10 PowerPoint Tips for Sales Presentations

By Julie M. Hansen

Although running a smooth, professional PowerPoint presentation may not win you a standing ovation, searching for slides, making awkward transitions, or showing off your desktop can give you some bad reviews. A wealth of information on how to create effective PowerPoint slides is available online and in bookstores; however, decidedly less is available on how to interact and deliver PowerPoint presentations.

You can fill in the gaps in your knowledge base with these practical PowerPoint tips and tricks that will make you look like a seasoned pro.

Going to black

Talking about one thing while something entirely different is on a slide is a common and costly mistake that salespeople make. Your prospect can only focus on one thing at a time. If you have two conflicting messages, your prospect’s attention likely isn’t where you want it to be. Using the B key on your keyboard when you’re in PowerPoint — or the blackout button on the preferable wireless mouse — makes the screen go black.

Use this button whenever you aren’t talking about what is on the screen and want to pull your prospect’s focus to you and your message. When you’re ready to go to the next slide, simply hit the B key again and your slide will come back up. This technique makes you look professional and keeps your prospect focused on the topic. Although going to black sounds very simple, it’s easy to forget after you get in to your presentation, so be sure to practice going to black and back several times.

Transitioning to another program or file

At times in your presentation you may need to temporarily leave PowerPoint in order to show another program or file. Typically presenters exit their presentation to find the task bar, and then search for the desired program or file — in the meantime giving their audience an unexpected glimpse of their pristine (or even worse, cluttered) desktop. Follow these steps for an easier and better way to navigate between a program and PowerPoint on a PC:

  1. Before your presentation, make sure that any file or program you want to access is open.

  2. In presentation mode, hit ALT TAB.

    Doing so displays all of your open windows.

  3. Keep clicking on the TAB key until you land on the window that you want to use and then let up on it.

    The window will open, and you can go right into the program or file.

  4. When you’re ready to go back to your presentation, hit ALT TAB again.

The ALT TAB key continues to switch back and forth between the last two files opened, so if you’ve opened more than one, you have to tab through until you get to the appropriate window.

Jumping to a slide

Say your prospect asks you a question and you have the perfect slide to address it somewhere later in the deck. Too many presenters make the mistake of advancing through their slides — with the audience watching — until they find it. Not only is doing so distracting, but you also lose an element of surprise by letting your prospect see future slides. No need to do that when you can easily jump back and forth between slides while in presentation mode. Here’s how:

The day before your presentation:

  1. Go to Outline View and collapse the details.

  2. Print View to have a list of all slide numbers and titles.

During your presentation,

  1. Bring your printed slide list.

  2. Go to Slide Show mode and using your keyboard type in the number of the slide you want to jump to.

  3. Click Enter to go to that requested slide.

This technique is useful for moving to a prepared Q&A slide or for skipping parts of your presentation if time becomes an issue.

Turning off the pointer

That little pointer arrow looks pretty harmless on your 13-inch laptop screen. However displayed across the screen at your prospect’s office, it takes on major proportions and can prove distracting to your audience — especially when it moves whenever you use your mouse. Make this simple adjustment before your presentation to prevent that arrow from displaying or moving across your screen:

  1. In Slide Show mode, press Ctrl-H to disable the pointer.

  2. When you want to use it again, press the A key to re-enable the pointer.

Drawing on screen during your presentation

Using a pen to write, highlight, or underline something on a slide during your presentation can really draw an audience’s attention. Though this feature has been available for a few years, it still has a wow factor because not a lot of people use it. Luckily, you don’t need one of those special pens that come with some tablets or laptops because this feature is available within PowerPoint. Simply follow these steps to circle, highlight, write, or draw on your presentation:

  1. Press Ctrl-P to display a pen on the screen.

  2. Hold down the left button of your mouse as you draw on the screen.

  3. Right click your mouse to bring up more drawing options, including changing the color of the ink and using a highlighter.

  4. To erase what you’ve drawn, press the E key.

  5. To get rid of the pen, press A or Ctrl-H.

Preparing final slides

Many salespeople get to the end of their presentation and accidentally advance, which throws them out of presentation mode, leaving your audience a nice shot of your program and desktop. Remember, last impressions matter. If you want yours to be professional, avoid this snafu by creating two copies of your last slide and placing them at the end of your deck. That way if you accidentally click your mouse, your audience won’t know because the slide looks exactly the same. Have a blank slide as your final slide.

Stopping a video

Video is great for engaging an audience, but because of time or relevancy, you may need to cut it off before it finishes. Rather than try to jump to the next slide (which often ends up in clicking too much and jumping out of the program), all you need to do is click Alt Q to stop playback of the video.

Removing picture backgrounds

Sometimes you find the perfect image for a slide, but the background is distracting or irrelevant. You can actually remove the background in PowerPoint by sticking to these steps:

  1. While in PowerPoint, select the photo and click on it to go into Picture Tools.

  2. Select Remove Background.

    Your selected image will be a nice shade of purple. Everything in this purple area is what PowerPoint will remove, unless you tell it differently.

  3. Choose either Mark Areas to Keep or Mark Areas to Remove.

    The minus sign indicates that it will be deleted.

  4. Adjust the area you want to keep or remove by clicking and dragging the lines.

  5. When you have the area that you want to keep or remove isolated, click Keep Changes.

Adjusting your slides for the projector

Remember when videos came in widescreen? If your television wasn’t wide screen, it would cut off some of the film. That’s not unlike what happens when you have slides that aren’t in synch with the projector being used for the presentation. You have two choices when designing your slides:

  • 4:3, known as standard aspect ratio

  • 16:9, known as widescreen aspect ratio

Almost all new projectors today are 16:9; however, plenty of old projectors are floating around. Unless you carry your own projector with you, find out what your prospect’s projector is before you design your slides, because even though you can switch a deck from one size to the other, you still need to go back and manually check and adjust the placement of a lot of the content on your slides.

Using Presenter mode

Presenter View allows you to see your notes and your upcoming slides on your computer while the audience sees only the current slide on their screen or monitor. Here’s how to set up Presenter mode:

  1. In PowerPoint, click Slide Show.

  2. In Monitors group, click Use Presenter View.

    The Display Settings dialog box will appear.

  3. Click the monitor that you want to use to view your presenter notes and select, “This is my main monitor” checkbox.

    (If that isn’t an option, then your computer is already designated as the primary monitor.)

  4. Click the monitor icon and select the second monitor that the audience will be viewing.

  5. Select Extend my Windows Desktop onto this monitor check box and then click OK.

  6. Click on End Slide Show or ESC to exit presentation.

Even though there are notes on Presenter Mode, use it as a quick reference for what is upcoming. Everyone will know if you read from your notes and quickly become disengaged.