From Bullets to Smart Art: You can make an interesting presentation easy

Have you ever seen a presentation like this:

There are several problems with this presentation. The first is simply that the outline for the presentation is actually written on the slide. There are times when you should do this. For instance, if you intend the presentation to be viewed online without narration. Otherwise, not only is it dull, it will encourage the speaker to look at the presentation screen or the presenter’s computer rather than engage with the audience.

Sure, you can mix it up with a little animation, and it might be that you don’t want to go too crazy with the images. While understandable, there is a better way.

This is essentially the same “outline” as the first slide. While again, you’ve just about written your talk on your slides, it is still an improvement because the slide now is a bit more dynamic.

So, that took me all afternoon to create the text boxes, align the images, layer the images over a background image, and choose the color scheme, right?

No, I didn’t. I’m no graphic artist. What I used was SmartArt. It took me one minute to create that.

But how?

  1. Select the text you want to turn into SmartArt. Notice, in this case, I have a bulleted list that has indented information. So we have Level 1 information and Level 2 information. This will be important later on.

  2. On the Home tab in the Paragraph group, select Convert to Smart Art.

  3. You will be able to select a SmartArt style that will help convey your message graphically. If you are trying to drill down to a specific detail in a topic, a target might be a good idea. If you are speeding to a goal, an arrow works well. If you are trying to indicate interlocking dependencies, there is a gear option from More SmartArt Graphics. The important point, however, is that you choose something that will help put your audience’s mind in the direction of your presentation’s main goal.

  4. Once you have converted your text to SmartArt, two contextual tabs will appear – Design and Format. From the Design tab, you can choose a color scheme for your smart art, change the layout if you find you like something better, and even convert your SmartArt into an image for use somewhere else. On the Format tab, you can format individual shapes. Want the dark green text box to be purple with an orange outline, but leave the rest the way they are? Easily done in the Shape Styles group. I’m not going to outline all of the options, as the best way to learn SmartArt is to play with it.

However, there is one point about SmartArt I do want to draw your attention to. That’s the text pane. You’ll notice that on the left of the SmartArt box, there is a small arrow. If you click on that, it will display the text box.

The text box retains the bulleted text and the indentations that you originally wrote. Each level of the bullets will drive the appearance of the SmartArt. Sometimes, adding a bullet point will add a shape. Sometimes changing the indentation will change how the shape appears. This is something else I strongly encourage you to play with. It’s quite intuitive, and it might give you some ideas for your presentation.

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Note: I used the Dividend theme straight out of the box from PowerPoint 2016.

Author: Noël Figart

Noël Figart is a computer applications instructor, technical writer and editor.

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