Harnessing and Mastering Powerpoint

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

Amazingly enough, Powerpoint presentation support is still as strong and popular today as the day it was first introduced. Having gone through many metamorphoses in its existence, Powerpoint presentations are still the most used form of slide presentation support in the church market today. This tool, having been tweaked throughout its lifetime, has little by little become more powerful as each new version has been offered to us for use.

Even if you are just beginning to use this tool to help support the Word of God or have been using it for years, Powerpoint offers its users a wide range of internal design opportunities as well as external software integration possibilities. These opportunities and possibilities are basically only limited to your imagination. However, when we discuss the art of “Harnessing and Mastering the Power of Powerpoint”, I believe this pertains to much more than “learning to navigate” through the program and create slides. I believe that harnessing and mastering this program deals mainly with how you create, design and present the “content” that will be used on your slides. All that to say, mastering Powerpoint does begin with learning to navigate through the steps to create presentations and feel comfortable with this program. So let’s get started!

Having taught the class “Powerpoint 10 to 10” (keeping content on your screen(s) 10 minutes prior to your first service, constantly, until 10 minutes after your last service) for the past few years at TFWM’s Inspiration Conference, many individuals who are just starting out ask me “How do you start learning all of this?”. Well, there are basically three options.

One, grab the “Powerpoint” manual or download the “tutorial” online and bravely dive into a reading frenzy. Two, take a class that is usually offered in your local community, which can be expensive. Three, do what I did: grab the software, pack a lunch, go to your office, lock the door, unplug your phone, crank up the program and dive into some serious “hands on” learning time with this software.

I spent a good day diving into this program, (8 hours), when I first got this software and by the end of the day I was really comfortable with the basics to get started. Yes, I’m not proud, I did use the enclosed book to help guide me through some of the initial process, however ninety-five percent of my time was spent navigating through the program without the help of instructions finding out what everything did. It is a very user-friendly program and once you conquer the basics you’ll be ready to start creating.

I believe the second phase of mastering Powerpoint is leaning how to use the power of the program to your advantage. I recently finished an entire technical design/build at a local church in San Antonio where we recommended Powerpoint as their primary slide support program for their services, given the style and type of services they have. They had moved from a true traditional style service to a blended style and now had the support of a great audio, video and lighting system to help bridge and support the Word of God. Their audience had never experienced any visuals like they were about to experience.

During the building process I met with the media team and explained how important and how powerful a tool they now had to work with. I also explained that presenting the “looks” a little at a time was of up-most importance, especially in their case. I told them that if you introduce “new looks” every quarter, at least for the first year, then this gives you, as the media team, time to get acquainted with the program and gives your audience time to adjust and become comfortable with the new change and format you are using.

Introducing “looks” a little at a time is the one of the main keys in harnessing the power of this program. If you use all the “bells and whistles” in just a few months giving your audience all the flashy graphics, backgrounds, animations, etc., believe me, the audience will soon tire and become very bored with the same old things they see and you, the designer, will have run out of things to work with!

As opening day approached, one of the media team members who is a veteran with Powerpoint showed me the slide support she had created for the first service. It was incredible! Flying doves, flash animation, beautiful scenery pictures and wonderful transitions. I gently and lovingly pulled her aside and reminded her of the above statement. One has to be very careful and know how to adapt and introduce this medium into the worship/service environment, especially when it has never been used before.

In the beginning I would recommend starting with announcement slides prior to the beginning of the service. This has always been one of the most accepted ways of slowly integrating Powerpoint presentations into the service environment. The next step would be to bring in song support during the worship time. Keep your “transitions” between song slides smooth, slow to medium and simple. After the first quarter, add and introduce sermon support so that your audience has visuals to refer to during the message. As time progresses, add other areas. Welcome Slides, Still-Image Slide Shows, Staff identification, Elder Board identification, Volunteer Recognition Slides (one of my favorites), Next Week Slides (to let your congregation know what “not to miss” next week) and other areas of your choosing to create a professional presentation. This program is only limited to your imagination when it comes to designing slides, but one has to remember to introduce things in a subtle manner and not use up all that is at your disposal at once.

One of the most incredible things that I love to work with in lighting is lasers. I remember going to shows and experiencing the awesome visual effects that they provided to support the music being played. One thing that I always noticed however was that the designer hardly ever used to use them in every song or continuously through an entire song. The designer gave you just enough to make you want more and didn’t “wear-out” the effect by using it over and over and over again. The designer changed the look every so often so we didn’t become bored with the same patterns.

Granted, this example is a concentrated look for a given two-hour show, however if one applies this principle to Powerpoint, it is right on target. When you get into using moving graphics, animations, flying text, etc., or if you are already doing this, remember, don’t wear out the same look over and over, find and create new ones, even in the same presentation, so that your audience will not become bored with repetition. Also, remember that slide support is there to “support” not to draw focus or attention to (unless, of course, it is being used for that reason; drama support, slide shows, etc.).

Backgrounds are another area that can be used to your advantage when you are using this program. Again, apply the same principle; begin by using the backgrounds that come with the program. There are some really nice ones that will work. Always keep the basics in mind when working with backgrounds and text. Dark backgrounds, light text or light backgrounds, dark text. Also, if you choose to integrate a picture as a background always be aware ones that contain either light or dark areas where your text may need to go to fit it on the slide.

Many times text becomes invisible when overlaid on top of pictures. The picture may be breathtaking, but the song support is lost. After a few months of initial introduction, introduce a new background from the supplied backgrounds in the software. Continue to change them each quarter, then after you (and especially the audience) gets comfortable with what they are experiencing, introduce some new “looks” such as backgrounds that you can create yourself within the program and from other sources.

One company that is brilliant at such support is Digital Juice. “Digital Juice for Powerpoint and Multimedia Design” offers the user not only incredible backgrounds to use, but as your journey continues and you begin introducing different look elements into your presentation, they offer tools such as “themed” backgrounds, abstracts, exotic paper, textures, photo objects, photos and some of the most incredible video and animation clips I have ever used when I do special presentations for myself and for churches.

“Kick Starters” from Church Media is another great group of images to give you a library of support as you continue to grow.

Companies such as Harbinger Communications as well as many other companies on the Internet, offer you a steady supply of “new ideas” and products to use to enhance your presentation, many of which have been designed especially with Powerpoint in mind due to its continued growth and popularity. Without going into instruction, the tools of animation: moving graphics, imbedded graphics, etc. are very easily integrated into the Powerpoint program and offer a very professional look.

Keeping your screen active with slides at all times is another key to a professional look. Unless you intentionally want to have a blank screen during your service, it is very easy to create content to help keep your presentation going without ever “not seeing” a slide present at all times. Even as you begin this journey using Powerpoint one never needs to have a “blank” screen appear during the service.

This is a very simple task to achieve by using different slides in your presentation to bridge from one area to another. By creating, what I refer to as a “default slide”, which can be a simple graphic design, background or picture or use a “thematic slide”, such as a the “message topic”, or “message series topic”, this provides a very professional transition between areas in your service and never allows the screen to go blank.

Again, learning to navigate some of the “hot-keys” in this program helps a great deal in this case. By setting up your default or thematic slide and selecting the number associated with which ever slide you are going to use for transitions, select that number on the keyboard and hit enter. The program will then instantly go to that slide creating a perfect transition. Another tip, when using this program it is always a very good idea to make copies of your slide show prior to the service and number them, just in case you drift off to the Caribbean for a second (we know that never happens!) so you can instantly find you place again and using the process stated above, find your place again.

Although we have touched on this topic somewhat above, integration of other software, namely lyric/song support, to help support your worship time is another way of mastering the use of Powerpoint. Powerpoint is a very strong program when it comes to producing many of the ideas that I mentioned above to give your service a complete professional look. However, given the power of this program there is one challenge that many churches have to deal with if they need worship songs/lyrics instantly. This program does not allow you to navigate through a pre-supplied library of worship songs and “instantly” pull up lyric content.

Now, if you realize this situation fully, then you know that there has to be an understanding between the worship leader and the media team. That understanding is pretty simple, when the Spirit leads and the Worship Leader chooses to do a song that has “not been planned” for the service, then the Worship Leader needs to realize that there will not be “lyric support” for that unplanned song. Sounds simple, but it has caused quite a few challenges. Now, if the song is “Amazing Grace” hopefully there shouldn’t be a problem, however not being able to access a “pre-provided instant library” can be an issue for some churches.

Here are some creative ways churches have tackled this challenge. One of the most common ways is integrating a second computer into the media system. These days, computers are relatively inexpensive and this is always a good idea, if possible, so there is a back-up if one computer goes down. Using the second computer, specific software has been installed which allows one to “instantly” pull up a library of songs at whim.

There are many programs/software out there that are great support tools with and for Powerpoint when you have specific needs. So as to not get into a major listing of these programs, I would recommend contacting one of the best people in the industry when it comes to knowing everything that is available in reference to using media support in your service. That individual is Tim Eason at Church Media. His knowledge base is very impressive and he should be able to help you find the best application tools for your specific needs, ones that will integrate into or work well with Powerpoint so that you get the best of both worlds.

Getting back to our subject, other churches have found ways around this issue as well by creating a “songs” archive file within the Powerpoint program. Again using the second computer, you can select and freeze a “default” slide after one song has finished on the primary computer, pull up the “unplanned song” on the second computer and integrate it as soon as possible onto the screen. A second computer also allows one to use a background on the primary computer and “overlay” lyrics from another program. However, if you don’t have the luxury of a second computer, most churches that I work with switch from Powerpoint to a completely other piece of software designed specifically for “lyric/worship” support and then cross back to Powerpoint when the worship segment of the service is done. This is a little more noticeable, especially without a “freeze” function, but works just fine. Again, being creative while keeping the specific needs of each area of your service in mind is one of the keys of mastering Powerpoint and using this tool to your advantage.

The final area that I really believe is the “finishing touch” when it comes to mastering the use of Powerpoint is how you use this program to complete the entire visual look in your worship facility.

By using backgrounds, default slides and designs in accordance with your lighting and scenery (banners, drops, etc.) to present a great professional look to the overall presentation and visuals for the worship facility, this gives one a final step in mastering professionalism. If you have the blessing of a theatrical stage facility especially with theatrical lighting available, this final visual look becomes a very fun, exciting and easy thing to accomplish. If indeed you are doing a blended service in a traditional sanctuary, it’s just a matter of being creative with what you have to work with. Using banners, plants, props, sets or any kind of materials that you can develop a theme or color scheme with- that can “bring together” the entire visual effect, is that extra step which can help bring everything together.

The basic idea of using the power of Powerpoint is to create a visual experience for your audience that helps bridge and support the Word of God so that they may come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Whether it is providing pre-service slides for announcements, welcome slides to make the visitor feel at home, celebrating your volunteers, or identifying the Church Staff/Elder Board, Powerpoint will help you easily and affordably achieve your goals.

Introducing looks and new images in a timely manner, creating a visual experience that offers support while not pulling focus or distracting your audience; and by practicing and initiating some of the ideas mentioned above, you should be able to get a real good head start if you’re are just getting your feet wet. Step up to the next level if you are already a veteran with this program! Grab some of the programs I mentioned above and give them a whirl. Along with the power that Powerpoint supplies within itself, combined, they can help you create some wonderful and dynamic presentations for your worship experience.