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An Introduction to PowerPoint

  • Ruth Brocklehurst
  • ISBN 0 7460 4812 2
  • Usborne Publishing
  • Reviewed by the Editor of ‘Play for Life’ April 2006

“Even if you’ve never used a computer before, this book gives you the essential skills you need to create a lively and professional presentation. Packed with handy tips, it is written in simple, jargon-free language, with lots of helpful step-by-step illustrations. You’ll learn how to plan, design and put on presentations that will impress any audience.” This is the claim on the back cover. This well designed book does just what it says in a style that is the antithesis of the typical software manual and in my opinion superior even to the ‘Dummy’ series of books.

Why are PowerPoint skills important to a Play Therapist? If you work for an agency or organisation, either directly or as a sub contractor they are essential for two main reasons. Firstly to ensure that resources, financial and others, are provided and maintained in order that a play therapy service may be provided. Secondly to ensure that everyone that is involved in the service is consulted and kept informed about the objectives, the requirements, outcomes and boundaries. Achieving these objectives involves giving presentations which must be professional if they are to be effective. The days are gone when overhead projector ‘foils’ were acceptable. There have been many times when this reviewer has cringed at the speaker’s overheads which were unreadable beyond the front row, were shown upside down and out of order because they had cascaded to the floor.

There used to be the excuse that data projectors, which project the image generated by the computer onto a screen were expensive or not available. The overwhelming majority of primary schools, social services units and primary care trusts are now equipped with these so you will not normally have to invest in one. However the cost is now well below a thousand pounds and you can also use it as a big screen home television or you can rent one for the day if you need to. Almost as bad are the presenters who start by apologising about their inability to control PowerPoint and need someone by their side to push the buttons.

A recent poll showed that speaking in public was amongst many people’s top fears, even ahead of dying. Like many things the biggest source of fear is the unknown and the way to overcome this is to build experience in giving public presentations. The starting points are to really know your subject, know the objectives of your presentation and match these to the audience. PowerPoint helps you in the last two of these as well as producing the visual or audio/visual aids you will need.

Many universities insist that all students, whatever their course, acquire basic information technology skills including PowerPoint. APAC have included the development of play therapy presentations by students, using PowerPoint in the first year Certificate course. Some students find this daunting to begin with as they have to build self confidence and master the technical skills. ‘An Introduction to PowerPoint’ will certainly provide all the technical skills needed and APAC provides an outline presentation from which individualised versions may be produced for their students.

The book is written in very simple language, with each point illustrated by a colour picture usually a screen shot. For example: ‘Your screen looks like this one. This is the PowerPoint window, which is divided into three separate sections called panes.’ (Each pane is then identified and explained in the picture).

Although the book has only 48 pages it is a tribute to the author, designers and illustrator that it is very comprehensive, even though PowerPoint is probably the simplest of Microsoft’s Office range of software. It covers all the PowerPoint components used to construct a presentation, using words, pictures, charts and special effects. It also includes giving the presentation in a number of ways, installing the software and troubleshooting.

I have used PowerPoint for many years but discovered some features and short cuts new to me. There are only two significant topics that are missing. The most important is the use of a master slide, to save time and ensure consistency where elements, such as logos, are repeated on each slide. Secondly the creation of hyperlinks to enable the presentation to be given non-sequentially in response to questions from the audience – but this feature is quite advanced and presenters need to build up their experience first before trying this.

A brilliant book. All computer books for users should be produced like it. At a list price £9.99 it is a bargain. Buy it if you are new to giving presentations or PowerPoint or want to brush up your skills!

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