PowerPoint Tip: Creating a customized Excel presentation

Recently a presenter called who wanted to know if PowerPoint could accept inputs and do calculations while in Slide Show mode. While this is far beyond the capabilities of PowerPoint, I was able to help with an idea that I want to share with you today. If you are doing a presentation where you want to enter inputs, such as financial figures, and show the audience the result of calculations in real-time and possibly as a graph, this technique will enable you to do so.

It leverages PowerPoint’s ability to hyperlink to another file type and have that file open in the proper program. In this case we will use Excel and have it function almost like it is PowerPoint, hence the title of this tip being an Excel presentation. Here’s how this works.

First, set up an Excel spreadsheet that has the inputs at the top of the sheet. Format the sheet so the font is large enough to see when projected, usually at least 18 or 20 point. If you want to show the result of calculations, enter those formulas so that the results are shown. If you want to perform some calculations and not have them seen, place those in cells a few pages down the sheet. If you want to show graphs of the calculated results, create each graph on a separate worksheet. Save this file to your computer.

Next, create your PowerPoint presentation as follows. Start with some introductory slides that explain the topic. Include that you want to show the audience the results live and give them any background information they need to know in order to help you determine the inputs for the calculations. You may also need to explain how the calculations are done if that is relevant. After these slides, create a slide that has a hyperlink to the Excel spreadsheet file you have set up. If you want to be able to access the spreadsheet from any slide, put the hyperlink on the Slide Master.

During your presentation, you will go through the explanations and arrive at the slide where you are ready to work with the inputs that the audience has helped create. Activate the hyperlink to open the Excel spreadsheet from within PowerPoint. Use Excel as you normally would, showing the effect of changing the inputs and how the results change based on the calculations. Switch to each of the graph worksheets to show the results visually. When you are done, you can save the spreadsheet and it is now ready to be e-mailed to the audience after the presentation if necessary. Exit Excel and you are back in your presentation in PowerPoint ready to continue delivering the rest of your message.

By using this technique, you effectively engage the audience, you customize any examples specifically for this group, they immediately see the results numerically and visually and you have a customized set of calculated results ready to send them when you are done. I can see this being used for presentations on investment planning, budgeting and what-if or scenario analysis. Use the power of hyperlinking to Excel from a PowerPoint slide to allow you to essentially use Excel as a presentation tool. If you want to learn more details on hyperlinking in PowerPoint, check out the training video here.