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Beginner's Guide to Using PowerPoint

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  • 0:02 What Is Powerpoint?
  • 1:44 The Benefits of Powerpoint
  • 2:38 The Main Page and the Ribbon
  • 5:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Karen Sorensen

Karen has a Bachelors in Communications. She has 25 years of experience in Information Systems, Adult Learning and Virtual Training.

PowerPoint is software that makes it easy to create fun and engaging visual aids for training meetings, business presentations or even public speaking events. In this video, we will learn some of the benefits to using PowerPoint and take a quick look at the general layout of the tool, menus and commands.

What Is PowerPoint?

So, what is PowerPoint? Well, PowerPoint is a visual aid tool. It is a Microsoft software program for your computer. Remember the messy chalkboards and overhead projectors with transparencies? Well, this is today's version of using visual aids, like words, graphics, music and video to help you support your business presentation, speech or training event.

Like any tool, it does take practice. But with a little work, PowerPoint can help you make your next meeting fun and engaging. Okay, not quite that engaging, but you know what I mean. It uses slides, or pages that you create, and then can be displayed on a projector screen for your audience to view. You can add as many slides as you want, then bundle them all together to create a slide show.

Some people say that using PowerPoint slides helps to relieve some of the nervous feeling they have when speaking in front of people. And if memorizing your entire presentation or speech is really not your thing, PowerPoint slides can even be used as an agenda or outline to help keep you on track.

PowerPoint can turn a boring meeting into something a bit more exciting. In fact, PowerPoint slides were created to develop the video from this lesson.

With just a few clicks, you can really jazz up your pages and take a black and white slide from dull to exciting. This is with the help of templates. This is a slide design that has already been created for you; your job is to simply add the text. The program already has many templates you can use, or you can customize a template with your own company logo, colors or tag line. As you can see here (please see the video at 01:38), with just a few clicks, I've already added a little bit of character to this presentation.

The Benefits of PowerPoint

There really is 'power' in PowerPoint.

  • PowerPoint is flexible and portable. You can take your presentation on the road without needing to take your computer with you. You can even view your presentation on a computer that does not have PowerPoint installed.
  • It gives you freedom. And by that, I mean you don't need to be standing right next to the whiteboard - you can move around the room.
  • You can engage the audience with animated text, graphics and embed music or videos. Something a little like this (please see the video at 02:15).
  • You can even add links to other places, like a website.
  • And it's easy - easy to add pictures and create a photo slide show.
  • And if you need handouts for your meeting, it's printable.

The Main Page and the Ribbon

So, let's open the software program and take a look. If you've used Word or Excel, you will notice that the look and the feel is the same:

The look of PowerPoint is similar to that of Word or Excel.
image of powerpoint toolbar

We have a tool bar, menus and commands. The ribbon is the strip across the top of the program. You could say it's the interface or mediator between you and PowerPoint. I like to refer to the ribbon as my command box. The commands in the ribbon allow you to tell PowerPoint what to do, like add a text or a picture. Everything you need to create your slide will be located within the ribbon.

And sometimes a new tab will appear, depending on the command you want to perform. For example, if I select a graphic or picture on my slide, a new tab will appear. This new tab is format:

Format tab
format tab on powerpoint

Using the format group of commands, you can change the picture's shape, the border and even add effects to your picture.

PowerPoint is intuitive in the way that it knows what tools or commands in the ribbon you may need. In addition, other tabs may be visible depending on other programs you might have installed, like Adobe.

Some commands must be enabled before they can be used.
grayed out tabs on powerpoint

Notice the icons or commands within the ribbon. You will see above that some of the commands are disabled, or grayed out. This is because we need to take some action first, before we can execute the command. For example, if you wanted to bold the word 'Music' on a slide, you would first need to select the word. Once the word is selected or highlighted, the bold command in the ribbon is now enabled, or no longer grayed out, and you can use the command to bold the word.

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