Tips for Presenting PowerPoint Lessons

1. Use the Blanking 'B' Key

Probably the handiest tip to use when presenting material via PowerPoint is the "B" key. Pressing the "B" key when presenting in PowerPoint immediately puts a black, blank slide on the screen until some other key our mouse button is pressed. This feature is more important and useful than most people realize. Note that the blanking feature of the "B" key is only available when actually in the presentation mode. You cannot use it for this effect when editing slides.

EMERGENCY!: The "B" key can be used in emergencies when you find out that you have the wrong material up and you want to get the screen off as quickly as possible. If you are near the computer but not near the projector then hitting the "B" key may be quicker than shutting off the projector.

EMPHASIZE THE SPEAKER: The most important use of the "B" key is to control control attention. Good presenters know that there are times that you simply want the audience to pay attention to the speaker and not look at the screen. Beginners who are enamored with their new technology often put too much emphasis on their graphics and on their equipment and forget that these are just tools to enhance the message. Sometimes the most important thing to do is to simply turn the screen show OFF. There are a variety of times that preachers and teachers should hit the "B" button and just talk. In fact, going to a blank screen after showing some slides greatly throws the attention to the speaker. Use this when you have something particularly important to say and want the people to listen to YOU!

MINIMIZE DISTRACTION: Sometimes you want to minimize the distraction of the screen. Let's say that you are having discussions or there is a special prayer request or just some other reason you want people to NOT be distracted by the screen. Hitting the "B" key gives you instant control of this.

CHANGE OF PLANS: One of the advantages of using PowerPoint slides is that they help control the subject of the class and keep people on the subject. There are times however, that you may want to go off of your planned material. Hitting the "B" key allows you to stop the presentation and blank out the screen so that it allows the class to go to your impromptu subject without distraction.

The bottom line is that the "B" key helps give you more control. Use it often. (Extra tip: pressing the "W" key while presenting gives you a white blank slide!)

2. Using the 'ALT-TAB' Keys

One of the main advantages that Windows gave us over old time "DOS" was to allow us to run several programs at the same time. In virtually every class I teach I run at least three different programs. Typically, I will have one window of my PowerPoint show, one window of my Bible software and one window of prayer requests listed on the simple "Wordpad" text editor included as part of Windows. I usually start my class by listing the class prayer requests in 36 point font on WordPad. I used to list prayer requests on the chalkboard but the class can read my typed WordPad document a lot better. Since most of my classes are verse by verse studies of Bible books I then switch over to my Bible software (again shown at 36 point font) to review the text for the day and finally go to my PowerPoint show for main points and discussion questions. Often, I find myself going back and forth between the PowerPoint show and the Bible software. In the past I would use the Windows task bar at the bottom of the screen. One problem is that you generally have to exit your presentation mode to show the task bar and then reactivate presentation mode when you want to go back. There is a much better way to do this. Instead of using the mouse simply use the keyboard command of holding down the "ALT" key and while doing so then press the "TAB" key. This will give you a graphic representation of all your available windows. Keep clicking on the "TAB" key until you get the window that you want and then release the key. This will open up the window that you want. You can even do this when in PowerPoint presentation mode and you won't have to exit that mode. Doing the key combination again brings to back to the last window. As a matter of fact, simply holding down the "ALT" key and pressing the "TAB" key once simply switches back and forth between the first and last screens that you used.

The "ALT" "TAB" combination is very handy. I use it every Sunday in my classes. It allows quick switches and minimizes distractions caused by running through a lot of action on the screen.

3. Using the Right Mouse Key

One of the most powerful tools to use when giving presentations is simply to use the RIGHT mouse button instead of the LEFT button. Most of us know that pressing the left mouse button advances the slide but did you know that pressing the right mouse button gives you a list of a lot of different things that you can do while presenting? It allows you to go back slides, jump to slides and even "draw" on the slides. Try the right mouse button, you may be surprised at what it allows you to do. The fact of the matter is that learning the use the RIGHT mouse button is often the key to productivity in most all Windows based software. Most leading software programs set the right mouse button as the shortlist button. The right mouse button is typically set to be "context sensitive". What this means is that what you can do with the right mouse button changes according to what software you are using and where you are in that software. Typically, programmers have the right mouse button set to give you the top ten things that people want to do in software. The bottom line is this . . . whatever software you are using and whatever you are doing try the right mouse button! Often you will find what you need will pop up for your use.


4. Other Keys

In PowerPoint, there are a variety of keys that give you special control while doing presentations.

CHANGING SLIDES: Most people use the mouse to advance their slides in PowerPoint but did you know that you can also advance slides by pressing the "PAGEDOWN" key or the "SPACEBAR"? Although I started out using the mouse to control presentations, I have almost completely switched over to using the spacebar. The spacebar is the largest key on the keyboard and the easiest to hit. I find that I can press the spacebar key a lot better than anything else. In a similar manner, the PAGEUP and BACKSPACE keys allow you to go back one slide when in presentation mode. One reason that I like these keys better than using the right button on the mouse is that they don't put anything on the screen. They just move you back one slide.

JUMPING SLIDES: Did you know that PowerPoint has special key designations that allow you to jump around in your presentations? You don't just have to move backwards and forwards one slide at a time. Pressing the "END" key makes you automatically jump to the last slide and pressing the "HOME" key automatically jumps you to the first slide of your presentation. You can jump to the first slide in a presentation with the mouse by simply holding down both mouse buttons for two seconds.

EMERGENCY ESCAPE: Want the quickest way to exit a slide show? Sure you can use the right mouse button but try simply pressing the "ESC" key. This is the fastest way to get out of PowerPoint and get back to your editing mode.

OTHER SPECIAL KEYS: Want to know about more shortcuts or want a quick list of shortcuts available to you? Simply press the "F1" key while in presentation mode and PowerPoint will give you a list of shortcut keys to use during presentations.


5. Use the Pointer and Pencil

PowerPoint normally clears off the mouse pointer when in presentation mode. Move the mouse around when presenting and the arrow will reappear. Use the mouse pointer to point to things for emphasis. It looks a lot better than using a bouncing laser pointer. Click the right mouse button to get to a screen that allows you to activate the pencil marker. This allows you to actually "draw" on the PowerPoint screen. This can be very handy. When you are using some program other than PowerPoint, then you can use the mouse pointer for other uses. My Bible software program allows me to use the mouse to highlight text in my Bible software. I use it to reverse color Bible text to bring emphasis to certain words, etc. when using my Bible software. You may be able to do this too.

5. Special Tools

There are some special hardware tools available to you that you may find particularly handy. You may decide to use a laser pointer instead of the built in mouse pointer in PowerPoint and Windows. One very handy tool that a lot of presenters use is a wireless mouse. I must emphasize that MOST wireless mice are simply no substitute for you regular mouse. Wireless mice most often just simply don't give you the fine control that a regular mouse does. Even so, the most practical use of a wireless mouse is often the ability to simply advance and backup slides by pressing the mouse buttons. This allows you to walk about the room and control your slides without being bound to the computer keyboard. There are a lot of different kinds of mice and wireless controllers. Today, you can even buy wireless digitizing pads. Again, be aware that unless you just want to advance slides that most wireless mice may disappoint you. Nevertheless, that feature alone may be worth the cost of the wireless controller.


I hope these tips help improve your presentation skills. There are a lot of advantages in using electronic projectors in sermons and Sunday School. Work hard to practice the things mentioned above at the beginning and they will become habits that will help your presentations be more effective. After all, the reason you are speaking and presenting is to get your message out!

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