The 4 Most Important PowerPoint Rules for Successful Presentations


I have been working on these slides, 10 minutes at time here, 15 minutes there, for MONTHS! I finally uploaded them to Slideshare this morning.

There are a few reasons for making these. First of all it's separating out what is essential in slide design, to what is merely desirable. There's a million and one guides to creating nice PowerPoint slides and a lot of them focus on what is desirable, but that can often be too much information if you want to improve your presentation materials but you're not sure where to start. The presentation below focuses on the four rules which REALLY matter (backed up by actual research) - and as it says in the slides, an attractive presentation is actually just a byproduct of an effective presentation. Follow the four rules below and you will be making effective PowerPoint slides which communicate effectively and make your message stick.

Another reason to make these is my understanding of what matters with slide design is evolving over time, so this reframes some of the things I've highlighted in previous presentations. It covers some of what we talk about in my Presentation Skills Training; I realise not everyone who wants to attend these can get to them, so wanted to disseminate some of the guidance they contain more widely. (If you're already booked onto a workshop don't worry though - the information above is a small part of the full content of the day!) 

I hope people find these useful. In my experience the easiest way to make a big difference to how effective your presentations are is to start with the materials (for teaching as well as conference presentations) - a great set of slides makes the audience sit up and take notice, which in turn gives you the confidence to deliver a better presentation.

If you'd rather use a design tool to help craft your slides for you, check out Canva and Haiku Deck from Presentation Tools Week.

The Snipping Tool (and other joys)


A couple of weeks ago I tweeted this:

If you click on the date of the tweet above you'll get taken to it on Twitter itself, you'll see about a gazillion replies to this - about a third of people already knew about the Snipping Tool (and were appropriately smug) but for the other two thirds it was a case of MIND = BLOWN.

So if you've not used it before, do check out the Snipping Tool. It allows you to take a screen-grab of the exact portion of the screen you need, without having to crop it down afterwards. It seems simple but I've created library induction and teaching materials WITH Snipping Tool for the first time this year, and it's saved me HOURS.

People shared some other tips in response to this:

... and Ruth Jenkins wrote a whole blogpost about PowerPoint - the tip about using the Align tool was completely new to me.

Another tip worth mentioning with PowerPoint is that almost anything can be right-clicked upon, and then Save As Picture can be chosen. So if you really need an image of some text (and this is actually A Thing - for example if you want to make a billboard on Photofunia, you need a picture of the words you wish to display) then create a text box, write in it, right-click and Save As Picture. Like I did here:

Created in Photofunia

Created in Photofunia

You can also Print Screen something, crop it, then save it as an image - but of course you don't need to do that now because of the joyous SNIPPING TOOL!

If you have any other useful tricks we might not all know about already, leave them in a comment...

Aim your professional development output at '1 Year Ago You'


What do you know now, that is useful and pertinent to your professional life (or even your personal life) that you didn't know 1 year ago?

Whatever it is, the chances are there are plenty of people still at the '1 Year Ago You' stage who could do with hearing about it. So why not blog about it, write an article about it, or submit a proposal to speak about it at a conference or event?

I know lots of people who don't do any of those things because they consider that they simply don't have anything to say. It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking you have nothing to contribute - there's so much dialogue already, after all. And Imposter Syndrome runs through our profession like a vein. 

Imposter Syndrome: For a Man, or a Woman

Imposter Syndrome: For a Man, or a Woman

But we want new perspectives. We love to hear others' experiences. We need to know what has worked and what hasn't in professional situations other than our own. In short, we do want to hear from you, and we'd welcome your professional development output. (That's the rather awkward phrase I've come up with to describe the kinds of things we do as part of our online presence, or at professional events.)

Framing what you might choose to say as 'advice for 1 Year Ago You' is often enough to make people realise, actually, yes, they could present a paper or write a blog. The blog you are reading now is almost entirely aimed at Past Me - we're all learning useful stuff all the time and where appropriate I try and repackage that into something others might find useful. Most of the posts on here are about things I wished I'd discovered sooner.

Of course, it doesn't have to be '1 Year Ago You' specifically. It could be '6 Months Ago You'. Or '1 Day Ago You'. But someone, somewhere, will be at the exact stage you were before you learned about that useful tool / technique / concept / article / platform / literature or whatever it might be, that made it all click for you. So 'cascade the knowledge', as they say - you DO have something to say, and there will be an audience for it.

Presentation Tools 5: Colour


So we come to the final day of Presentation Tools Week on the blog! Day 1 was about fonts, and then we had three alternatives to PowerPoint for making slides: Haiku, Canva, and Prezi. (Also don't forget Adobe Voice as another slide-alternative.) The final post is about colour, and tools which relate to colour.

Design Seeds (

Design Seeds is a colour palette search. It allows you to see groups of colours which work together for design - obviously I'm thinking of colour in presentations here, but of course it can apply to posters, an organisation's branding, or indeed any other aspect of design.

I like this site because how colours work together is something I'm interested in but have no real knowledge about. I like seeing things happen successfully, but it's all trial and error for me. With Design Seeds there's some real expertise to draw upon.

There are countless existing palettes of six colours, but you can also choose a colour as a jumping off point and it finds a palette to match, which I think is the most useful aspect to Design Seeds. If you want to use your organisation's main branding colour to underpin your presentation, but want some nice colours to go with it (for the font, shapes, icons, blocks etc) this is a great way to find the colours. Here's a screengrab - I've put in the approximate colour of the hyperlinks on this website (my favourite colour, sort of green but with a bit of blue in it) and it's given me two palettes to choose from:

Click to go to the Design Seeds website

Click to go to the Design Seeds website

I'm going to use this tool in the next set of slides I make from scratch.

Pictaculous (

Pictaculous isn't entirely dissimilar to Design Seeds in that it's a colour palette generator - but it works in a different way. The idea here is that you upload an image (it could be your organisation's logo, or a key picture in your presentation, or you could use it for every image on a slide by slide basis) and it gives you the component colours and suggests a palette to go with it.

Here's a screengrab:

Click to go to pictaculous

Click to go to pictaculous

I uploaded the picture which appears in my blog header (a photograph taken by Matt Fairview, which I found on flickr. It is a picture of the M5 Wicker Man, in Somerset; the original can be seen here. Matt has kindly given me permission to use the image on my site) and you can see it's broken the image down into colours, then provides suggested palettes from Kuler and Colourlovers (all of which are clickable so you can view them in larger sizes). If you work with InDesign you can also download the Adobe Swatch.

Multicolr Search Lab (

TinEye Labs provide a couple of useful tools - the first is a reverse image search engine. Upload the image you've got saved on your PC, and it will find examples of the image online - handy if you've saved something and forgotten where you found it, but also handy if you want to know if anyone is using your own images without proper attribution!

The second is the more fun tool - the colour search engine. It searches 20 million Creative Commons Flickr images, not by keyword, but by colour. People LOVE this tool when we try it out in Presentation Skills workshops, and they find it addictive for reasons which are hard to explain but you'll know when you try it...

You can select the colours of your organisational branding and it will bring back a staggering amount of pictures featuring just those colours (allowing you to make a presentation which stays 'on brand' without using the dreaded PPT template). You can also select a dizzying selection of 5 different colours just for the sake of it, then move the sliders around so some colours are more prominent than others, and be amazed at how many images match your absurd criteria...

Click to go the colour search engine

Click to go the colour search engine

So that's the end of Presentation Tools Week - click the pic below for a link to all 5 posts in one go. Any useful tools I've missed? Let me know in a comment.

Presentation Tools 4: Using Prezi to make NORMAL slides


Yesterday in the post about Canva, I promised Prezi but not as you know it... This is because we're not going to be using Prezi to make a Prezi, we're going to use it make regular slides.

Using Prezi to make normal slides (

If you want to take advantage of some of Prezi's features (particularly the symbols, shapes, graphics, and templates) but don't want an actual Prezi with all the zooming and swooping which can make people feel ill, you can just create a Prezi to work as a PDF. The slides below are both an example of this and an explanation as to how:

Of course, you may want to use Prezi as Prezi themselves intend, in which case have a read of this guide to preventing motion sickness in the viewer. If you want to use Prezi in the academic environment, start here. And, although it's a little out of date now, my 2013 mega guide to using Prezi is here.

The final post of Presentation Tools Week is tomorrow, and focuses on 3 different tools that help you with colour.