Digital signage and PowerPoint

What is digital signage? The broadest definition is digital signage consists of any size screen displaying any type of content for any reason. More specifically then, those screens that you have noticed popping up everywhere – at bus stops, on the Underground, in restaurants, offices and shopping centres – these are all examples of digital signage which is being utilised to share information with you, entertain you or (of course) sell things to you.

Digital signage is becoming increasingly popular because it engages its audience more than traditional static signage which can only display one message at a time. It can contain an ever-changing mix of visually striking images and videos and has the capacity to be updated or refreshed in order to keep the content current and relevant – a good example of this being live weather or flight information. What is being displayed can change as often as the content creator would like.

The market is growing rapidly as it is now widely used by many industries. Perhaps the most effective and creative users tend to be retailers who use it in their shop window displays or to promote special offers. But, museums, stadiums, hotels, restaurants, schools, colleges, universities, local councils, hospitals, GP surgeries and corporate buildings are using digital signage too for staff communications and information for guests or visitors. Third generation digital signage is interactive digital signage – which allows end users to interact with digital content via touchscreens, body sensors or QR codes on smartphones and tablets.

So, you’ve decided you want to create some signage of your own but don’t know where to start? A quick and easy way to create digital signage is… here’s the big reveal… drum roll please… using PowerPoint! You can do this on your own PC or, even better, let the Presented team create an amazing presentation for you.

We link up with our friends at Presentation Point for their amazing Add-In “Data Point”, which can link to any RSS feed, database, excel file – for live updates to your digital screens, all from PowerPoint.

For more information on how we can help you create impactful signage in PowerPoint please contact the Presented team.

Visual learning and PowerPoint presentations

Should you consider visual learning when putting your presentations together? We think so.

Most businesses stick to established conventions, when creating PowerPoint presentations, such as: bulleted lists, headers on every slide, lots and lots of words, strict reliance on house style, a template and the company logo on every slide. Whilst house style is important to strengthen brand identity it is possible to create more visual and hence more memorable presentations by stripping out the unnecessary. Remove all slide clutter (e.g. objects, logos, text) which does not contribute to your message. Focus on what is essential on each slide and add more slides with smaller chunks of information on them – this will make the presentation easier to follow and digest. Slide count does not change the length of your talk so don’t be afraid to add slides.

The cardinal rule of presentation design

Stick to one distinct idea on any one slide. If you feel compelled to put more than one idea on a slide, don’t. Instead, to reiterate an important concept, split up your ideas onto more slides containing smaller, simpler chunks of information. That way your presentation will be easier to remember. Starting at the beginning, for example, on an introductory slide, simplify the message by focusing on the title without lots of other detail:

Badly designed PowerPoint coverr  Visual learning presentation cover

Visual learning and recall

If you find you are making bulleted lists you might consider pulling out each bullet onto its own slide, each with a supporting image or graphic. Why? It’s been shown that people have 6x better recall when both verbal and visual channels are used together AND spatial contiguity proves that learning improves when words are placed near relevant pictures. In other words, using images or graphics to support your text prompts learning.

What visuals should you use?

Do not ever use ClipArt, ever. It is as simple as that. It is outdated and obtrusive. Besides, with so many better alternatives available there is (really) no need for it. You could use a high-quality image to support your message and bring a real sense of meaning to a slide. There are many free (or reasonably priced) image databases online, such as Death to the Stock Photo, Freepik and Pixabay. With so many images available you should easily be able to find a creative one which fits with your message:

Badly designed dog slide  Well designed dog slide

If you wish to highlight numbers, as well as using charts and graphs you can also use typography as a visual aid. (Word to the wise, as with ClipArt, do not ever use WordArt.) If you really want your text to stand out, use a good font and make your text LARGE and legible – give it some POW to make it memorable. Another benefit of using large text is that it ensures that your message is kept short. It’s best not to use large text throughout a whole presentation, as this isn’t overly engaging for the audience, although it is still clean and simple way to present your information.

Does your presentation tell a story? Then make it more visual with slide transitions and animations. People naturally look at things that move – so highlight your key messages with simple animations and triggers.

Obviously, how you visualize your presentation will depend on how it is going to be delivered. If you are presenting in front of a live audience you don’t need much text, so your slides will be a visual reinforcement to your verbal content. Your online or printed deck might need more text, or even extra slides to fill in the detail for your audience.

The human brain is at its most effective when it processes information simultaneously through both verbal and visual learning so for a truly memorable presentation use diagrams, photos, flow charts, illustrations – any kind of image that will support your slide’s message while you speak.

When and how to use animation in PowerPoint

Animation in PowerPoint

The old adage ‘less is more’ could definitely be applied to the use of PowerPoint animation. Using a lot of different animations can distract from your overall message and make your presentation looks amateurish and messy. Used well, and this can mean adding some complex animations (and triggers, more on those later), it can draw attention to your key points, look really nifty and leave a lasting impression on your audience.

Before you begin

Before you start adding animations it is best to make sure the content of your presentation is finalised. Once animation is added it becomes harder to make changes. A useful tip is to add text directly to shapes where possible instead of adding textboxes on top of shapes – this makes animation easier as you are working with shapes and not groups.

With your content in place you should start by opening the Animation Pane. You will find this in the Animations tab. Within this pane you will see all of your animations in the order they will play.

If you are adding a lot of animations to a slide, go the Selection Pane (on the Home tab, go to the far right and click on the Select dropdown menu, click on Selection Pane) and rename the objects you are going to animate (these names will then also appear on the shapes in the Animation Pane) – this will make it easier to animate in sequence and a lot easier for anyone else who works on the presentation later to see what’s going on behind the scenes.

Which animations look good?

As a rule, we tend to stick to simpler, cleaner PowerPoint animation such as Fade, Fly In/Out, Wipe In/Out and Appear/Disappear. We also try to avoid having to click through the animations by setting them to appear either With Previous or After Previous.

Remember, people watch what moves. They notice what is different. Make sure what you are saying matches watch you are showing with an animation. You want the flow of animation to match the flow of what you are saying.

Applying multiple animations to one object

Instead of using the animations ribbon to apply animations in the Animations tab, make a habit of using the Add Animation button instead – otherwise any animation you have previously applied to an object will be overwritten.

Animation Painter

To easily copy animations from one object to another, use the Animation Painter in the Animations tab. This works in the same was as the Format Painter and will bring over all of the animation effects and timings.

Triggers

The clue is in the name! A trigger makes something happen. For example, if you want additional text to be hidden on your slide until you click an object – you can create a trigger to do this. Some examples of how triggers can be used can be seen in this short video:

Using transitions to animate

Transitions can create the illusion of animations. The Push transition (set to come in from the right) can create the effect of a timeline, as shown in this video.

In the right hands the Morph transition can mimic sophisticated animations, you can see this in action here.

When not to use PowerPoint animation

The key here is not to use animation if it is going to distract from your message. Avoid using animation for presentations used in webinars – because the slides and visuals are streamed to all members at once including members whose internet connections may not be fast or stable meaning the animations lag or do not play at all.

How to master using slide masters

slide masters

Slide masters are good for you! For those of you who are learning about PowerPoint slide masters for the first time, a master acts as a style sheet for setting common or uniform elements on all slides in a presentation. You might wonder how a slide master is different to a slide layout? Put simply, slide layouts are different style variants of a slide master.

Why use slide masters?

Setting up template masters correctly will make creating house style presentations much simpler. You’ll get consistent looking slides, your formatting speed will increase, you’ll save time for other (more) important work. If you’ve ever wasted time trying to get one slide looking more like another, for example when pasting in slides from other decks – then it will really help to understand masters.

The “Reset” button is an awesome tool. When your slides are correctly supported by slide master and layouts – you’ll be able to reformat at entire slide with just one click. It’s our best friend.

How to set up a Slide Master:

To access slide masters, go to the View tab and click Slide Master. The top master is the grand master, you need to scroll to the top of the list of layouts on the left to get to it.

Do as much style setting as you can on the top master as this will feed through to all other layouts automatically.

What to set up on the top master

What are the most common elements you use on a slide? Use these to format your top master.

Use your company house style to create bullet styles (choose the bullet hierarchy), fonts, colours and layout of footers.  Change the theme, background, or colour scheme.

Click Format Background at the bottom of the Background Styles list to open the Format pane and choose from background options, such as advanced fill settings, artistic effects, and colour and image settings.

To change all of the fonts in your presentation at once go to the top of the Slide Master pane, click the slide master. In the Background group on the Slide Master tab, click and select a font from the list.

To edit placeholders in the grand master slide, click Master Layout. To show or hide the title, text, date, slide numbers, or footer placeholders on the slide master, select or clear the check boxes to show or hide the placeholders.

Some more tips

  • Do not to delete footer, page number and date from the top master – but do format them and switch them off in other layouts if they aren’t needed.
  • Avoid using subheading styles within main bullet hierarchy:  additional text boxes on layouts is preferable.
  • Use the “Hide Background graphics” option in the ribbon to turn off the graphics from the top master in a layout.
  • Use a fixed text box for any permanent footer (e.g Private & Confidential), but use the footer placeholder for editable text (e.g. Presentation Title).
  • You can either delete or leave in any layouts you think you won’t need – at a later date they might come in handy.

Mastering slide masters is easy when you know how!

Which PowerPoint font should you use?

screen displaying various fonts

There are thousands of weird and wonderful fonts available, but when answering the question of which PowerPoint font should you use for your presentation it is vital that you take into consideration where it will be viewed. For example, if your audience is in-house only and all of your team/company have your house style fonts installed on their machines then there isn’t a problem with using them (just so long as everyone has them installed that is…). However, if your house style fonts are non-standard PowerPoint fonts and the presentation is going to be viewed externally or on any machine which does not have the font installed – that’s where you could have a nasty problem.

Why is this a problem?

If your chosen PowerPoint font is non-standard and the computer used to view the presentation doesn’t have this font installed, PowerPoint will automatically substitute in a standard font (e.g. Calibri) instead. This can make the presentation look very different (for example, text may wrap in odd places or fall off the slide altogether) and no one wants that.

What’s the solution?

Happily, you don’t need to be a font geek to fix this, there are a few simple ways to stop it from happening!

  • You could only use the PowerPoint on machines that have the correct font installed. But, this may not be possible if you are sending the presentation out to clients or if it is being used at a conference or other meeting where it will be loaded onto a non-company machine which does not have your font installed.
  • There is the option to embed a non-standard font into the PowerPoint itself. This option is limited though because it this only works for .TTF* fonts (not .OTF* fonts) and it doesn’t work at all when presentations are viewed on a Mac.
  • If you are 100% sure that your presentation is finalised you can save it as a PDF before distribution. But, again, there is a downside to this. Although fonts are embedded automatically in PDFs, suddenly your presentation will be a lot harder to edit and any nifty animations you have added will be lost.
  • You could replace the font with images of the text. Yes, this will look the same, but again you have now made your presentation a lot harder to edit in the future.
  • The most effective solution is to replace the font with a standard (safe) PowerPoint font (e.g. Arial, Century Gothic, Calibri) instead. You can choose the font which is the closest match in terms of your house style font for a similar look and feel. The downside to this is if your house style font is particularly quirky you may not be able to find a suitable equivalent. In this case you can refer to the above options.

What is a standard PowerPoint font?

We have already mentioned Arial, Century Gothic and Calibri – there are more to choose from. Other fonts that are safe to use cross-platform are Times New Roman, Times, Verdana, Courier and Courier New – to name just a few. You can find more listed here: http://presentit.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/fonts.html.  Something else you should bear in mind is that the safe fonts list also depends on which version of Windows is being used – make sure your font is safe in all versions if your presentation is going to be widely distributed.

*What are .TTF and .OTF fonts?

TrueType Fonts (.TTF) came first and were designed to work with on both PCs and Macs. OpenType Fonts (.OTF) were developed later to work in Adobe and Microsoft packages. The main difference between .OTF and .TTF is in the advanced typesetting features which .OTF offers. There are some extra frills such as ligatures and ‘alternate characters’ (also known as glyphs) available, that give designers more options to work with.

Further information

There are a number of webpages that will talk you through all of this in more detail:

https://support.microsoft.com/en-gb/help/826832/how-to-embed-fonts-in-powerpoint

http://www.differencebetween.net/technology/difference-between-ttf-and-otf/

https://thepresentationdesigner.co.uk/5-classic-presentation-fonts/

With font selection it is better to go with a safe option.