPoint, the aim this week is to equip you with the knowledge and skills to create good quality, visually appealing slides. Most of us have experienced bad examples of PowerPoint presentations, and the phrase, ‘Death by PowerPoint’ is often used. However, what tends to be overlooked, is that these presentations are bad because of the poor content and design, not because of the tool itself. In fact, PowerPoint can be an incredibly powerful and effective presentation tool, but unfortunately, too often it is misused, and presenters often fail to properly organise and present their content. Remember the old adage ‘content is King’. Presentations can be more than just a mass of endless bullet points and unnecessary text, and, believe it or not, it’s not obligatory to use the default templates in PowerPoint!! However, it is also possible to overwhelm or confuse the audience through overuse of unnecessary embellishments, such as animations, transitions, and too many images etc. If inappropriately used, these can make your presentation look tasteless and unprofessional, and the message you’re trying to make may get lost.

So…..what makes a good presentation? and what makes good slide design?

Have a look at some of the presentations on the award winning TED talks video site (http://www.ted.com/talks). This site hosts many inspirational and creative presentations to motivate you! The TED site also includes some very useful advice on ‘How to make your presentation great’:http://www.ted.com/pages/tedx_presentation_design Also, have a look at these ‘top 10’ design tips by Garr Reynolds, (best-selling author of Presentation Zen Design: Simple Design Principles and Techniques to Enhance Your Presentations) : Steve Jobs (co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple Inc.) was known (and still is known) as an astonishing presenter and speaker, because he informed, inspired and entertained audiences with his keynote speeches. His presentations were stylish and simple, yet powerful, and, most importantly, memorable. Text and written information was always kept to a minimum, and he predominantly used images to convey his message, for maximum impact. Have a look at the following review of a typical Steve Jobs’ keynote from 2010 taken from the Presentation Advisors website: http://www.presentationadvisors.com/breaking-down-steve-jobs-wwdc-2010-keynote-presentation

Using visual content in your slides

As we’ve seen from some of the examples given previously, visual content can help to enhance understanding, and images have much more of a lasting impact than text. They can be used to reinforce your ideas, helping to illustrate complex thoughts or concepts. It is always best to use your own stock of photos/visuals if you can, as this overcomes any possible copyright issues. Try to gradually build up a collection of your own visual content for future use. However, if you do need to find images for your presentations, the Creative Commons search tool is a good place to start. It searches sites such as Google Images, Flickr, YouTube, and others, for content that can be reused or adapted. Remember though that you must reference the original source of the content. To locate the Creative Commons search engine, go to: http://search.creativecommons.org, and for further information about Creative Commons  go to: http://creativecommons.org/about

an important note about Accessibility

Remember that you must ensure that any presentations you create are accessible and inclusive as there is a legal obligation for organisations to ensure that no-one is disadvantaged because of a disability. This includes a requirement to make any reasonable adjustments to ensure that as many people as possible can access the presentation. For advice and guidance on this, please refer to the JISC TechDis site: http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/resources/presentations

did you know…….. PowerPoint 2010 provides the option to add narration to your slides (simply using a USB headphone & mic set), and then to save the presentation as a video?
This is a quick and easy way to produce a podcast/e-learning package which can be made available to your students to access online at any time. Give it a go.

The following video, ‘Creating A Video in PowerPoint 2010′, produced by Dr Jason Truscott, (Learning Technologist, ASTI, Plymouth University) shows you how:

Week 2 Task:

  1. Create 2-3 slides which include images and some text. The slides should inform the viewer about your hobbies or interests. Think about the best way in which to convey your message, concentrating more on visual communication.
  2. Output your slides as a video (you don’t need to add audio/narration if you don’t want to, it can be just purely visual if that’s your preference ).
    The help video above shows you how to do this if you’re not sure.
    Your final video should only be approx 20 secs duration (using the default setting of 5 secs duration per slide).
  3. Upload the video to YouTube (NB: Your video won’t be available for public viewing unless you specify this option when you upload, so don’t panic!)
  4. Share the link to your video on your blog, for the other participants to view and review at least 2 other participants’ slides, posting your feedback on the blog.

How to set up a YouTube/Google account, uploading your video to YouTube, and posting the link on the Digithings blog site:

  • Once you have your YouTube account, you can upload your presentation video to the site. To do this, sign in if you’re not already logged in (using the blue ’sign in’ button in the top right corner of the homepage).
    Then click on ‘upload‘ (NB: not the arrow drop down list beside it)


  1. Choose ‘unlisted’ from the drop down options next to ‘privacy’ (this will mean that the video cannot be searched on YouTube, and can only be viewed by those who are sent the link.

file upload

2. Click on the large arrow to upload your video file from your computer:

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 09.41.54

A timeline will appear to show that YouTube is processing your video:

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 10.12.06

3. Once it has uploaded, you will see the ‘upload complete’ notification (see below).

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 10.13.44

To access the video & its properties, click on the blue url (web link) to the right of it. Your embedded video will appear on a new page.

4. From the menu below your video, select ‘share’ (a warning will appear to remind you that it is unlisted)

5. Copy the url (web address) that appears in the box at the bottom of the page:

Screen Shot 2013-12-09 at 09.01.32

6. Paste the link into your blog post on the digithings site, so that others on the course can view and comment on your video.

7. Comment/feedback on at least 2 other participant’s videos on the digithings blog.

Reflecting on this week’s topic…..

Some things to think about in your blog post this week:

  • How do you currently use PowerPoint in your work? for example, do you already use many of its advanced features?
  • Do you have any examples of good presentations that you aspire to? and what makes them ‘good’?
  • How useful would you find the ‘adding narration’ and ‘slideshow to video’ tools mentioned previously? can you think of examples of where you might apply them in relation to your teaching and subject area?

and finally!!!….. Before you find yourself reaching for the bullet point tool in PPT, take a few minutes to watch this very funny clip from YouTube, entitled ‘Life After Death by PowerPoint’ by Don McMillan:

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15 Responses to DigiThings Thing 2: PowerPoint

  1. Tim O'Hare says:

    About a year ago I had to do a lecture on presentation skills to Stage 2 Marine Science students. That drove me to think about presentation skills a lot and I ended up discovering TED Talks, Garr Reynolds’s tips and playing around with the idea of minimal text and image based Powerpoint presentations. In addition to the links given above I think these might be of interest:
    “Presentation by Garr Reynolds to Google (1 hour 10 minutes)
    “Nancy Duarte reveals the secret structure of a great talk (18 minutes)”
    Melissa Marshall encourages scientists and engineerings to talk technical (4.5 minutes)

    One thing that is obvious as soon as you start looking into this kind of material is that these kinds of presentations take a huge amount of time to prepare (the link about Steve Jobs says ‘not hours, not days but weeks’) and so it is clearly unrealistic to expect academics, who may be giving multiple presentations each week, to be able to develop their lectures to this standard.

    All we can really try to do is to keep the basic principles in mind – less words, more images, good structure/storyline and be prepared to experiment a little.

    [I hope the links in this comment work - I think I have coded them correctly...]

    • Tim O'Hare says:

      Oh well, the links in that comment didnt work at all. My guess at the necessary HTML code failed miserably. Someone from the DigiThings tram will need to remove or edit the comment because I don’t seem to be able to do that myself!

      • Rebeccah Freeman says:

        Hi Tim, Thanks for the links to those great presentations. I’ve tried to locate them & have re-listed the links below, which should now hopefully work – please do let me know if I’ve missed anything.
        Presentation by Garr Reynolds to Google (1 hour 10 minutes): http://youtu.be/DZ2vtQCESpk
        Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks: http://on.ted.com/Duarte
        Melissa Marshall: Talk nerdy to me: http://on.ted.com/Marshall

        Your comment about being realistic about the time academics are generally able to afford to creating and preparing presentations is a valid one, and the answer is, as you say, to concentrate on what is possible, making small improvements, such as including more visuals and less text. You mention experimenting a little as well, and some of the other presentation tools that this course will introduce over the coming weeks, should hopefully give you an opportunity to try something different.

  2. Joan Gavin says:

    Wow, great post Becky. Some useful links which I hope to dip in and out of over the next couple of weeks. Have any of you come across Tom Kuhlmann’s e-learning blog? If not, it might be worth your while checking some of his resources out. I have included the link to his section on Powerpoint for e-learning. It is full of free resources such as templates and some good advice on using Powerpoint in e-learning. http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/powerpoint-for-e-learning/

    • Rebeccah Freeman says:

      Thanks Joan! Thanks also for the link to Tom Kuhlmann’s e-learning blog – which is a brilliant resource, and full of really useful tips :-)

  3. Tim O'Hare says:

    Okay – here is my uploaded short presentation: http://youtu.be/9jBlHYSBdCc

    I tried and tried to add narration but, in the end, I gave up. I am not sure whether the problem was with the microphone set-up I was using but, whether that was the case or no, I came to the conclusion that Powerpoint is a very clunky tool for this, especially as it seems the slides have to have a default duration. Maybe I was doing it wrong but I think I would need to speak to a real person to find out.

    Anyway, I hope someone enjoys my presentation. At the time I uploaded it there were no others for me to comment on but I will check back in case any are added.
    (Or perhaps the idea was that we put our videos on our own blog sites, not this one…?)

    • Rebeccah Freeman says:

      Hi Tim,
      I think your video presentation is great – the message is clear and the images are well chosen. I particularly liked your witty approach!!
      You’ve kept text to a minimum, allowing it to enhance the visuals, rather than dominate, making it both interesting and visually appealing. Plus I loved the way you managed to tell a story with just a few slides – with a beginning, middle & end. I really enjoyed it.
      It’s a shame that you experienced difficulties trying to add narration. You can choose to set the duration of the slides manually – it doesn’t have to be set at the default of 5 secs.
      If you’d like to speak to one of Digithings team about adding narration we’d be happy to help? Let us know how best to contact you.
      There are now some other videos to view on others’ blog sites. Participants’ blogs can be found on the bookmarks list on the right of this page. It doesn’t really matter whether video presentation links are added to this blog or to participants’ own blog sites – either is fine.

      • Tim O'Hare says:

        Thanks. I will certainly have another go at the narration. It sounds as if it does do what I would want it to do so it is just a question of finding some spare moments and a calm mind to try again. I’ll be in touch if I need help!

    • Flea Palmer says:

      I really enjoyed watching this. Great pictures, great story and good humour! Narration would have been good but actually I think your use of images with a little text told your story very clearly.

      • Tim O'Hare says:

        Thanks – I think humour goes a long way to help a good presentation but, of course, it can also be a minefield. I tell my students that my humour is mostly a set of ‘Dad-isms’ – the kind of things a dad says that causes kids to groan loudly! Funnily enough, despite the inward groans, they do seem to quite like it!

  4. Emma Purnell says:

    Hi Becks,

    Thanks for this great post. There are some really useful resources. I really like the Ted Talks stuff and even though I haven’t had chance to look at it in detail TED-Ed http://ed.ted.com/ looks like it has real potential to add interactivity to existing TED talks and making learning resources and lessons out of high quality videos.

    You make a good point about PowerPoint getting a bad reputation because of how it has been used. I’ve seen both ends of the spectrum. An example on one end of the spectrum was a presentation I saw where the person had 15 mins (inc questions) and had 88 slides!!! I thought my eyes deceived me (and my ears when they said it)! I then thought that they might be only using the first few or something like that, but no, they tried to click through them all! As you can imagine it was not a great experience for presenter or audience. On the positive end one of the best presentations wit PowerPoint I saw was one where there were no words on any slide, just images and you were engaged as it wasn’t always immediately obvious what the images represented, so I found myself listening more to make the connection. I do like Prezi as an alternative to PowerPoint, but I’ve had a few people comment that a lot of zooming can bring on a bout of motion sickness!

    I think there area couple of things that can help with effective delivery of PowerPoint, which aren’t directly linked to content and design, but if classroom av desks allowed for split screens where the tutor can see the slides and notes on their screen, but the students just see the slides, it might help less content being needed on slides. I know it’s not ideal to be trapped behind the desk. To move away from av desks by providing remote clickers/mice to enable tutors to move freely around the room was really well received in an institution I worked at previously, a relatively easy thing to implement made a massive difference to quite a few people. Similarly having wireless projectors to enable projection of ipads/tablets etc has lots of potential too (apologies if Plymouth already has any/all of this and I’ve just not seen it yet).

    Thanks all.

    • Tim O'Hare says:

      On the subject of technology to enhance presentations, I think one of the most useful tools that any presenter/lecturer can have is a remote-control. This enables you to move forwards and backwards, blank the screen and also use the built-in laser pointer and, most importantly, it frees you from the lecturn/PC and enables you to move and be more expansive and open with the audience. I think that the university ought to supply these as standard issue to all new lecturers.

    • Rebeccah Freeman says:

      Hi Em,
      Firstly, many apologies for taking so long to respond to you – I’m only just back in the land of the living, having been off work & in bed with a nasty stomach bug! (which my baby daughter had all last weekend, poor thing).
      Many thanks for your kind feedback, I’m glad you found the post useful and inspiring.
      Yes, I think we’ve all experienced bad presentations just like the one you mentioned, with the 88 slides (arrgghhh!), but fortunately, most of us we can also recall ones that have impressed or really engaged us as well. I must admit, I’m one of those people that tends to find Prezi rather irritating, with all the zooming in & out, however, I think it’s also refreshing to see a different style of presentation format.
      I completely agree with your suggestion to provide split screens for presenters, to enable them to view their notes. This would I’m sure, mean that in many cases, text content could be reduced. You’ve also highlighted something that I think is often the case – that many presenters use the content on their actual slides as prompts (hence the endless bullet point lists!!!), whereas, as we’re trying to advise on this post, the slides should act as an enhancement to what is being said or delivered by the presenter.
      Thanks for your interesting and thought provoking comments Em.

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  6. Jill Schwarz says:

    That’s a great talk from Don McMillan, and a lot to think about in the Powerpoint week. I agree that the freedom to walk around is great (here here, Uni should provide a remote control in every room), and I also like to stop and use the white-board; increasingly I do that instead of trying to animate complicated processes within Powerpoint itself when I’m in class. This term I also tried dispersing questions throughout the session to encourage peer-learning/discussion etc., and I think it worked well to keep people engaged. I should, of course, have some robust way of evaluating whether it worked… cue application for PedRIO funding. Using Powerpoint in class to introduce a practical exercise – not so great – I conclude that I should make those slides available before the class, with Youtube/Podcasts. Discussing and reflecting on these things is very helpful – thanks for putting this together.

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