How to Create an Amazing PowerPoint Presentation — Kill Your Laser Pointer

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If you’re using a laser pointer during your PowerPoint presentations, you need to knock it off right now. Laser pointers make great cat toys but have no place in your presentation. Instead of using a fluttering dot of light, I’ll show you two ways to highlight details in your photographs that will give your presentation a professional look.

You can learn more about my aversion to laser pointers in my book, “The Kick Ass College Guide to Presentations.”

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The two methods I recommend for highlighting objects involves either using a circle to identify the detail, or create a “zoom” like effect to enlarge the specific detail for your audience to see.

Using a Circle to Highlight the Detail:

Step 1

Insert your photograph onto a slide, preferably in Full Screen (Read more about my Full Screen recommendation in my article about Photograph Management).

Step 2 (Option 1)

In PowerPoint, use the duplicate command to create a copy of the slide containing your photograph. You should now have two of the exact same slide.

Use the shape tools within PowerPoint to insert a shape onto the second of your two slides. You can use whatever shape you want, but generally a circle works well to encompass the detail on the picture you want to highlight.

Be sure the shape is of a contrasting color to the image behind it. I find that red and yellow tend to work well with most images. Also, be sure the line thickness is sufficient so that it’s visible to your audience when projected onto the big screen.

As you advance through your slides during your presentation, you will come to the first photograph. Say whatever you need to about the photograph, and then advance the slide again. When you do, the transition will be seamless. Your photograph will appear to have remained in place and the circle will show up to highlight your detail.

Step 2 (Option 2)

Create a slide with your image. Now, as described above, place your circle, square or arrow onto the image to highlight the detail.

Using the Animations feature in PowerPoint, “instruct” the circle to appear when you advance the slide.

Because you’ve given the circle instructions to “appear,” PowerPoint will assign the next slide advancement to the arrival of your circle. That means, when you first come to your photograph, the circle will not be visible. You can use this time to discuss the relevance of this image to your audience. When you push the slide advance button again, the slide will NOT advance, but rather the circle will appear.

Using one of these two methods not only looks professional, it lets your audience know that you were prepared to discuss the specific detail you’ve highlighted.

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If placing a circle around the detail in the photograph is not going improve your audience’s ability to see it, you may need to “zoom” in on the detail.

Zoom Technique

Step 1

Insert your photograph onto a slide, preferably in Full Screen.

Step 2

I recommend using Photoshop Elements or some other image-editing program for this step. Using the selection tool, select the area of the detail you want to highlight. Copy and save that selection to create its own file/JPEG. Scale the new image to make it larger.

Note: Keep in mind that images with small file sizes may become pixelated as you scale them to make them larger. High-resolution images work best for this process

Display Option 1:

Display the newly created detail image by itself, preferably in Full Screen.

Display Option 2:

Superimpose the newly created detail image over the original image, allowing the original image to be partially seen in the background. This option will require some artistic experimentation, but can look great.

If using Display Option 2, please see Step 2 (Option 2) above for instructions on how to mange your images within PowerPoint.

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Taking these extra steps to highlight a detail in a photograph may seem like too much work when using a Laser Pointer would suffice. However…

Using a Laser Pointer is a lazy alternative to creating an excellent presentation.

Incorporating these techniques into your presentation will demonstrate to your audience that the details were important and your approach for highlighting them was well thought out. No laser pointers needed.

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