Secret of PowerPoint?

Word! If you're thinking Excellent - I am

By Frank A Hilario

To Excel, to make a Great PowerPoint presentation, here’s powerful advice, and it’s free: Stop! Write first, present next. I mean, use Microsoft Word first before Microsoft PowerPoint. You can outline your presentation in Word before you finalize them in PowerPoint; you can easily write and rewrite using Word; you can even print-out and read and revise your text from there. Remember: If your writing is lousy, your presentation will be lousy; if your writing is good, your presentation will be good.

And yes, if your photography is creative, your presentation will be exciting to watch. Remember, you heard it first from me - creative writer, editor, desktop publisher, photographer, blogger, teacher. Excellent!

Remember the days of the slides - color films mounted; positives, in contrast to negatives - and the slide projector and the carousel? You couldn’t have a slide presentation without the slides, right? And you couldn’t have the slides without shooting for the slides. And you couldn’t shoot for the slides without the materials ready.

Whether it's a


marketing pitch,

workshop group report,

project report,
annual report,
debate, or a
budget presentation -

it's the same story with PowerPoint. Your presentation is actually a collection of slides. Look at PowerPoint as your camera for shooting those slides. So you prepare the text with Word; you prepare the images with some other software like Picture Manager or Photoshop
– then and only then do you go to PowerPoint and shoot your materials and create those slides.

You create an outline first; then you jot down your thoughts based on that outline; then you finesse them – and then you’re ready to do your PowerPoint presentation. If now you yourself like what you have written, then you will you’re your PowerPoint really nice.

When people think presentation, they think PowerPoint instantaneously. Excellent! But PowerPoint first? Not intelligent. You don't PowerPoint at the start. First: What's your message? What's your central thought? How do you build that? What tables & figures & images do you need? That is all writing, plus photography. Take it from me; I have 50 years experience behind me writing all kinds, 33 years editing a variety of manuscripts, 33 years photographing all sorts of materials and places, 23 years using the desktop computer everywhere; 21 years using Microsoft Word in noise and quiet.

Look at it this way: PowerPoint is Show & Tell. But before you get to Show & Tell, you've got to first prepare to Tell what you're going to Show. Got that? Excellent!

Don't blame Bill Gates - PowerPoint by Microsoft is not for writing; it is a presentation software. Notice that each image that appears onscreen is called a ‘slide’ – the same as in the days of Kodak and the slide carousel.

If you insist on writing (and revising) in PowerPoint, you are making yourself miserable – or somebody else PowerPointing for you. If PowerPoint were as easy as ABC, you probably won’t bother reading this; as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t have bothered writing it.

First steps, Microsoft Word.

To PowerPoint well is to write well first & foremost. I call these steps ‘Frank’s 10 Steps To PowerPoint’ – they refer to the steps going to PowerPoint; you’re not yet there. These 10 steps are for you to write a good ‘story’ for you to prepare a good PowerPoint presentation.

1. Prime yourself. (a) Get yourself a metaphor if possible. For instance, if you’re writing about energy, think to talk about candles (which, by the way, you can bring with you for dramatic effect). (b) Get a grip of your subject – narrow it down. Focus on something you can manage in the time allotted to you, for God’s sake. You can’t see clearly if the image is not focused, right? (c) Get more ideas by brainstorming with somebody. Just make sure to follow one rule: In brainstorming, there are no rules. I mean, simply accept everything said, no arguing, no debating. (d) Relax! Don't try too hard. Then you will get more ideas.

2. Own it. At this point, I usually start with a working title, no matter how lousy or unattractive it is. The title keeps me focused on my subject. Title yours briefly – I always do mine. Like a run-of-the-mill long statement of vision or mission, a long title is not a title – it’s a story. You can’t tell a story if you don’t know yet what the whole story is all about. A brief working title will help you trim down fat, excess of information. If you can’t get it the first time, don’t worry. It happens to the best! It happens to me.

3. Widen your search. If you are about my age (68) or older, surely there are many things you know, including those you shouldn’t. I’m a world-wide reader; for instance, I have read the 7 books of Harry Potter by JK Rawlings, the first US dollars billionaire author in history. I’m in awe of Rawlings’ ability to write-in a great many subtleties, wits and jokes; she must know much too much. For this one, I’m ransacking just my brain, because I too already know too much of the subject. At other times, I’m an Internet surfer, searching, waiting for insights. I shy away from newspapers because I get negative vibes; they discourage me from enjoying my day (or night), enjoying myself as I write.

4. Enter the dragon. I was born in a year of the Dragon, 1940. Do I believe in dragons? No, but they make interesting reading, and writing. Dragons, you will note, are mythical creatures – my advice for you is to take notes whatever you are doing, even while you’re searching, gathering materials. Entertain all those strange ideas, even those that at first glance seem unrelated or crazy - it takes practice (and faith) but your mind will find a way to relate them. If you don’t put on paper the ideas that come to your head, they will become like dragons and become what they were in the first place: thin air, untraceable.

5. Review what you have. When do you stop gathering your materials and start writing? It’s a case-to-case basis, individual differences. In time, with practice, you will sense that you have more than enough materials for a story, article, or presentation. You can’t tell until you look at what you have and try to make sense out of the chaos. If you can’t make heads or tails, try looking for a quotation to set your mind at ease.

6. Proceed to rough draft. Just proceed, enough or not enough materials. Like I said, use Microsoft Word 2003, first. Word 2003 is perfect for me because it’s fast; I can magnify the view (click Zoom, click-choose say 150%); I can autocorrect my mistakes; I can import images simply by dragging from a folder into the document I’m working on; I can create a table of contents of a 100-page book correctly and faster than you can type the sound of supercalifragilisticexpialidocious correctly. When I make the very first helter-skelter, incomplete draft – that’s why it’s called a rough draft – I write any which way, thoughts contending on thoughts, jostling each other. Never mind. Once you have succeeded in creating a chaos called a rough draft, complete or not, you’re well on your way to happy (if not great) writing.

7. Overcome Writer’s Block. 98.76% of the time, when writing you suffer ‘Writer’s Block.’ I think I’ll call it ‘Beginner’s Block.’ There is no such thing as perfect writing. Only once did that happen to me; when I was writing for The Evening Paper (ask Krip Yuson of Philippine Star, he was Editor), I sat in front of the PC at home and stood up about 2 hours later with a perfect piece that needed no revising. I have another one-in-a-million chance that that will happen to me again. And how do you overcome Writer’s Block? Learn to relax when you’re writing; don’t push yourself too hard; ask people what they think about the subject; read; go to the Internet – then go to sleep.

8. Improve it. Use the Grammar & Spelling Checker. Read for the 4 Cs. Is it Comprehensive? Is it Clear? Is it Coherent? Is it Concise? Comprehensive – Not long and not necessarily complete, but does your presentation cover the essential elements of the topic or subject you selected? Clear – Is your language understandable by your target audience? Do you know your target audience? If you do, do you speak their language? If not, get some help. Coherent – Do the sections, parts, ideas flow smoothly from one to the other? (Of course, if you’re funny, you can make a joke of it, especially if you are supposed to be funny.) Otherwise, if you are incoherent, your audience will never be able to follow you – which means you are leading them to the slaughter of the innocents. You’re guilty, not them!

9. Nice work if you can get it! Sometimes I’m writing at the middle, sometimes at the end, sometimes at the beginning. I’m writing in the middle right now, after writing at the end and then at the beginning. You have to revise (in fact, after writing 6 tips - see below - and uploaded this one on this website, I decided to make my list 7, magic number, so now you have 7; I also revised #1 & #2, so that all the tips begin with 'No.'); if I remember right, it was Rudolf Flesch who said, ‘There is no good writing – there is only good rewriting.’ An unforgettable lesson from Flesch, who is the guru of all the writers in America today, in Europe, in the rest of the literate universe – he gave the world his Readability Formula and guidelines on how an author can become readable. I learned much from his book, How To Write, Think & Speak More Effectively.

10. Time to finalize. You have to end it all sometime, even when you don't want to. I remember the film The Agony & The Ecstasy, Michelangelo up there painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for several years now and no end is in sight. The Pope asks, ‘When will you make it end?’ And the painter replies, ‘When I am finished!’ Sooner or later, you will have to say, ‘I am finished!’ When you’re not a seasoned writer, you’ll just have to feel your way and give it a good guess. Keep an open mind.

Next step, PowerPoint!

You exit from Word (mine is Word 2003). With this one, I’m thoroughly satisfied with my manuscript; I’m ready to export it to PowerPoint. Which is a problem, because I’m not so familiar with that software. So, I will give you advice not as an expert in PowerPoint but as an expert in criticizing those who make PowerPoint presentations. I’ll present to you a problem, then a solution.

1. No sense of size? One of the most frequent mistakes of PowerPoint presentors is the big table that even they can hardly read –how about you, are you trying to impress your listeners with how unsure you are with your numbers? Instead of a big table, break it down into parts and create a series of small tables that can be enlarged on the small screen. Remember Rudolf Flesch: Readability is #1.

2. No sense of sight? There are too many words in one slide that the font size has to be small to fit the words in – how about you, are you trying to impress your audience with how dense you are? Summarize the paragraph and explain it extemporaneously while showing the slide. If you can’t summarize, how can you expect the audience to digest the message?

3. No intro. Most presentors simply assume that the audience know the subject and that they have a good background of the topic about to be discussed – how about you, are you trying to impress the audience how intelligent you think they are? You’re assuming too much. If you can’t give a good background, chances are you don’t know what you’re talking about.

4. No outline. Often, presentors don’t bother with an outline – how about you, are you trying to prove to the ones attending your lecture that you can remember everything without using an outline? Well, they can’t remember anything without it. That’s why I like Word 2003 – I can create an outline with it, then write my presentation on the basis of that outline.

5. No recap. Those who don’t bother introducing their topic don’t bother either summarizing what they have just said – how about you, are you trying to impress the listeners that if they can’t digest what you just presented, that’s their fault, not yours? On the basis of that Word outline, I can summarize my paper.

6. No contribution to knowledge, no insight. Those who don’t care about their audience just mouth what others have said, oftentimes plagiarizing what they have written – how about you, are you trying to tell those in front of you that there is nothing more to add to knowledge, or there is no other way to present it except what others have used? Shame on you!

7. No challenge. Those who are simply in a hurry to finish what they have begun just end the presentation with the last slide, oftentimes simply with a ‘Thank you!’ While it’s nice, a Thank you! doesn’t help people understand. How about you, are you trying to tell those attending the seminar that there is nothing more to be said or done after your presentation? What a letdown! To make your message memorable, leave them a challenge like, ‘Can you do it?’ or an exhortation like ‘You can do it!’ That implies that your presentation must be towards their being able to do whatever you want them to do, aside from paying attention to your presentation.

Don’t forget the lesson of the master: You want it done right, do it yourself! That means, you have to learn to use PowerPoint yourself, the basics at least in working with text, tables, images: select, cut, paste, insert, move, indent & space lines format fonts, create columns of text and numbers – don’t forget readability from a distance. That’s why my advice is: The shortest way to go to PowerPoint is via Microsoft Word (2003). The shortest distance between 2 points is not a shortcut but a detour. If you do your writing, revising, formatting and finalizing in Word 2003, you will have the least problems when you move to PowerPoint. Remember, Word 2003 and PowerPoint talk the same language perfectly: Microsoft. You can call it efficiency. I call it brains.

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