You’re sitting in a meeting and someone gets up to do a PowerPoint presentation. Great, you think to yourself, another show with an overused template, text flying all over the screen and a format that’s too hard to follow. To your surprise, this presentation flows smoothly and the image is clear and understandable. How did the presenter manage this? How did they create a presentation that maintained my attention? By following some simple tips and tricks already embedded in PowerPoint, you too will be able to improve the appearance and delivery of your next presentation.

Make a Bold, New Statement
Start with a fresh, new background template. The latest versions of PowerPoint allow the user to create a new template and define the colors and layouts. Alternatively, you can search the Internet for Web sites that offer free template downloads - simply enter the following search criteria: Free;PowerPoint;Templates. This will provide a list of useful sites. If you have the budget, an agency can design a professional template for you.

Become a PowerPoint Master
PowerPoint has two built-in Masters – the Title Master and the Slide Master. The Title Master allows you to create a common style for all title slides (opening, closing and transitioning). The Slide Master controls all other layout functions. You can change something in one location and the Slide Master will then automatically apply that change throughout the presentation. Include anything you need, a logo or slide numbers, and watch as they are displayed on every screen.

Retain Your Audiences Attention
What’s everyone looking at? Often the presenter will be discussing a slide while audience members direct their attention at the screen and not at the speaker. Maintain their attention by simply pressing the "b" or "w" keys. Pressing either of these keys will blank the screen removing all distractions and allowing the audience to focus on what you’re saying. Simply hit the key again to return to your presentation. At the end of your presentation, include a couple of blank screens. This will prevent you from returning to the slide-editing page if you advance to many slides at the end of your presentation.

Animate Your Message
If you really want to have to some fun with your audience and ensure the information gets across, try sending subliminal messages. Select a text box on any slide and click the Animation Effects button on the tool bar. Click the Flash Once button. The selected message will flash once quickly and then disappear from view. This feature can be quite funny if used in the right situation. For example, if you were presenting the policies for your company’s upcoming Anniversary Event, you could flash "FUN" at the start of every screen, letting your staff know that you want the celebration to be a fun experience for your customers and employees. Other Animation Effects are also available – explore these features to discover how to make your presentation more dynamic. Resist the temptation to overuse these effects. Balance between creating a dynamic presentation and communicating.

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