Category Archives: PowerPoint

Globalization of the Halal Market

Dr. Angelo Camillo presented this at Woodbury’s weekly colloquium.

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PowerPoint Disciplinary Differences – Woodbury Faculty Research Presentation

Embedded below are the results of my faculty presentation this afternoon.  We had a good audience, with a lot of participation.  I’m currently finishing up this as a journal article.

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How to create a custom color scheme

I’ve been recommending Kuler for a while now.  It’s a great way to build a custom color theme for PowerPoint presentations. However, getting those colors into PowerPoint has always been a bit tricky.

Fortunately, Bruce Gabrielle has put together a very simple step-by-step explanation of how to setup a theme.

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Presentation at eLearn:

I’m at eLearn 2012 this week doing a presentation on my PowerPoint research.

Here is an abstract of the presentation, the slides, and a downloadable pre-print of the paper.

Abstract. How can we best use PowerPoint?  Three streams of research provide answers: (1) surveys provide student and faculty perceptions, (2) expert presenters give their opinion, and (3) cognitive scientists conduct focused perceptual experiments.  I expand on this research by testing existing research findings against actual conference presentations. My C# software automatically analyzes 166 slide presentations to generate numeric slide characteristics.  A regression analysis then correlates these characteristics with audience ratings and social media impact.  The results generally support existing research, but have two surprising outcomes: (1) only certain types of images generate positive session ratings, (2) high words counts lead to improved social media impact.
PDF Download: PowerPoint’s Impact on Conference Ratings and Social Media Likes

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PowerPoint is a tool

Is PowerPoint a neutral tool or a negative influence on presentations? Authors like Tufte have called it many things, but one response is below.

This makes some good points about slides being a tool that can be used well or poorly, but is a bit simplistic. PowerPoint software has an impact on how people present. As the saying going, “the medium is the message.” Authors who say that PowerPoint has crippled our ability to speak have forgotten the ability of truly bad presenters to put an audience to sleep in any decade.
So what do we do? Presenters like Duarte and Reynolds have suggested that presenters should plan a presentation first, and only at the end put together their slides. Does using PowerPoint as a drafting tool reduces quality?
I don’t think so. I find using PowerPoint as a drafting tool, as opposed to index cards, a Word document, or a lined paper pad, to be a great way to get started. My first goal is always to get something down on the page; I hate the empty screen.
The major problem I think people have is that they don’t spend enough time revising. Most of writing is re-writing. Most of presenting preparation is thinking, changing, and cutting.
The most helpful advice that I’ve found for students is that they need to figure out the following:
  1. What is the goal of the presentation? Don’t use the word “describe…” A good thesis argues for something, has a point of view, and asks the audience to change their mind about something.
  2. What is the goal of each slide? Each slide should have a single thought. Just as a paragraph should be about one thing, each slide should be able to reduce to a single sentence. A good best practice is to state the topic in the title. Rather than saying “Office product description,” write “Microsoft’s Aging Cash Cow.”
Presentation gurus shouldn’t tell people to avoid writing their presentations in PowerPoint. That’s like telling a student not to start writing their paper in Word. Instead, we need to focus on helping them move quickly into a revision stage.
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Don McMillan – Life after Death

Don has a number of funny videos on Powerpoint.  His DVD is available for sale, but you can get a pretty good sample through the YouTube clips below.



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Add shadows to text in PowerPoint to improve image visibility on top of an image

Using an image as the background of a slide can add a lot of interest, but can have negative effects on an audience’s ability to read the words.  The example slide below shows how “text glow” shadows can make it easier to read.

The title uses no glow, the 1st bullet uses a 1 pixel border, and the 2nd and 3rd bullet points use progressively more aggressive border styles.

In a Mac, you can add this by selecting the text, and going to the Format menu, and selecting the Font option.

Then, choose the”Text Glow & Soft Edges” option.  From here, you can set the color, thickness, and transparency.  A high transparency value increases the background bleeding through the glow.

In a PC, right-click on text, and choose “Format Text Effects.”

Then, in the following menu,go to “Glow and Soft Edges” and add a color, size, and set the transparency.

While it takes a little hunting to find the option, this option can greatly enhance the legibility of text on top of a complex image.

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What emotion does your slide convey?

Do you sound like Ben Stein?

Compare that to Professor Lewin’s speech below (start at about 1 minute in)

One of the critical differences is that Lewin conveys a sense of emotion.  Ben Stein actually has some good content, and is (trying!) to get some audience interaction.  However, his lifeless delivery falls flat, while Lewin’s obvious passion helps us engage with him.

After deciding on an organizing thesis for each slide, and choosing a story structure,  decide what emotion the slide should convey.

This Bill Gates slide from is a typically bad example.  Beyond violating the first two rules, can you say with confidence if what feeling the audience has (beyond wishing for their reading glasses)?

Gates is probably trying to show the scope of his services.  Good emotions for him to convey could be:

  • happiness (we’re pleased to…)
  • satisfaction (it’s been a long road, but we finally …)
  • anticipation (it’s going to be great…)
  • pride (this is amazing).

He could also choose to be self-deprecating by being:

  • embarrassed (it’s been a while, but we finally ….)
  • show a problem (we have a lot of services, but haven’t connected them well).

If he decided that this was a happy slide, Mr. Gates could try to convey more enthusiasm, smile more, and make larger gestures.  If he wanted to be embarrassed, he could hunch a bit, look abashed, and moderate his gestures.

A second example slide from the cio article is below.  This slide is overly cluttered, but it isn’t immediately obvious how we are a supposed to feel about this visit.

One immediate way to improve the slide would be to change the title to a strong declarative sentence, such as “Fantastic Results from Beijing.”  In giving the presentation, the speaker could decide in advanced to convey their sense of wonder a the different things in China, or a sense of awe at the history.

If you want a slide to fall flat, hope for the panic of being in front of a crowd to bring your material to life.  Unfortunately, you’ll probably end up more like Stein than Lewin.

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How to find good (free!) images without stealing them

Lara Jade never expected to find an image of herself on the cover of a porn DVD.  The 18-year old had posted a self-portrait to an online forum, and ended up suing TVX Films for using it as the cover of “Body Magic.” (source)

While you probably empathize with Lara, the way most people use images makes them more like TVX Films.  Using the result of a Google image search in a work website, student paper or presentation, or personal blog is just as illegal (while not quite as distressing).

Free high-quality and distinctive artwork is available — you just have to know where to get it.  This guide presents 4 categories of images and gives a short guide on how you can and can’t use each.  While not legal advice, it represents my best understanding of the current laws.

1. All Rights Reserved

The bottom line is you can’t use any images without the owner giving you permission.   Unless you can find a note on the image stating otherwise, assume that anything you locate falls under this category.

To use an “all rights reserved” artwork, you must be able to:

  • Show that there is a compelling reason why this image, and this image alone, satisfies some need for reporting, scholarship, critique, or analysis.
  • Provide credit (attribution) saying where you got this image, and make it plain that you do not own the rights to it.
  • Ethically, if you are making money from something, you need to show a higher need to use a particular image.

Some examples:

  •  There is an image of the GE Board on  You could use this in a presentation or paper talking about GE’s specific board.  You can’t use it if you just need an image of people in business suits, or talking about boards in general.
  • You can use company logos when you talk about them.  For example, using the GE logo from Wikipedia helps to identify the company and would be fine to use in a paper discussing the company.
  • In a presentation on the company Evernote, using a screenshot, chart, or diagram from the company website would be fine (with proper attribution).  However, using their image in a presentation about laptops in general would not be acceptable.

 2.  Free and Paid Stock Photography Websites

There are a variety of stock photography websites on the web.  While iStockPhoto costs from 5-20$ for an image, others, such as Microsoft Clipart Online and stock.xchng are free.

As long as you don’t use the image as a logo for your company, you’re generally free to use them however you like.

3.  Creative Commons

While most of Flickr is not licensed this way under Creative Common’s permissive set of licenses, they do have advanced search option that gives access to some really interesting images.  There are some restrictions.  Look at each image to see if they have any of the following restrictions.

  •  Non-commercial.  If tagged non-commercial, you can’t make money from using an image.
  • Attribution.  Almost all require you to note the original creator.  Generally, a small link or note next to the image appears to be the best practice.
  • Alterations.  Some pictures do not allow alterations.

 4. Public Domain

Public domain is the easiest and least restrictive way to incorporate images into your work.  The best source for this is Wikipedia.  The major problem with public domain is that it’s complicated to release images into this license, so there isn’t as much out there included in this license. There is a decent amount of government-contributed artwork in Wikipedia, such as this 1937 image of Division of National Archives.

What you can do:

  • Use the image.
  • Attribution is not required.


Bruno Mercier found that a French Publishing House used his image as the cover for their latest book without paying.  In an email exchange, the publisher said that he thought he had the right to use any unprotected image posted online.  The author (a 70-yearold woman) even wrote him that it was on honor for his image to be used on her book.

Once lawyers became involved, he was eventually paid. But, it was a lot of trouble on everyone’s part for a simple, but complete, misunderstanding of how copyright works.

Posting an image online does not make it free, but there are good ways to find free images without putting yourself, your business, or your ethics in jeopardy.


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Finding appropriate and legal images

Unfortunately, most people’s first source for images tend to be Google Image search.  While effective in finding images, this is not an ethical approach.

Ethics of Copyright

Simple because someone posts material on the Internet does not mean that they are ok with you using them.  While it’s incredibly easy to rip off images, it’s not a professional or ethical approach.

Free Clip Art Sources

Microsoft Clip-Art is one of the easiest sources for good artwork.  The key is to go to their online website and search for images.  These are royalty-free, and do not require attribution.

Another source I recently ran into is StockExchange.  Registration is required, and you have to avoid the frequently listing of images from iStockPhoto (which are not free), but this is a great place to find mid- to high-quality artwork.

Creative Commons Sources

The Creative Commons license is a way for people to easily allow others to use their material.  The easiest way to find material with this license is Flickr’s Creative Commons Search feature.  Go to the flickr site, and start a search.  Then, click on the advanced search option.

After getting into the advanced search option, scroll down, and check the “Creative Commons” box.  This will only return images that other people have explicitly marked as being ok for you to use.

As long as you provide attribution, you’re generally ok to use any cc-licensed work in your presentations.

Public Domain Images

The last good source of images that I frequent is from Wikipedia.  You need to click on the actual image to find its licensing agreement, but generally, images posted there are licensed under the public domain.

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