Presenting software/website usage; Issue #269 September 4, 2012

Presentation Tip: Presenting software/website usage

Have you seen a presenter attempt a live demonstration of software or a website? Too often the demo goes wrong, with the software locking up or the Internet connection not working. Even large companies like Microsoft and Apple have these problems happen to them. Instead of live demos, I suggest you use screen captures, which are more reliable and can be more helpful to your audience.

When using screen captures, make sure that you get the best capture you can so it is as clear as possible for the audience. Use a high resolution monitor and make the browser or program window as large as you can. Consider using a zoom feature in the program or browser to make the screen image larger if it will not distort the image.

When taking the screen capture, use the built-in features of the operating system, or use a program to capture the image. In Windows, there are two ways to copy a screen image to the Windows clipboard, which can then be pasted on a slide like any other image. If you press the Print Screen key on your keyboard, it will capture the entire screen, including the toolbars at the bottom and all programs that are open. If you want to capture only the active application, hold the Alt key while pressing the Print Screen key. On a Mac, you can capture the whole screen using Command+Control+Shift+3. Using Command+Control+Shift+4 on a Mac allows you to draw a rectangle around the area you want to capture. Windows has the Snipping Tool program that allows you to draw a rectangle around an area of the screen, or my preferred program is SnagIt by TechSmith, which allows many other options as well. If you are taking a screen shot of a website, use the full-screen mode of the browser to get a cleaner screen capture (the F11 key toggles this mode in some browsers, such as IE and Chrome).

We are now being asked to include screen shots from mobile devices in our presentations, so we need to know how to get a screen capture from our mobile device. In general, the device saves the screen capture as a photo on the device that you can then move to your computer and insert it as you would for any other photo. On an iOS device such as an iPhone or iPad, press the Home button and the Power button together to capture the current screen. On an Android device, it depends on what version of the operating system you have and whether the manufacturer has added a shortcut or app to take screen shots. Starting in version 4.0, you can press the Volume Down and Power buttons together to take a screen capture. Older versions have different methods. Blackberry 7.0 devices require a screen capture app, and there are free ones available in the app store.

Once you have the screen capture on your slide, make it as large as you can so it is easy to see. Crop out parts if you need to. You should also add a callout so the audience knows what part of the screen capture they should focus on. Since you don’t have a lot of room on the slide with a large screen capture image, I have found that the built-in callout tools in PowerPoint work quite well. The two that I use most often are the Rectangular Callout and the Rounded Rectangular Callout. Move the yellow diamond handle so that the callout points to the correct spot on the image. To make the callout easy to see, set the outline color and the fill color to have contrast. I have found a dark grey background and a white outline works well if the image is darker. I also make the background semi-transparent so that the screen capture can still be seen under the callout shape.

When presenting the slide, I suggest you use build animation to have each callout come on one at a time. You want to first show the entire screen capture in order to give the audience context. They need to recognize what you are showing them. Then, have the callout come on and explain why that area of the screen capture is a part they should focus on. Repeat this step for any other callouts you have on this slide. You can use the Appear animation effect or a fast Fade effect to bring the callouts on the slide.

If you are presenting a screen capture and need to zoom in on one portion of the image, I suggest that you use the following sequence. First, show the entire screen capture to give context. Next, indicate the area you will be focusing on with a rectangular callout shape. Finally, bring on a large image of the section you want to focus on. If you outline the large section image with a black outline it will stand out on top of the screen capture below. I like leaving the screen capture underneath to keep context for the audience.

While it may be exciting to risk a live software or website demonstration in your presentation, it is uncomfortable for the audience when things go wrong. Use screen captures and the tips in this article to give your presentation a better chance of being successful.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don't overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.