PowerPoint Basics

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 0 comments

PowerPoint Basics thumbnailPowerPoint Basics: Where to Begin

Maybe you’ve been told to create a PowerPoint presentation. Maybe you think it’s about time you learnt to use PowerPoint. Or maybe you’re just trying to refresh skills that have become a bit stale.

At any rate, you want to learn how to use PowerPoint – from the beginning. So where do you start? What are the most useful things a new user can learn in PowerPoint?

1. How to use a template.

This is particularly useful in a corporate setting, as it enables you to keep your presentation on-brand and to a professional standard. We have plenty of free PowerPoint templates available on m62.net. Select the template appropriate to your topic and click to download. Once downloaded, simply open the file and begin work with your template – everything you create will be within the programmed guidelines. Make sure you save your presentation as a .ppt or .pptx file, and you’re away!

Feeling ready to try something a bit more advanced? Why not create your own PowerPoint template?

2. How to edit an AutoShape.

AutoShapes are one of the fundamental objects you can use for visualisation. At m62, we use them for everything from text placeholders to graphs. If your template is programmed correctly, new objects created should automatically follow the colour palette. Resize an AutoShape whilst retaining its proportions by holding down Shift. This can also be used to create shapes of regular proportions, e.g. squares and circles.

To change the colour of your AutoShape, use the ‘Fill Colour’ or ‘Shape Fill’ tool (depending on the version of PowerPoint you are using). This can either be found on the bottom toolbar, or on the home ribbon. The colours programmed into your PowerPoint template will appear here. You can also select custom colours by inputting RGB references, or you can even ‘fill’ an AutoShape with an image by selecting ‘Fill Effects’. Don’t forget to change the line colour too – by selecting ‘Line Colour’ or ‘Shape Outline’ on the toolbar or ribbon.

To put a text label inside an AutoShape, simply start typing whilst you have the object selected. This is a great way to label diagrams, and much less complicated than including text boxes.

Spending a while editing and repositioning your objects? Teach yourself some keyboard shortcuts to speed up the process.

3. How to use drawing guidelines.

Drawing guidelines are a godsend from PowerPoint, yet many presentation designers don’t know how to use them effectively. Selecting ‘View > Grid and Guides’ in 2003, or right clicking on the slide and selecting ‘Grid and Guides’ in 2007/2010 brings up the menu for these. Selecting to have guides or guidelines (not the grid) to appear will cause two lines – horizontal and vertical – to appear on your slide. You can adjust these by simply dragging them across the slide. A handy counter will appear to tell you when you are in the centre.

But you can go further with guidelines with a few simple tricks. Hold down control whilst dragging a guideline to duplicate it, leaving the original in its position. Objects will automatically snap to these lines, making object location and, even better, motion path location really easy to position. Our favourite way to use them at m62? Duplicate an object to place it where you want it to finish up after a motion path, stick some guidelines there, delete the new object, and then snap the motion path to the guidelines. Voila.

Want to go into guidelines in more depth? Watch our PowerPoint 2007 Grid and Guides Tutorial.

4. How to use basic animations.

While there are many, many animations available in PowerPoint, not all are useful – by any means. In fact, you can produce a range of engaging visuals simply by using three basic animations: Fade In, Fade Out, and Motion Paths. Using entrance and exit animations allows you to build information on your slide, enabling you to keep your audience engaged. Motion paths are great for expressing a range of messages, and are particularly useful as they are fully customisable.

Fade In - This animation basically functions as an Appear, but is a lot smoother and looks much more professional. It can be found under Custom Animation (found under the ‘Animation’ ribbon in PowerPoint 2007 and later) > Add Effect > Entrance > Fade. You can set the speed, but we’d always recommend using ‘Very Fast’ for entrance animations.

Fade Out – Exactly the same as above, but substitute ‘Exit’ for ‘Entrance’!

Motion Paths – These can be a bit tricky until you’re used to them, so play around for a little while. Motion paths have their own category under animations. PowerPoint asks you to select the direction you want your object to travel in, but you can adjust this by simply dragging the motion path around – indicated by the arrow that appears. You can also draw a custom motion path if you don’t want your object to travel in a straight line. Again, you can adjust the timing of motion path animations, so play around with what works best on your slide. Make sure your animations don’t last too long though – this could disengage your audience.

There are things to bear in mind with animations in general. PowerPoint records the order you generate the animations in, and uses this as the default order animations execute in. This can be adjusted, but it can be fiddly, so we recommend creating your animations in the order you want them to occur wherever possible.

Ready to take your animations a step further? Check out some of our PowerPoint Animation tutorials.

Next Steps

This is by no means the definitive guide to PowerPoint. There is a lot more you can do with the software, but these basics are a great place to get started. By following the above points, you should be able to use PowerPoint to produce effective slides – that will be a lot better than many other presenters’.

We’ve tried to be general in this article, but really you should learn how to use your specific version of PowerPoint. To see how this will look for you, and to learn more advanced PowerPoint techniques, why not check out our PowerPoint tutorials? Our PowerPoint version-specific tutorials can be found here:

PowerPoint 2003 tutorials
PowerPoint 2007 tutorials
PowerPoint 2010 tutorials

And of course, if you really want to step up your skills, consider enrolling on our Advanced PowerPoint Training Course.

What you will have noticed is that we haven’t mentioned at any point how to insert bullet points. This is because bullet points do not work – you should be using visuals, images and diagrams to get your point across. For more help with getting started on visualisation, check out our visualisation examples.

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