Jul 16, 2012

Mark the final version of your PPT [Lesser Known PPT Features]

When we are working on multiple versions of a PowerPoint file, it is possible to get confused as to which one is the final version. This is especially true when a team or a group is working on a PPT. One member updates something and sends it to the other. The PPT crosses multiple hands multiple times and you keep saving the file as version 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and so on.

If you are working on such a presentation and you have the final version, PowerPoint 2010 now allows you to easily 'mark the presentation as final'. The moment you or your colleagues or friends open this version, they will be intimated that this is the final version and they will be discouraged to make any changes to the file.

How to mark a presentation as final?
Open the presentation. Go to File. Under Info option on the left, go to Permissions and click on the square box named Protect Presentation. Then choose Mark as Final. Save the file and exit. That's it.

If you re-open the file, on the status bar you will find a message; Marked as Final. You can still choose to edit the file, by clicking on Edit Anyway. Unless you click on Edit Anyway you will not be able to make any changes. This way you are ensuring the viewer of the PPT knows this is the final version.

Jul 11, 2012

Create passport size photos at home

If you go to a studio in India to get a Passport size photo clicked, it will easily cost you Rs. 100 for 8 photos (that's $2). I made it at home using MS PowerPoint and got 6 photos for Rs. 8 (14.55 cents). This blog post will tell you how.

There are four steps involved.

  1. Taking your photograph
  2. Improving the photograph (adjust contrast/brightness)
  3. Setting it up in PowerPoint
  4. Getting the print
Step - 1 Taking the photograph
Take any digital camera and get a close-up picture of yours taken. Transfer the image onto your computer. For the purpose of this blog post we will use Sachin Tendulkar's photo.

Step - 2 Improving the photograph (Optional)
When you take a photograph with a digital camera, you might need to touch up your photo. If the original image you have taken is looking good to you then you can skip this step.

For editing follow the instructions. Open MS PowerPoint 2010. Insert the image on an empty slide. Insert -> Picture -> Select your photo from your hard disk (Short-cut: Press ALT and N together. Then press P)

Left click on the photo to select it. Go to Picture Tools Format on the top panel. Under Corrections chose the option which improves the photo.

In MS PowerPoint 2007 you can right click on the photo and choose Properties. Now you can manually increase or decrease the brightness and contrast.

Step - 3 Setting it up in PowerPoint
I paid Rs. 8 because I gave only one photograph to my local studio. It was a 4 inches x 6 inches photograph which contained 6 passport size photos. If we take these prints separately we will end up paying Rs. 48. So in this step you need to arrange 6 of your photos into one rectangle of size 4 inches x 6 inches.

Open a new slide. We need to make the slide blank. No header and body place holders. Right click on the slide and choose Layout and choose Blank.

Now go to Insert and choose a rectangle from Shapes. Draw a rectangle. Now click on the rectangle. In PowerPoint 2010, go to Drawing Tools Format. On the extreme right you have an option called Size. Enter height as 4" and width has 6".

Now fill the rectangle with white colour and give a border. For white colour, right click on the rectangle and choose Format Shape. Under Fill choose Solid Fill and choose the colour white. Transparency will be 0%. Click okay. For black border, open Format Shape again and go to Line Color and choose Solid Line and select black (you can choose any other colour as well).

We now need to create layout of one passport photo. I chose the size 4.5 cm height x 3.5 cm width.

Insert another small rectangle and adjust its size to 1.77 inches height x 1.38 inches width. 1.77 inches = 4.5 cm. PowerPoint does not allow us to enter sizes in cm. Our slide now looks like this now.

Now place your photo over the smaller rectangle. The photo might not fit exactly. Keep the photo slightly bigger than the smaller rectangle. Crop the photo and make it the same size as the small rectangle. To crop, select the photo. Under Picture Tools Format at the top choose Crop. Keep the cursor on the -- marks on the sides of the photo and cut the photo to the same size as the small rectangle.

You can now delete the rectangle. Cannot see your rectangle? Your rectangle is behind the photo. Right click on the photo and choose Send to back. Now click on the rectangle and delete it.

We just need to copy and paste the photo five times and arrange the photos nicely on the 4" x 6" layout. Remember after printing, we need to cut out the photos with a scissor.

Now select all the six photos and the rectangle in the background. You can press CTRL+A or manually drag your cursor over the bigger rectangle to select everything. Now right click (while your cursor is on the items selected) and choose Save as Picture... and save it as PNG or JPEG.

Step - 4 Getting the print
You can now take this file, give it to your local studio and ask for just one print. Take the print and using a scissor make 6 photos from it. If you have a good printer at home, you need to buy professional photo quality paper and print at home. Simple!

Jul 10, 2012

"Can you forget the slides and tell me the story?"

Mr. B is making a presentation. He is sharing a brief story with his audience. His audience consists of five people. He has only 5 slides and each slide just has two sentences (no images). After his very brief presentation, the CEO says, "I did not understand anything. Can you forget the slides and tell me the story?"

This is a true incident. It just goes to show that we are being ruled by our own software. If you have a small 5 minute story to tell, do you really need a PPT? It is better if you stand up and narrate it. The audience will love you for that.

Jul 6, 2012

Managing awkward moments in your presentation

Imagine this scenario. You are making a presentation to a large gathering. You are standing on the stage and talking. Suddenly the power goes off. Your projector is off.

The generator will take 30 seconds to start. The projector will take a lot of time after that to restart. There is an awkward silence in the room. What will you do?

Answer this question before reading further.

This happened to a speaker recently and his response was outstanding. This is what we call thinking on one's feet. Few minutes before the power cut, the presenter was talking about uninterrupted power supply in his factory. The factory runs all day long and the generator is so good that when the power fails, there is no interruption. Not even for a second. Hence the machines never stop in his factory. This was one of the 10 things he had said about his plant.

When the power went off, he was quite for a while. Not knowing what to do. He could have apologised or felt nervous or kept quite. Instead he chose to use this opportunity to explain one of his earlier made points. He explained to the audience, that if this were his factory the projectors would not have switched off and the presentation would have gone on smoothly. The audience really saw and understood what uninterrupted power supply means.

You might call it good luck but the guy had the sense to use a bad situation to his advantage. Instead of apologising or keeping mum or feeling bad, you should think of ways to keep the audience with you. Do not lose them. If you can pull of something like what our factory manager did, great.

Jul 4, 2012

5 Lessons from Presenting at a Conference

Two weeks back we organised a conference. It was a large room which had 160 people in the audience. There were three speakers who were presenting at the conference. The presenters were speaking from a podium (on the stage) with two big screens to showcase their slides. As I sat on the last bench I made the following 5 observations:

#1 Avoid text at the bottom of your slide

The people were seated in 10 rows. The people in the last few rows were having trouble seeing the bottom 30% portion of the slide (see the actual image on the right). The seats were not like what you see in the image below (a theatre style). All the chairs were at the same level and the screen was not fixed too high up. In case you are presenting to a large gathering and the audience is going to be sitting on same level make sure you write nothing at the bottom of the slide. Mark the bottom 30% of the slide area as a 'no text zone'.

#2 Use large size font

This is common sense but not so easy to implement. If you have never visited the venue, what font size will you choose? Option 1. Visit the venue before the presentation. Option 2. If you cannot, then find out how big is the venue. When in doubt, go for a font size of more than 50. Too tough, then stay above 40. Do not risk anything below that.

#3 Vernacular works best

This was perhaps my biggest lesson. The audience was a bunch of Telugu speaking people and the presentation was in English (as all presentations in India are). The presenters were advised to speak in the local language. Language connects really well. Even though the crowd knew English vernacular worked its magic. The presenters who spoke in vernacular were understood better and got more questions and applauds. I do not mean to say everyone should start talking vernacular. But if you feel your audience will respond better, give vernacular a try.

#4 Test it before the final show

Run the entire presentation once before the audience comes. This is just to ensure there are no technical glitches. We had to play a video at the start. We tested it at the start before the audience came in. But when it was shown to the audience, the colour went haywire. The impact was lost.

Even after a trial run, we faced this technical glitch. Wondering why?

There were two computers connected to the projectors. The trial run was done on one computer but the final video was run from the other. Later we found out, the wire connection was a problem in the second computer. We finally ran the video the second time and ran it from the first computer (on which the trial was done). It worked fine. Lesson #1: Test the presentation and videos from a laptop and make sure the same laptop is used finally.

During the second run when the colour was okay, the music did not work. The problem, the wire was defective. We did not panic, changed the wire and ran the video again :-) Lesson #2 Something or the other will go wrong. Don't worry.

#5 Use Videos

Videos are the wow moments of any conference. The audience, however interested, cannot sit through an hour listening to three presentations. They get bored. Research suggests the human attention span is only 10 minutes. In such a case, videos do wonders.

We had initially planned to run a presentation in loop. The presentation had background music as well. At the last minute, we decided to add voice over. We wanted to make it easy for the audience. Instead of having to read, they will now sit back and enjoy it like a movie. We went to a professional studio and converted the PPT into a video along with a voice over in vernacular.

This turned out to be the 'best' moment in the conference. This 8 minute long video delivered its message in a far more effective, entertaining and appealing manner. Lesson: Use videos as much as possible.

Theatre Image source.