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Quizzes In PowerPoint

When creating a quiz in PowerPoint, the temptation is to try and please every single person in the audience by presenting them with a multitude of questions on a huge variety of different subjects. In other words, we know that the members of our audience come from vastly differing backgrounds and have a smorgasbord of different experiences and we want each one to be able to answer a good number of questions. We want to present a wide variety of subjects to inspire interest, some difficult questions to test the participants and make it more interesting, and we also want to ask some questions that we think our audience will be able to answer, to engage them and increase their confidence.

In doing the above, however, the danger is that your carefully crafted quiz may grow in size at an alarming rate! Yes, you have a few questions that everybody can answer, but you had to create 3,000 questions to do that!

If you’re planning a quiz I would bear in mind the following guidelines.

Rule 1: Make it fun! If nothing else, follow Rule 1.

Nobody will thank you if you make your quiz-goers sit through a 2 hour quiz that bores them to death.

Types Of Question

There are many different ways you can vary the questions you ask. Here are some suggestions:

What The Question Asks

  • “When” questions. When did Queen Boadicea rules?
  • “What” questions. What is a solar eclipse?
  • “Who” questions. Who was the lead singer of the Beatles?
  • You can explore the whole gamut of who, what, whey, when, how, etc.

The Medium Of The Question

Questions can be delivered in many different media. Here are some options open to you:

  • Say the question. “How many are in a Baker’s Dozen?”
  • Provide a picture: “Who is this?”. “What animal is this?”
  • Play some music. “What instrument is this?” “Name the song”

When To Give Breaks

If it’s a long quiz, do yourself a favour and introduce a break before your audience gets bored/irritated/disengaged. In making the quiz fun, you need to think about giving your participants a break. Otherwise this quiz will seem too much like “work” (or worse – “torture”).

Personalise The Quiz Where Possible

If you can, use nuggets of information you’ve collected about members of your audience. If you know someone’s favourite band is the Rolling Stones, include a pop question that involves the Rolling Stones. If you heard that another member plays tennis for a local club, include some questions about famous tennis stars of the past. You get the picture. Make the quiz “general”, but include questions that will spark the interest of individuals too.

There is nothing worse than a participant who feels that they know nothing: to them, every question in the quiz may as well be asked in a different language.

Don’t Make The Quiz Too Long

I’ve sometimes made the mistake of delivering a quiz that was far too long. After not too short a time, participants started taking their own breaks, whether I was ready or not. So, be aware of how long you think the quiz will take in total, and also how long each section will take. Don’t make the entire quiz take too long, and schedule in regular breaks.

Giving The Answers

As judge and jury, you must use your power wisely. It won’t serve you to be too strict and mark “wrong” answers that are in the most part right. The viability of the following point depends on the nature of the quiz. If it’s an informal family quiz, perhaps given at Christmas, the following point stands. If it’s a strict team vs team affair at work, it might be completely different! Be prepared to allow someone a right answer, even if you know damn well that it’s wrong! You must remember that the whole point of having a quiz is to have fun.

Doing the above will make them want you back for the next Christmas Quiz.

Make Sound Start Automatically In PowerPoint

Often you’ll want to make a sound file play automatically when a slide is displayed. The alternative is to have to wait for the slide to appear and then trigger the sound with a click of your mouse. In many cases, this is too unwieldy a process. How do we make sound start automatically when the slide appears?

Let’s demonstrate with a simple example.

How To Make Sound Play Automatically

The first step is to insert your sound file onto a slide, and to do that go to the Insert tab and click the Audio button on the far right.

Audio Button In PowerPoint

When the Insert Audio window opens, navigate to where your sound file is, select it and click Insert. When your sound file is on the slide, you’ll see an icon that looks like this:

Sound File On A Slide

While the sound file is selected, you’ll see the Audio Tools tab in the ribbon. Go to the Playback tab within that.

Audio Tools Tab

In the Audio Options group you should see the Start selector, and it will display “On Click” by default. Change that to “Automatically”. Now as soon as that slide appears, the sound file will start.

The only problem now is the unsightly image of the sound file and its playback controls on the slide. Not everybody is happy about it being on show like that. There is an easy solution: just drag it off the visible area of the slide. You can still see it in the workspace, and you can still work with it, but when you run your presentation, it will be hidden.

Drag The Sound File Off The Slide

Click to enlarge

PowerPoint Music Quiz

Download the PowerPoint Music Quiz.

Name The Instrument Quiz

This music quiz in PowerPoint has a sample of music played by a particular instrument on each slide. Start the presentation by pressing F5 on the keyboard and either press Enter or click on a slide to progress to the next slide. Play the sample music by clicking on the play button that appears when you hover over the sound file (you can also pause playback, if need be). You audience will need to write down the name of the instrument on a piece of paper, and when you’ve gone through all the slides, each member of the audience will hand their paper in for marking.


Each slide has the name of the instrument in the title, so don’t let the audience see.

Open the PowerPoint quiz, and save it to your computer for future use. You can even add more sound files to your presentation if you have them, to make the quiz more interesting.

This quiz is great for Christmas, Thanksgiving and any other time where there is a large gathering of people (especially kids).

PowerPoint Artistic Effects

PowerPoint 2010 has a whole host of special “Artistic Effects” that it can apply to the images you insert onto your slides. These images can be photos that you’ve taken yourself, or artwork you’ve obtained from other sources. As long as the image is in a popular format like .gif, .jpg or .png (or other formats) you can insert it into your presentation. It’s dead easy to apply an artistic effect – but you must have your image selected first (remind yourself of how to insert images in PowerPoint). You do need to have the image selected, because only then will the Picture Tools – Format tab be displayed in the Ribbon. And we need this tab.

Picture Tools Tab

With the image selected, and in the Format tab, you should see the Artistic Effects command in the Adjust group. Here it is:

Artistic Effects In PowerPoint

When you click on this magical button, a whole world of possibilities opens up before you. Check out this gallery of artistic effects, using the image we have selected (in this case a cute koala bear. Awwww).

Artistic Effects On A Bear

The live preview that PowerPoint offers is invaluable in situations such as this one: you want to preview what one particular setting will look like before moving quickly on to the next setting. You can do this here by simply hovering over the gallery image of the effect you want to preview. The effect is temporarily applied to the image, and is removed when you move the mouse away. And artistic effects are so easy to apply that you can create stunning graphics in a matter of seconds. All you have to do is click on the effect that you like.

Here are some of the more popular Artistic Effects:

  • Pencil Grayscale – this effect makes the picture look like it was sketched by the artist with some pencils.
  • Paint Brush – a watercolour painting, if ever I saw one!
  • Blur – a peculiar one. It just makes the picture look out of focus. Handy if you want to bring attention to the text on your slides.
  • Light Screen – this effect reminds me a little of embroidery and/or pictures made with mosaics.
  • Glass – a really “wet” look. As though you’re looking through a window that’s being rained on.

Those are my favourite PowerPoint Artistic Effects, anyway. They’re so easy to apply/preview, though, you may as well insert your own images and preview the whole gamut of effects yourself.

Interesting Notes On Artistic Effects

  1. You can’t apply Artistic Effects cumulatively (e.g. plastic wrap on top of watercolour sponge on top of chalk sketch). Only one effect can be applied to an image at any one time. So choose wisely!
  2. After you’ve applied your artistic effect, you can save the image from your presentation to your hard drive. This means that you can do fancy schmancy image editing without Photoshop! To save your image (post Artistic Effect), right click on it and select Save as Picture. Find a location on your computer for it and click Save. The image saved includes those fancy effects – yay!
  3. Clever people will realise that point 2 above contradicts point 1. You can apply an Artistic Effect to your image, save it to your computer, insert it onto a new slide and then apply another Artistic Effect. Yay for thinking outside the box!
  4. A quick way to remove all effects you’ve applied to an image since you inserted it is to click the Reset Picture command (in the Adjust group, in the Picture Tools tab).

Remove The Background From An Image In PowerPoint

There may be times when you have two or more overlapping images in your PowerPoint presentation and you want to make the background of one image transparent, so that you can see the other image(s) behind it. For this kind of situation, PowerPoint’s background removal tool is an excellent choice. Solid areas of colour are easier for PowerPoint to cope with, but the background removal tool is surprisingly versatile. Let’s see what we can do with an example.

Suppose you have two separate images; one of a sunset and one of a chimney. The chimney image is in the foreground and has some unwanted background that obscures the photograph of a sunset behind it. We want to remove the chimney’s background so that we can see the sunset behind it. You might start off with something like this:

Remove Background In PowerPoint Start

Click to enlarge

There are two things we need to sort out:

  1. the chimney is too big
  2. the background in the photo of the chimney is blocking our view of the beautiful sunset

We can easily resize the chimney by clicking and dragging on the corner handles of the chimney image. It’s usually better (not always) to resize by dragging on the corner handles as that will maintain the proportions of the chimney. If you drag the other handles you will end up with a chimney that is too squat or too thin. Resizing the chimney gives us this:

Resized Chimney

Click to enlarge

Now we need to remove the chimney’s background so that we can see the sunset behind it. The chimney image should still be selected, so click on the Format tab that appears in the ribbon under Picture Tools tab.

Picture Tools Tab - Format

Click on the Remove Background command over on the left. PowerPoint will highlight in purple the area that will be removed, but you will usually have to change this area by dragging on its resize handles.

Resize Backgrund Area

You should arrive at something like this:

Chimney Background

Now the bounding box includes the chimney in its entirety. In the ribbon, you should see a command called Keep Changes – click that.

Background Removal - Keep Changes

This will remove the chimney’s background, highlighted in purple. You should now have an image of a chimney with the sunset image showing through in the background – just what we want.

Background Removed - By PowerPoint

Click to enlarge

This is only an demonstration of how to remove the background from an image. You might have other images this could work on, like a group of business people/classroom, a bird/sky, a computer/office; there are many situations where the easy removal of backgrounds from images are required.

Now you know how to do it!

Abstract PowerPoint Backgrounds

Here’s a selection of abstract PowerPoint backgrounds for your presentation. We’ve carefully inserted each background into its own PowerPoint presentation so you don’t have to. Yes, “we’ll do all the hard work for you, so you don’t have to”, really is our middle name!

All you have to do is click on a thumbnail image to open the presentation in PowerPoint. You can then save it to your computer to use at your leisure. Alternatively, right click on an image and choose “save as” to save directly to your PC.


Abstract Green PowerPoint Background Abstract Orange PowerPoint Background Abstract Red PowerPoint Background
Abstract Blue 2 PowerPoint Background Abstract Blue 3 PowerPoint Background
Dark Blue Abstract PowerPoint Background Pink Abstract PowerPoint Background  Blue Abstract PowerPoint Background

If you like these backgrounds, you’ll love these Bokeh PowerPoint Backgrounds.

Bokeh PowerPoint Backgrounds

The bokeh style mimics the photographic phenomenon of having a blurry background whilst the subject is in focus. You can introduce the bokeh effect into your PowerPoint presentations by downloading these free bokeh PowerPoint backgrounds. All the hard work has already been done for you as the backgrounds are inserted into presentations. All you have to do is download them and open them in PowerPoint. Click on an image that you like to open its corresponding presentation immediately in PowerPoint, or right click and select Save As to download it to your computer.

Free Bokeh PowerPoint Backgrounds

There are 15 professionally designed PowerPoint backgrounds above – download them all and wow your audience with your dazzling presentations. More awesome backgrounds to come!

Creating Shapes In PowerPoint

In the past, shape manipulation has had to be performed in graphics packages like Adobe Illustrator, Photoshop or Fireworks. You would create an image and then insert it into your PowerPoint presentation. However, PowerPoint 2010 introduces some useful shape manipulation tools that allow us to perform tasks that designers should find familiar, such as:

  • union
  • intersect
  • combine
  • subtract

These PowerPoint shape commands are not shown by default on the ribbon. We’ll have to first customise the ribbon to take advantage of them. Click the File tab, and then click Options > Customise Ribbon. Let’s create a brand new tab in which to put the shape commands. Typically, we’ll want to insert a shape first and then manipulate it, so we’ll put the new shape manipulation tab after the Insert tab. Click the Insert tab to select it in the list on the right.

Select The Insert Tab

Click to enlarge

Now, click New Tab at the bottom. Use the Rename button at the bottom to rename it to something like Shape Commands. We’re going to add commands that aren’t already present in the ribbon to the new Shape Commands tab, so change the Choose commands from selector above the list on the left to be Commands not in the Ribbon. Select any item in the list and press “s” on the keyboard to position the list closer to the shape commands. You should see:

  • Shape Combine
  • Shape Intersect
  • Shape Subtract
  • Shape Union

These are precisely the commands we need. Make sure that New Group (Custom) is selected on the right before selecting a command on the left and adding it.

Add Shape Commands To The Ribbon

Click to enlarge

Click OK and you should see the new Shape Commands tab appear after the Insert tab in the ribbon. We’re now ready to create some funky shapes!

Shape Manipulation In PowerPoint

Let’s get familiar with these shape tools by following a simple example: creating a crescent shape. This is a silly example as there is already a crescent shape available in PowerPoint (Insert > Shapes > Moon), but it will serve to illustrate how the shape commands work. Draw out two circles by selecting the Oval tool (Insert > Shapes > Oval), and dragging on a slide whilst holding down the Shift key (this constrains proportions). Copy and paste the first circle (Ctrl-c, Ctrl-v), select both and you should end up with something like this:
Two Circles

With both circles selected, go to the new Shape Command tab and click Shape Subtract.
Shape Subtract

One shape cuts away its outline out from the other, leaving something like this:

Make A Crescent In PowerPoint

The order that the shapes appear on the slide determines which one does the cutting. You can change the order by selecting one of the shapes and then by clicking either Bring Forward or Send Backward (on the Format tab that appears when a shape is selected).

It’s worth experimenting with the different shape commands in PowerPoint to discover what kind of crazy shapes you can create!

Here’s a key that took, literally, five minutes to cook up:

keyJust kidding. That’s a photo of a key. Here’s the more humble PowerPoint version:

Key Drawn In PowerPoint


To make this key we drew a few rectangles and combined them, and then drew a circle and subtracted it. Then we applied a Shape Style to give the key its 3D appearance. Fairly easy stuff to do now in PowerPoint 2010, and it beats shelling out hundreds of $’s to buy Fireworks/Photoshop/Illustrator to achieve a similar effect.

Venn Diagram Template

Download the Venn diagram template.

Venn diagrams are a great tool to represent information visually – especially data about overlapping groups. For example, you might have a group of 100 people, 80 of which own a car, 55 of which own a bicycle, and 40 of which own both. A Venn diagram is an excellent aid to help us determine how many people either owned a car or owned a bicycle, or how many people owned neither.

To create a Venn diagram in PowerPoint, all we need to do is add some SmartArt. Go to the Insert tab and click the SmartArt command (in the Illustrations group). The SmartArt window opens with a large selection to choose from. Venn diagrams (and there are four types) are actually in the Relationship category, near the bottom.


Venn Diagram In PowerPoint

Click to enlarge

The following types of Venn are available:

  1. Basic Venn
  2. Linear Venn
  3. Stacked Venn
  4. Radial Venn


We’re going to use a basic Venn diagram for this task, so double click on the image of the Basic Venn. There are three circles, but we only need two, so click on the bounding border of one circle and press the delete key.

You are now left with two circles, one for car owners and one for bicycle owners. The area where the two circles overlap represents those people who own both a car and a bicycle. Let’s add some numbers. Each circle has a placeholder text box that we can start typing into.

Venn Diagram With Numbers

The numbers within the circles were easy to add because we just overtyped the placeholders. For the area where the circles overlap, we’ll need to insert a text box: on the Insert tab, click on Text Box (in the Text group) and click once within the overlapping area. Then type out your number, like this:

Venn Diagram Overlap

You’ll probably need to increase the font size of this new text to make it similar to the existing numbers.

Back to our question: we can see that the number of people who owned either a car or a bicycle is 40 + 40 + 15 = 95, and the number of people who owned neither is 100 – 95 = 5.

Here is the Venn diagram template. We’ve taken the liberty of sprucing it up, so it now has a bounding box and each circle has an informative label. It looks like this:

Venn Diagram Template


Curved Text In PowerPoint

By default, when you type out text in a text box, it displays horizontally. But sometimes, for that extra pizazz, you might like your text to be curved, and maybe even follow the contours of a curved line.

You can easily create curved text In PowerPoint 2010, by creating an oval shape and typing your text inside it.

Creating Your Curved Text

Activate the oval tool by going to the Insert tab and finding it in Shapes (in the Illustrations group).

Oval Tool

Draw a circle by clicking and dragging on the slide and hold down shift to constrain its proportions. When you start typing some text with the circle selected, the text will appear inside the circle. So type out your text! While the circle is selected, the Drawing Tools and Format tabs appear in the ribbon. We need the Text Effects command.

Text Effects

Select Transform, and then choose any of the Follow Path options. For this example, we chose the first one on the left (Arch Up). The text should now follow the curve of your circle.


Curved Text In PowerPoint

The only problem is, the text is white and we can see the circle. We want black text, and we don’t want to see the circle. Let’s change the text colour to black first, so that we don’t lose our white text when the background becomes white. With either the circle or the text itself selected, go to the Home tab, and in the Font group, change the Font Colour to be black.

Black Font Colour

To make the circle invisible, you’ll need to have it selected. We’re going to remove the outline and fill: with the circle selected, go to the Format tab and click on Shape Fill. Select No Fill. Now click on Shape Outline and select No Outline.

Invisible Circle

Now all we can see is the curved text. At this point you can make the curve of your text shallower or steeper by dragging on the shape’s resize handles.

Unfortunately, if you need your text to follow more complex curves, PowerPoint isn’t (yet) up to the job. You may have to create an image of your text in a graphics editor like Adobe Fireworks, Illustrator or Photoshop, and then insert the image into your presentation’s slide. Of course, if you do this, the text won’t be editable within PowerPoint. If you needed to change the text, you’d need to amend it in the graphics editor and re-insert it into PowerPoint.