9 tips for Microsoft PowerPoint for CPAs

Try these ideas for more efficient preparation and compelling presentation.
By Kyle McHatton

Editor's Note: This article was originally published by ICAS in the Feb. 26, 2016, issue of CA Today.

1. Easily insert screenshots. If your presentation is all about demonstrating a process that is usually on your computer screen, PowerPoint includes a timesaving feature that makes it easy to add screenshots into your slides.

  • How it's done. On the Insert tab, click the Screenshot icon, and you'll see a thumbnail of each of your open windows. Resize the window to show exactly what you want first, then come back and select it—it'll get dropped straight into the slide that you're editing.

2. Always keep the selection pane handy. If you have ever built a complex presentation in PowerPoint, you will have undoubtedly experienced the frustration of trying to select/edit multiple text boxes, charts, or images on a slide. PowerPoint has a handy feature called the Selection Pane, which helps alleviate this challenge and make it easier for you to make any changes you need.

  • How it's done. On the Home tab, go to the Editing section and choose Select > Selection Pane. It'll appear on the right side (you can drag it to the left). Keep it open while you're working as it allows you to not only name every element on the screen, but rearrange the order of the items (for example, if an image is behind the text, move it above the text).
  • Handy tip. Click the little eye icon next to each element to hide it so you can concentrate on other areas of the slide.

3. Adding grids and rulers. Lining things up in PowerPoint is a lot easier than it used to be, but if you want to do it visually, use gridlines and rulers. They're not visible by default, but they're easy enough to switch on.

  • How it's done. Right-click a spot outside of the slide itself, but not in the sidebars. You'll get a drop-down to turn on grids and rulers. Put the cursor over these lines and you can drag them around to where you need them to go.
  • Handy tip. Right-click on the lines to add new horizontal/vertical guides in the exact position of your cursor.

4. Animating charts. Putting in an Excel-esque chart is about as simple as it gets in PowerPoint. Go to the Insert tab, click Chart, and it'll stick one in with sample info you can easily replace. What makes it more interesting is animating the chart one element at a time.

  • How it's done. Once you've inserted a chart, click the Animations tab, then turn on the Animation Pane, and then click Add Animation and choose an animated effect. Then, in the Animation Pane where you see the entry for the chart's animation, right-click and select Effect Options. This lets you add sound and change the animation timing, but on the final tab, Chart Animation, change Group Chart from "As One Object" to "By Category."

Now when the chart is shown on screen, it'll appear one element at a time as you click, with bars or pieces of pie arriving one after the other, as if each were its own slide.

5. Don't copy and paste; duplicate instead. You can hit Ctrl+C to copy and Ctrl+V to paste constantly if you have to reuse an element on a slide over and over. However, using Duplication is much quicker and easier.

  • How it's done. Hold the Ctrl key while you click and drag on the object in question. It'll make an exact copy. Keep selecting and making copies and they'll all evenly space themselves out, too.

Editor's note: You may need to move the copies into place manually.

  • Handy tip. You can even duplicate an entire slide or set of slides. If you're using the 2016 version, just select one or more slides in the left navigation pane, go to Insert, click New Slide menu, and select Duplicate Selected Slides. Or, if you're using an older version of PowerPoint, right-click on the slide in the slide navigation pane and select Duplicate Selected Slides.

6. Quickly blank the screen. Sometimes, you may want the image on the screen to disappear so that the audience is focused solely on you, the presenter.

  • How it's done. All you need to do is press the period (or full stop) key (.) on the keyboard and the image is replaced with a blank black image. Press the period again to restore your presentation.

7. Turn the pointer off. During a presentation, it can be very annoying to have the pointer come on the screen while the presenter is speaking. It causes movement on the screen and draws the audience attention from the presenter to the screen.

  • How it's done. To prevent this, after the Slide Show view has started, press Ctrl+H. This prevents mouse movement from showing the pointer. If you need to bring the pointer on screen after this, press the A key.
  • Handy tip. If the pointer does appear during your presentation, resist the urge to press the Esc key. If you do, it will stop the presentation and drop you back into the program. Always use the A key or Ctrl+H to make the pointer appear/disappear.

8. Quickly jump to any slide. PowerPoint has a feature that allows you to be able to move quickly and seamlessly to any slide in your presentation. This technique is very useful for moving to a prepared Q&A slide or for skipping parts of your presentation if time becomes an issue.

  • How it's done: To start, you will need to know the slide numbers. Once you have these, to jump to any slide, just enter the slide number on the keyboard and press Enter. This will move you directly to that slide.

9. Draw on the screen during a presentation. It can be valuable to be able to draw on the screen during your presentation to illustrate a particular point or item.

  • How it's done: Press Ctrl+P to display a pen on the screen. Then, using the left mouse button, draw on the slide as you wish. To erase what you have drawn, press the E key. To hide the pen, press the A key or Ctrl+H.

To comment on this article, contact Chris Baysden, senior manager of newsletters for the AICPA.


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