Issue #175 December 23 2008

PowerPoint Tip: Where to get inspiration for slides

We are about to celebrate Christmas at our house and many of you are celebrating this or other special occasions at your home during the holidays. One of the best loved parts of this time of year for our family is the light and holiday displays seen at so many houses and parks. We make it a tradition to drive down one particular road Christmas Eve on our way back from my parents’ house because of the great displays they have. What do holiday lights have to do with your presentations? More than you may initially think. You see, holiday displays and your presentations both need to have visual appeal, and we can learn from some of what we observe at this time of year and, in fact, any time we see visual artists at work, whether it is outdoors, in the theatre or in a studio. One idea from a holiday display we saw this weekend is how to simulate movement of an object on a slide. The light display was one where it used a series of lights to show a person moving from one spot to another. There are four different sets of lights and they turn on and off in sequence so it looks like the person is moving in a certain direction. You can adapt this idea to show movement of any object on a slide. You can draw the object once, then copy it and place it in a sequence of spots on the slide. Then, using appear and disappear animation effects with timing, you can make it look like the object is moving without a huge investment in creating a video. For example, you could use this technique to show a part moving from one spot in the production process to another spot for the next step in assembly. I used an idea from the musical Wicked this summer to create a new slide in my presentation. There is a scene in the musical on Broadway that simulates rain by using small lights moving vertically on the background of the set. It gave me the idea that I could simulate rain by using white lines moving vertically on top of a darkened picture. So I spent about an hour creating a slide that looks like a movie, but demonstrates to my workshop audiences that you can use the built-in animation techniques in PowerPoint to create visuals that will connect powerfully with your audience. The initial investment of time has been leveraged by using that slide in many different presentations this year. So during this holiday season and all year round, look at the work of lighting and visual artists in a new way. Let their talent and creativity inspire your ideas of how you can create powerful visuals for your audiences.