Microsoft PowerPoint: Powerful or Pointless?

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

Although thousands of ministries have made the (wise) move to one of several extremely capable worship presentation software programs, Microsoft PowerPoint continues to wear the “Most Likely Presentation Software to be Used at Church” badge. Love it or hate it, PP’s ubiquity and familiarity make it a temptation too difficult for many folks to resist when preparing and/or projecting ministry messages, lessons, lyrics, photos, scriptures or announcements. I realize some of you reading this are perfectly satisfied with the features and workflow PowerPoint provides while others are becoming more and more frustrated with the programs limitations or have moved on to greener pastures (backgrounds!?) years ago.

This article seeks to address both sides of the PowerPoint conundrum. The first half focuses on pointers for those of you currently using or abusing PP, designed to help you to maximize the programs many features and also streamline your presentation building workflow. Part two offers some of my “personal peeves” with PowerPoint’s limitations especially when used within ministry contexts. So whether you are a “Pointer” or a “Protester”, chances are excellent you’ll find some “take aways” within the next 1,415 words or so.

Next slide please.

When it comes to software, nearly all of us settle into familiar, habitual, but not necessarily the most powerful or efficient, patterns of use. If we must use PowerPoint in ministry (whatever our reasons) let’s at least commit ourselves to using it as powerfully, efficiently, and effectively as possible.

Tip #1: Use the “Presenter Mode”
This mode offer’s a few key advantages over PP’s normal “Slideshow Mode”. One advantage is the ability to temporarily black out the program (audience) screen while maintaining the presenter view on the primary monitor (a.k.a. control screen). Simply click “Black Screen” on the primary monitor while in the Presenter Mode. To resume the slide show, click “Resume Show”.

Another advantage is the ability to preview slide thumbnails of upcoming slides and an elapsed time clock since the start of the slide show (sermon!). Finally, while in the Presenter Mode, speaker notes can also be displayed on the primary monitor just below the preview pane displaying the currently projected slide.

In PP 2003 the Presenter Mode is activated by selecting “Set up Show” under the “Slide Show” menu then selecting (activating) the box next to “Show Presenter View”. The Presenter Mode is only available with dual display active (two monitors).

Tip #2: Zoom, zoom
Zooming in or out on a slide (slowly please!) can add a bit more of a dramatic impact to photographs and images. Here’s how to do it in PP 2003:

1. Click the area you want to change the zoom for, either the Outline tab, the Slides tab, or the slide that’s displayed in the slide pane.

2. On the Standard toolbar, click the arrow next to the Zoom box, and then click the magnification you want.

When you use zoom for the slide pane, you can click Fit to redisplay the entire slide

Tip #3: Export all slides instantly (ok, almost instantly) as .jpg’s and/or other image formats
This is a very useful feature if your ministry (like many) PREPARE your presentations in PP but PRESENT them in a worship presentation program which may or may not import PP presentations directly (the best ones do). This is also a good feature when you want to insert PP slides into a video editing timeline as part of a video production. Here’s how to accomplish this in PP 2003: Select “Save As” under the “File” menu. In the “Save as Type” drop down requester select .JPEG Interchange File Format (jpg.) (or any of the other file type options) and select “Save”. In the following option box select either “Current Slide Only” or “Every Slide”. In a matter of seconds every slide in your presentation will be saved as it’s own image in your designated folder.

Tip #4: Create Photo Albums
If you want to present photographs in PowerPoint creating a photo album is much quicker than attempting to create and customize individual slides for each photos. To create a Photo Album (again, in PP 03) Select “Picture” on the “Insert” menu, and then click “New Photo Album”. In the resulting Photo Album dialog box add the photos you want in your album then click “Create”. This is a great feature for quickly setting up a photo montage presentation.

Tip #5: Save your fonts with your presentation
If transporting your presentation to another computer you can save yourself some frustration by saving your fonts with your presentation. Select “Option” under the “Tools” menu. Select the “Save” tab and activate the check box next to “Embed TrueType Fonts”.

Tip #6: Play music or narration throughout a presentation
Select “Movies and Sounds” under the “Insert” menu then “Sound from File” from the drop down menu. Choose either “Automatically” or “When Clicked” depending on how you would like to begin playback. From the drop down menu directly to the right of the sound file name select “Effect Options”. Under the “Save” tab select “After ??? slides” under the “Stop Playing” section and enter a number larger than the number of slides in your presentation to have the sound file played throughout all your slides. Click “Ok” (but you knew that already).

If you are looking for a reason (or a LOT of reasons) to finally shut down PowerPoint (or convince your pastor to do so), you’re going to love this section. Following are some of my least favorite things about the idea of using PowerPoint in worship.

PEEVE #1 – Zero word of God
It’s not exactly a news flash to point out that PP does not come equipped with any versions of the bible nor does it have the capability of adding bible versions to it’s built-in data base. This capability is obviously standard fare for every worship presentation software program on the planet. This means that in order to display scripture in PP you must either type out every word (not good) or at east copy and paste scriptures from your favorite digital bible source, most commonly, worship presentation software, bible study software or the web.

PEEVE #2 – Clumsy or Non-Existent Video Playback
PowerPoint may have some good things going for it but manipulating and presenting video is definitely NOT one of them. 94.78 % of the churches using media in powerful and engaging ways realize the vital role of video in worship. PowerPoint’s inability to easily and seamlessly integrate video as stand alone clips or as motion backgrounds behind text is a deal-breaker. Sure there are third party plug-ins and add ons which bring more powerful video capabilities to PowerPoint but our purpose in this article is to evaluate PP on it’s own merits.

PEEVE #3 – Would you like to seamlessly superimpose an emergency message or nursery announcement atop your currently projected program output? Nope, PowerPoint can’t do this either.

PEEVE #4 – One of the most frequent needs in ministry is the ability to make on the fly changes such as adding or editing song lyrics, sermon material, scriptures or announcements. All the major worship presentation programs have features providing these on-the-fly slide editing capabilities but PowerPoint does not allow these types of changes (edits) without disrupting its “program” output.

Those of you using PowerPoint no doubt have your own list of pros and cons. Obviously the program can be used in ministry settings but it’s a tool that is not totally suited for the task.

I would strongly suggest you make the jump to a presentation program specifically designed for ministry settings. (see “My Top 3 Presentation Software Picks” sidebar)

But it’s up to you and your ministry to decide if PowerPoint is in fact, powerful or pointless for your specific needs and applications.
One final request of those using PowerPoint in ministry-promise me you will always keep in mind the granddaddy of all principles when starting up PowerPoint on behalf of the kingdom of God – DESIGN YOUR POWERPOINT SLIDES SO THEY DO NOT LOOK LIKE POWERPOINT. In other words, COMPELLING not CORPORATE. But that’s an entirely different article for another day.

End of presentation.