Category Archives: Powerpoint

Top 10 time saving tips for presentations

Let’s face it, we all spend too much time making presentations. That’s true whether it’s a small part of your job, or whether it is your job, like it was mine. I’m going to share with you my list of tools & tips that I used to use everyday to spend as little time as possible on making presentations for my clients! Some of them are obvious, others not so, but each should save you a bit of time, and added together, maybe a lot of time!


1. Some paper, a pen and some post-it notes.

ALWAYS start with a clean sheet of paper. NEVER start with an old deck of slides. Slides are cheap, but paper is cheaper. Scribble, draw, write, shuffle, discard, leave gaps, and pull together the structure of your presentation first. Only then, once you’ve built the outline, should you open your laptop and fire up some software.


2. A good template

Before I tell you what I mean by this, I’ll tell you WHY you should use one. One word: ‘time’. Having a proper template will save you a ton of time, and most people spend far too long on their presentations as it is. A good template is one that when being used, you spend most of your time inputting content, and not having to think about styling the content. When I say template, it’s really about having predetermined styles in all the default modes rather than a coloured background with a logo in the corner. Most corporate templates are overbranded with a restricted space for the content – a slide should be all about the content, not the branding! A good template should be simple, but with all the default colours, shapes, chart styles, font styles etc pre-determined so that when you add a new element to the page, it’s styled straight from the word go (this is the bit that most templates fail to include).


3. A well laid out toolbar

Coupled with a good template, a good toolbar will enable you to cut in half the amount of time you spend making slides. Add the most common tools that you use to the toolbar to save you finding them in the menus. If you really want to go ‘pro’ you should consider learning all the keyboard shortcuts too!


4. Google Image Search

Before all the IP lawyers come knocking, it’s worth pointing out that I use Google image search to find inspiration before I use a stock photo library – NOT to find unlicensed images. The beauty of Google is that it always returns something unexpected, something clever, something amusing or something closely related to but a bit left-field of the original search. These are the kind of images that you want to use, particularly if you’re trying to convey a concept or emotion. You can then use these images as a guide for the things you search for in no 5.


5. iStockPhoto

What did we do before iStock came along? I use iStock all the time. There are plenty of other libraries out there, but I find they’re the best mix of quality images, affordability and find-ability. Remember, 30 minutes trying to find the right image is 30 minutes you could have been doing something else. People get fixated with finding the right image or getting the layout perfect, but you have to remember that most images & layouts on a slide presentation are seen for a few seconds to a few minutes at the most – they don’t have to be perfect, just good enough.


6. Photoshop / Adobe Creative Cloud

Once upon a time, buying Photoshop, Illustrator and all the other goodies that Adobe has to offer was a HUGE investment. I seem to remember shelling out the best part of £2000 every time I needed an upgrade. Now you can get all of their software for a small monthly payment, and you can buy individual licenses for even less. If you can only afford one, get Photoshop, it’s incredibly powerful, and there are plenty of tutorials on the web if you’re a novice. There are a bunch of free alternatives – from the complex such as GIMP ( to the simple such as Pixlr ( Useful for simple tasks such as cropping & resizing images, removing backgrounds from logos and other everyday tasks.


7. Vectormagic

A little known tool, but brilliant for turning ropey low resolution logos that have been downloaded from the internet into crisp sharp ones on a transparent background. You can do this in Adobe Illustrator too, but the results from Vector Magic ( are way better (and it’s a lot cheaper!). Why use vectors? Vectors can be recoloured and resized without any loss of quality or pixelation.


8. An organised folder structure

If you’re making a big presentation, you can end up with hundreds, if not thousands of resources such as images, videos, spreadsheets. Get in the habit of naming things and filing them away in a way that will allow you to find them later. I’ve used the same folder structure for years, so I can always get back to an image to change it in a matter of seconds – and you WILL need to change things, even when you think you’ve made the FINAL_FINAL_v4!

  • 01_ppt - all the finished presentation files. Old versions don’t get deleted, just put in a sub-folder called X_old
  • 02_jpgall the ‘ready to import’ images after they’ve been cropped / resized / etc
  • 03_resourcestuff downloaded from the web before it’s been cropped / resized / etc
  • 04_from_clientstuff the client has sent over
  • 05_artPhotoshop and illustrator files, or any other ‘working’ file that’s used to produce files for the jpg folder

Using underscores is an old habit from the days when moving files between a Mac & a PC needed them, but as we move more and more to a world where all our content is stored in the cloud, it seems like a good habit to keep!


9. A library of images

This one took a long time to build up. Over the years, you get to see the same business issues occurring again and again across different industries at different times. I now have a ton of shapes & icons that i’ve drawn that can be re-used for any presentation I work on that cover these common themes. I’ve made them available for free on – they can be viewed and downloaded here:

horses for courses

10. PowerPoint / Prezi / Keynote

Some people are in one camp or the other – they prefer Keynote to Powerpoint, or Prezi to Keynote. I think it’s a real case of horses for courses. If it’s a big conference speech with a lot of video embedded, it would be Keynote every time because of the seamless way you can run Quicktime video in the slide. If it’s a pitch where there’s likely to be a Q&A, and the need to drill down into a topic, I’d go for Prezi to make use of the non-linear capabilities. If it’s an everyday internal presentation, with lots of data from charts and tables then without a doubt I’d use Powerpoint – it’s a very mature and feature rich product. Choose the right one for the job in hand and you can save yourself a lot of pain later on. Whichever you choose, all will suffer from badly designed content, so make sure you’ve thrashed it out with your pencil and post-it notes before you load up one of these babies.

This is just my top 10, if you have any time saving ideas that you’d like to share, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading, please share this post if you enjoyed it.

Images, analogies and other ‘gies’

Parents, before & after kids:

What’s your reaction to these photos? Amusement? Horror? Distastefulness? Annoyance? I’m sure everyone has a different reaction based on his or her own values and beliefs. I did think twice before posting these, because to a certain extent, they are distasteful, but they help me make my point.

If this was a speech or presentation and these were the slides I’d prepared, the point I’d be making is that being a parent is hard work – it takes its toll on you physically and mentally. Just in case my children ever read this, I’d then show you something else that helps illustrate the point that it’s more than worth it and it’s the best thing that can ever happen to you too ☺

The real point I want to make is the power of an analogy. In this case an analogous image. With a good image, you get the point in an instant, no need to think. In this case, “That’s funny, they look haggard and they’ve got babies, ergo, babies are hard work.” With a really good image it will do that on one level, but it can also do quite the opposite too. It stops you and makes you think – “If that’s the downside of parenting, what’s the upside?”. “Those are the faces from that drugs campaign – I wonder if any of them are parents? What sort of life are their children going to lead?” and so on and so forth.

So, when using an analogy / metaphor / simile, think about using an image to back up your words – it can add another subtle layer of depth to your presentation and hook your audience in deeper. Don’t get caught up in the detail of your analogy – if you scrutinise it too much, it will probably fall apart. If it makes the broad point quickly then go with it.

You do what for a living? But Powerpoint is rubbish!

Imagine you are a graphic designer and you’ve been to university and studied design for 3 or 4 years. You have a degree, a portfolio of extremely creative work and are looking to start your career as a graphic designer.

In broad terms, you will probably go and work for a media agency, try your hand at various forms of media until you find one that you enjoy and are good at. As with most professions, you will probably specialize and that’s what will give you the ‘edge’ in terms of career progression – particularly now, where your skills as a designer are inextricably intertwined with your skills as an art-worker and software operator.

Somewhere along the way, you may have been asked to create a PPT template to match the other print and new media that was being created. From this introduction you’ll probably have found it infuriating to use but eventually struggled through and finished the template. Because of this experience, chances are you are now ‘a Powerpoint snob’; i.e. you look down on it as an unworthy tool for untrained business people to use for creating DIY presentations. You would never sully your professional reputation by using such a crude and amateur piece of software again.

What you are forgetting is that what makes PPT crude and amateur in your view is also what makes it so powerful. It’s the ability to change everything and anything within PPT very quickly and with minimum fuss by anybody with a modicum of computer experience that makes it an ideal tool for today’s fast moving business world.

Not so long ago in about 1993 when I was still a rostrum cameraman, we made some slides for a pharmaceutical company for their annual sales conference. We had a week’s lead in time to create the slides, get them proofed, shot, processed, mounted and programmed into the slide projectors. As ever, we finished the job on time and it went out to the show for rehearsals which happened to be in Brighton (about an hour and a half’s drive from London.) During the rehearsal (the day before the show) the Finance Director noticed a mistake on one of the financial slides that would have to be corrected. So off set process of re-artworking the slide, re-shooting it, processing, mounting and getting it to Brighton. For one small change on one slide, it took a team of 3 people working into the late hours of the night to produce it, then a taxi to Brighton (and back) to get it delivered to the producer ready for the morning. I have no idea what this would have cost them, but a small fortune would be a good guess!
Needless to say, presentations were planned in advance and thought about for weeks before the presentation because of this lengthy and expensive process.

If you wanted to do this change today in PPT, it would take you a few seconds.

So there’s the power of PPT – anyone can change anything in an instant. But it is also it’s Achilles heel, because it has now bred a generation of presenters who are used to doing changes at the last minute often at the expense of thought and due diligence.

So, everyone uses it, but no-one can really use it. Not many business people can really use PPT well, and not many designers can or want to use PPT. Probably one of the most used business applications on the planet and only a handful of professionals using it anywhere near to the extent of its capabilities. Why am I writing this? I believe that most people can improve their Powerpoint skills by following a few simple rules and by learning a few shortcuts that will save them hours of work. They might not make it to be the ‘World’s Greatest Powerpoint Designer’ but they will gain a huge amount from very little effort. As part of, and as ‘Powerpoint professionals’ we’re going to share our knowledge and expertise to help those that want to be helped. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this in the coming months….