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Photos work better in PowerPoint with custom shaping

Custom Shape Photos in PowerPoint

One of the best things you can do for your business presentations is replace your words with images. And PowerPoint has some very simple to use tools to improve the way these photos or images look. Custom Shaping is one way of creating impact with just a few clicks of your mouse.

You want to focus your audience’s attention and custom shaping images is an easy way to create a point of interest in a business presentation. So how does it work? Just open PowerPoint follow these four steps.

1. Select the image/photo to include in your presentation
2. Click on the ‘Format’ tab
3. Click ‘Crop’ and then ‘Mask Shape’
4. Choose the shape that best suits your image and presentation

Good luck!


Business email in Australia: $89 Billion dollars and counting!

Reading and writing emails

We all spend too much time on email at work. The cost of this time in salaries alone is simply stunning. I was inspired by a chart at Contatta.com that showed the cost for the USA is over US$1.7 Trillion pa. So I crunched some numbers for Australia.  Looking at average weekly earnings, the estimated 28% of time we spend on reading, writing or responding to email and some ballpark estimates on the number of business email users results in a total of  salary cost of AUD$89 billion pa. And this may even be on the low side of the true number.

So what to do about it in 2015.

Email is not going away any time soon and there are times where it can be a productive, effective communication tool. Yet too often it is a time wasting, energy sapping sink hole. So let’s all try to use email a little more effectively this year. Fewer CC’s, maybe talking to someone rather than emailing and best of all sometimes just not sending more emails around. For some insights on how you can share track and trace content with effective presentations have a look at Present Us and ask for a demo.

There is $89 billion of savings out there, a small effort to use email more effectively can help save a lot of time and money.

How to avoid rebuilding PowerPoints

Powerpoint problem solved

Have you ever tried to put an important business presentation together by combining slides from two or more decks? Did you end up with multiple presentations open, run out of room on your screen, get confused with which slide was going into what pack and think that there has got to be a better way?  Well the short answer is, YES there is a better way!

Here is a great 15 minute video from Microsoft’s Help and How To team that shows some simple tips to make merging content simple. Click on the “New Slides” button in the ribbon and select "Reuse Slides ..." option at the bottom of the list. This opens up a pane that allows you to select any presentation on your PC or share drive and then you can select the slides you want. Much simpler than opening up multiple presentations.

This video also has some good tips on using “Custom View” to select subsets of slides from a larger presentation. This allows you to select the slides you want to show without having to create a new version of the presentation. Simple, neat and easy to use.

Just a couple of simple tricks to make life on PowerPoint a little easier.

Stop wasting time on PowerPoint, get your script right first!


You have been asked to put together a presentation for an important company meeting, so what is your first step? Open PowerPoint and start collecting slides from previous presentations to save time? Or sit down and prepare a script?

Surprisingly the second approach can be both more efficient and lead to better presentations. Think about any good TV show or movie you have watched recently. The story unfolded in front of you; a beginning, a middle and an end. Your interest was maintained and you learned more about the story as you watched. If only business presentations could be that way.

One key reason that the movie or box set TV program worked for you was the fact they had a script developed before they started shooting. Rather than just rolling the cameras there was a plan in place on how the story was going to unfold.

The same lesson can be applied to the way we produce business presentations. Identify who the audience is, what are the key points you want them to walk away with, what is the supporting material that will help that outcome? By taking a short amount of time to plan what you want to achieve you are in a position to create a “story” that will take your audience on a journey. While maybe not as entertaining as a "Game of Thrones" box set it is bound to be better than a "grab bag" of slides that have been thrown together where the message is determined by which slides are available, rather than the story you want to tell.

What will people remember from your PowerPoint Presentation?

Think about your last PowerPoint presentation, now think about how many slides your audience actually remembered? Do you think it was more than 20% of your content?
 If it was a text only presentation with 20 slides, the data indicates only 4 slides can be remembered. The study by Dr Carmen Simon was reported by Brainshark. Making content look too similar makes it difficult for messages to stand out.
Some of the other key findings were
1.    Participants remembered an average of 4 slides from a 20-slide, standalone, text-only PowerPoint presentation.
2.    There was a statistically significant difference between the recall of content in text-only slides versus slides that contained text and neutral visuals. However, the recall rate did not exceed 4 slides in any of the 26 PowerPoint deck manipulations.
3.    People tended to remember similar slides (not random slides, as predicted), which may suggest that there is hope in being able to control not only how much people remember, but what they remember.  
4.    However, when a change was made every 5th position (i.e., slides 5, 10, 15, and 20), those slides tended to be remembered better than any other randomly selected slides from that deck. The reverse was true for slides changed in every 3rd and 4th position.
To get more detail watch a recording of the webinar.

Great Animations for PowerPoint and they are FREE!

watching powerpoint on tablets and smartphone

Ever suffered from PowerPoint jealousy? Seen a presentation that had some great effects and wished you could make your pack look better? Well here is a secret tip to making better presentations. A treasure trove of animations that will help attract your audience’s attention and get them focused on your message.

We all know content is king and you need to have your key messages defined etc. but a few interesting animations just may be the trick to cut through to your target audience. Once you have their attention it is all up to you.

The Customer Community team at Brainshark have re-released its collection of PowerPoint Animations. These cover Agendas, Calendars, Charts and Graphs, Clocks, Icons, Maps, Visuals and more. Watch the Brainshark presentation to see what they look like and then download the PowerPoint template from the attachment tab. You can then incorporate these into your next Business Sales Presentation, Internal Training or Marketing communication.

If you want to know more about how you can get your presentations out to a wider audience and track who is watching and when why not book a free demonstration from Present Us. Register your details here and we will be in touch.

Prevent Conference Call Trauma

Have you ever been on a conference call when someone put their phone on hold? Have you had to put up with a participant calling in as their barista steams out their coffee, background noise drowning out any possible conversation? I am sure most of us have some conference call trauma that has wasted our time and others.

It does not have to be that way. With some simple training and agreement on etiquette organisations can have productive conference calls when needed. PepsiCo in the US worked with Brainshark to produce a training presentation on this topic. 

It provides an amusing array of some of the behaviours you may have seen on some of the conference calls you have been on.

Maybe there is an option to avoid the meeting all together. As discussed in my previous post, Brainshark presentations can help reduce the number of meetings a company needs to hold.  With Brainshark you can send a presentation with documents, photos, videos or just simply a PowerPoint and provide full voice over as well. Collect feedback from participants with poll or survey questions and allow your team to fit this into their work day at a time that suits them, compared to turning up at an arbitrary meeting time. It may seem a bit different but with voiceover and presentation content packaged up, Brainshark can cover many of the reasons why people used to go to meetings. If you want to know more register here for a free demonstration.

Do you suffer Mindless Accept Syndrome?

Man accepting meeting

Our working lives can be severely disrupted by outbreaks of Mindless Accept Syndrome (MAS). Office workers in large organisations are thought to be at severe risk. As identified by  David Grady in this TED talk, MAS occurs when hard working staff automatically accept meeting invitations, without agendas, without clarity of purpose, without knowing why they have been selected to attend and not knowing what they are expected to contribute nor to achieve.

The good news is that there are treatments for MAS.


Simply applying the “Tentative” response on meeting invitations that are not clear is the first step. Then seeking, respectfully, to clarify with the organiser what the meeting is about and what your role is will help identify where your limited time each day should be applied. As David Grady points out, by changing our behaviour, over time, we can influence the behaviour of others. And with diligent application of these treatments organisations should see a reduction in outbreaks of MAS.

Anther options to minimise MAS is to consider not having a meeting at all. With Brainshark you can send a presentation with documents, photos, videos or just simply a PowerPoint and provide full voice over as well. Collect feedback from participants with poll or survey questions and allow your team to fit this into their work day at a time that suits them, compared to turning up at an arbitrary meeting time. It may seem a bit unusual but with voiceover and presentation content packaged up, Brainshark can cover many of the reasons why people used to go to meetings. If you want to know more register here for a free demonstration.

Use images in PowerPoint to sell your message

Pictures paint a thousand words

As everyone knows a picture paints a thousand words, so why not use them to tell your story in PowerPoint. Put away those bullet points and let the picture tell your story. Here are some tips and tricks from some experts that can help make you look like a professional.

Having a full screen image rather than a small photo. Presentation Studios have some great tips on this. They also show how to avoid stretching an image so the aspect ratio makes people impossibly thin or too short and squat.

Aspect Ratio wrong
Paula Crerar of Brainshark shows 3 Tips on using the Picture Tool to reformat images in PowerPoint. Have a look here. One of my favourites is how to use small photos that are too grainy to blow up to full screen

Image too small

And if you want an example of how an image can be more powerful than a collection of words just look at this “Before and After” from Presentation Studio showing “Why Contamination is so bad?”

So ditch the bullet points and use some images to get your point across. If you want a free demonstration on how Present Us can improve your Business Presentations with Brainshark, register here today.