Introduction to PowerPoint 2013
Presentations play a hugely important role in any business proposal - whether internal or external - so it's vital that every element is as polished as can be. That means perfecting both the design and content of the slides themselves; it means including images, videos and other interactive elements where they might better make a point than words alone; and it means marrying all of that together with a professional and confident performance in person.
Each of those check-boxes is easier to tick off than ever before with PowerPoint 2013, which brings a whole raft of improvements to the already ubiquitous presentation application. It's part of Office 365, so it offers all of that service's saving and sharing strengths. Another article details how you can create presentations with impact, but PowerPoint 2013 also concentrates on getting the basics right.
A mistake many people make is believing PowerPoint is all about the slides. To a certain extent it is, but a presentation relies on an engaging presenter first and foremost, and PowerPoint 2013 makes sure you're as prepared as possible.
Rather than relying on prompt cards or an old-fashioned notepad for your script, with Presenter View you see on your own screen more than your audience does: bullet points for the current slide so you don't forget to mention all your key points, a glimpse of the next slide so nothing comes as an unwelcome surprise, and even just your position in the presentation to keep an eye on timing. You only get one shot at winning a client, and Presenter View helps you perform to your best.
This divide between what's on your screen and what appears to everyone else is at the heart of several other tools to make the slides match the words. Slide Navigator lets you easily switch slides on the fly to go back to a previous point, without the audience seeing the awkward process. And with Slide Zoom you can expand a single chart, image or sentence to fill the whole view when you need to emphasise a particular point. Again, the audience sees only the smooth zoom in and out, not the manual method of doing so.
You're not alone
Preparing a presentation can be a lonely experience, as a combination of nerves and time pressures ensure there's bound to be a mistake you don't spot in slide 14. By saving presentations on SkyDrive or SharePoint, it only takes a couple of clicks to get colleagues involved.
You can send them a link with view or edit rights, and all work on the same presentation in real-time, whether it's through PowerPoint 2013 itself or the PowerPoint Web App. And you can use IM or the inbuilt comment system, complete with nested replies, so it's easy to jump in and get up to date with the group's recent progress.
Office 365's cloud approach also makes presenting on the road a more flexible process. Should an impromptu pitching opportunity arise when you're away from your own computer, simply log into your account on a guest PC and download PowerPoint 2013. You can get going on the presentation before the full program has even finished downloading, and when you log out at the end it will be removed automatically.
If that's not flexible enough, you can present it online. Just set your presentation to be downloadable by remote viewers and click Present Online, then send the link out in an invite to your audience. They'll be able to follow along in their browser, complete with audio. This also works with Lync meetings, so you have all the bases covered, both within the company and with external clients.
Storing your presentations online allows for one more flexible feature of PowerPoint 2013: you can interact with your slides from almost any mobile device. If you're using a non-Microsoft OS then your best choice is probably to use the PowerPoint Web App, because this means you can edit the document without losing any information (products that convert the format into their own version tend to do so with some unintended consequences).
If you're using a Windows Phone or tablet, though, your options are much-improved. Even though we aren't yet entirely satisfied with PowerPoint 2013's touch interface yet - unlike the custom OneNote MX touch interface, PowerPoint simply enlarges the ribbon icons and puts a bit more space between them - as long as you're not expecting to redo a whole slide on your tablet it's perfectly possible to swipe, tap and pinch your way through a presentation. It's also a great way to cram in a last-minute run-through on the way to a meeting.
With support for 16:9 widescreen monitors and the ability to automatically adjust a presentation's dimensions to fit, PowerPoint 2013 is the most advanced and versatile version yet. It takes little time to master, yet good use of its many features can turn a forgettable, amateur pitch into a professional presentation.