- Runaway sound files. By default, PowerPoint refuses
to embed sound files bigger than 100KB, it just remembers where to find
them (this is called linking). This has the practical result that your
sounds play just fine on your computer, but not when it actually matters.
To fix this in PowerPoint 2002/3 before inserting any
sounds, go to Tools > Options > General > Link sounds
with file size greater than ___ KB. This works a little differently
in PowerPoint 2007 or later. If you’ve already inserted all the
big sound files, resign yourself to doing it again after fixing that
- Colourblind audience? Colour is a powerful way
to communicate, but about 8% of men are colourblind (only 0.4% of women)
— so if you want complete comprehension
from an audience of more than 12 men, this matters. Red/green/brown
distinctions are the hardest, but strong saturation apparently helps
(pure and intense, not mixed with grey). Aim for redundant cues like
dark/light contrasts or shapes and dashed lines. Blue is safe, hence
the Facebook colour scheme.
what colour-deficient people see.
- Print is in your future. Taking the colour issue
a bit further, do your diagrams still make sense when printed in shades
of grey? This determines whether your handouts are independently useful
months after your talk, and it means time saved on adapting diagrams for
- Dark backgrounds? Light text on dark backgrounds
looks gorgeous, but it doesn’t print so well. There’s usually
an option to print in black and white, but look for it before you commit
to a template. In my experience the default text usually converts well,
but that stunning yellow you used for emphasis might get lost when
everything else obediently prints as black.
- Invest? A remote mouse/pointer is a good investment.
Some of them can be set to warn you that time’s up by vibrating.
- Presentation and/or handout? Presentations are nice
because you can point to things on the screen and you can keep working on
them till the last minute (which unfortunately just means more stress for
some people). Oh, and they’re free and pretty, but we’re
above all that, right? Handouts are nice because they help people to
follow more complex material, provide a concrete reminder of ideas that
people can cite later on, and reach out to people with schedule conflicts,
who will often show up later in search of such goodies. The ideal is
usually both, but see what applies to your situation.
- Trim the handout? It might seem like a good idea
to cut costs by printing only the important slides, but in practice
it’s better if the handout contains the whole presentation, even
contentless outline slides. Exact matching helps the audience to follow
along during your presentation and to ask questions about specific
slides. The alternative is to make the handout very obviously different
from the presentation, but people will often wish you’d printed
bits you never expected anyone to want.
- 4-to-1 printing (or 2-to-1, or 9-to-1).
You get vast expanses of empty space when you try to print four slides
to a page in PowerPoint, and most other programs don’t get it quite
right either. Print from
Foxit PDF reader to control exactly what percentage to shrink/expand to.
(Strangely, in some versions you have to click Auto Rotate off and on
before you can start manually rotating, and clockwise rotating works
while anticlockwise doesn’t.) Incidentally, many programs print
the slides vertically from right to left, rather like traditional
Chinese. This can be fixed by changing enough page orientation settings
from portrait to landscape.