(This is an update of an older article.)
There are countless places where you can find advice on how to make presentations look nice, appealing, convincing, and so forth. Though these are all valid concerns, my experience with students and colleagues is that they also often simply need help in the practicalities of using their presentation software. Briefly said, how do you use Keynote and PowerPoint effectively? What are some essential tips to make the life of a presenter less aggravating?
So, here are a few practical tips to make it happen.
Learning and practicing these tips should take you less than two hours but it will pay huge dividends.
Since most presentations are done using another monitor or a projector, I would advise you to practice the following suggestions with another monitor connected to your computer. Some of the features I will mention are hard or impossible to use on just one computer.
Use Notes on Your Slides not on Pieces of Paper
Most of the time our students are not allowed to use notes during their presentations. Don’t panic. You can add notes to your slides that you, and only you, can see as you talk. To add notes to your slides:
In Keynote, go to View > Show presenter notes and types your notes there (see here or on this video.
In PowerPoint View > Normal or click on Notes at the bottom right and type notes under the slides (it says “Click to add notes”). Read this on MSoft support
Use the Presenter Mode/View
Once you have learned how to add notes to your slides, use the presenter mode (or presenter view in PowerPoint). As you do, you will be able to see your current and following slides, your notes and a few other things on your computer monitor but your audience will not see them, they will only see your slides (assuming you use another monitor or a projector).
In Keynote Play > In window and click on the symbol at the upper right to see all your slides and notes
In PowerPoint View > Presenter view or click on the Presenter view icon. See this on MSoft support or in this video.
Use Play in Window (Keynote) or Reading View (PowerPoint)
This, in my opinion, is a must. Don’t use the full-screen mode, use play in window or reading view. Play in window will let you show only your slides on line or on your screen without menus bars, etc. and also use other programs at the same time. I use this all the time. I almost never use the fullscreen mode.
In PowerPoint View > Reading view or click on the Reading view icon. (play around with the view modes by the way. You can set this up by defaut in Play>Set up slide>Browse by an individual as shown in this video.
Use a Remote Control
You don’t need to be tied to your computer to go through your slides. Just buy a remote control (I have used this Logitech gizmo for years).
Alternatively, another solution, if you use Keynote (I have not tried it with PowerPoint) is to use your iPhone as a remote control. It works great too. To do this, turn Bluetooth on your phone and computer, open Keynote on your phone and click on the phone icon on the upper right. Then go to Settings in Keynote your Mac, click on Remote and select your phone. You can also control your presentation with an Apple watch. But I haven’t tried that either.
Download your Videos!
Nothing worse when trying to show a video than losing your connection or having a video issue during a presentation (well, there are worse things in life but you get the point). Download the videos you need and either put a local link on your slide or integrate the video in your presentation. If really, you do not want to download your video, at least log off from your Vimeo or YouTube profile before your audience gets a hint of your video-watching habits. You might also clean up your browser history so we don’t see it. Might be embarrassing sometimes. See my article on this for more explanations.
Learn about mirroring
If you use two monitors or a projector, you need to learn about mirroring.
This way your audience won’t see what you see on your computer.
Use Rehearse Slideshow
Learn to use the Rehearse slideshow and the other choices under
Learn your program shortcuts
Keynote Play >In window and click on the question mark symbol at the upper right
For example, if at some point during your presentation, you want your audience to look at you and not be distracted by a slide, in Keynote just hit w or b. You don’t have to create a blank slide. Then hit it again and you are back to your slides.
Learn about mirroring
If you use two monitors or a projector, you need to learn about mirroring. Mirroring means that you see the same things on your computer and on the board or screen your audience sees. Usually you don’t want that so that you see the presenter view and your audience the slides.This way your audience won’t see what you see on your computer.
Useful links and resources
Presentation secrets of Steve Jobs (pdf) – Tips and Tricks used by Steve Jobs.
TedX speaker guide (pdf) – guide for Ted Talks speakers
Duarte.com (url) – site of the author of Slide:ology, a hugely popular book on presentation design. Explore the site.
Presentation Zen (url) – A classic visual design approach for presentations with lots of useful stuff.
PowerPoint Storytelling: How McKinsey, Bain and BCG create compelling presentations A nice video on storytelling and the Pyramid principle and the SCQA (Situation, Complication, Question, Answer) method often used in business settings.
5 Small Changes to Improve Your Presentations Forever! 5 easy ways to improve your presentations by Jess Su.
Public speaking is not public reading – something I wrote several years ago.