10 July 2013

The Zen of Presentations, Part 62: Making questions easy

I have been lucky to see polished, slick PowerPoint presentations. Some might even be called graceful. But I rarely see a similarly smooth handling of questions using PowerPoint presentations.
In contrast to the well-rehearsed smooth advance of slides, most question sessions are replaced by actions with the look of someone woken in the middle of the night and fumbling in the dark.

This is strange, because a good presentation is expected to provoke questions, especially in academic or scientific circles. It’s why so many speakers blow the ending by asking, “Any questions?” first.

Very often, a question begins with the audience member asking, “Could you go back to the slide where you showed... ?”

The speaker then has to exit the presentation and go back to the PowerPoint editing screen, fiddle around with the preview pane on the left, trying to find the requested slide. Then, the speaker leaves up the editing screen, or tries to restart the presentation, and not all of them start at the beginning. I’m a keyboard shortcut fanatics, and I always forget that F5 in PowerPoint starts a show at the first slide, not the current slide.

Here’s how to avoid this little dance.

There is a little known shortcut for PowerPoint. When you’re presenting, you can type a number on the keyboard, hit “Enter,” and PowerPoint will jump to that slide. This way, you don’t have to show us the ugly editing screen.

This depends on you knowing the number of each specific slide. Have a thumbnail cheat sheet with a list of each slide, so you know if that graph the person is asking about was slide 12 or 15.

But an even easier way to take advantage of the shortcut that takes you to specific slides: number your slides. This makes is easy for the audience member to ask, “Could we look at slide 7 again?”

I resisted numbering slides for a long time, thinking they were just clutter. But if your talks often have people wanting to look at data again, think of how handy it would be for someone to be able to specify exactly where in your talk their question was coming from.

Just go to the “Insert” tab and look for “Slide number.”

If your slide template doesn’t have slide numbers, you can add them. Go to  “View,” pick “Slide Master,” then go to the “Insert” tab and look for slide number:

You can also modify the formatting for all the slide numbers from this screen, too.

Related posts

The Zen of Presentations, Part 15: Take a bow

1 comment:

Carmelo Fruciano said...

I find myself still in the stage of resistance to slide numbering. The reason for this is that I consider a presentation something different than a book...maybe in the future I'll change idea like you did...

What I like, however, is to put a "menu" slide that I can access from any other slide...the advantage of this is that I don't have to remember slide numbers and in this menu slide I have everything organized by content. The disadvantage is that you need extra clicks (on a mouse).

Sometimes I also like to have extra slides for questions I anticipate I might get asked (maybe details that I have to leave out due to time constraints).