The trick is to ‘carry’ a large reference section at the end of all presentation files, and to link to and from this section using a couple of hyperlinks in the Master Pages. For example, most Master Pages have a copyright notice and a company logo. A link can be associated with the copyright that takes the user to an index slide in the reference section, to find all the slides there. A second link can bring you back: it could cause a jump to the agenda slide of the presentation, for example.

Here is an example:

The use model is as follows. Supposing that I have a file called monday.ppt containing a six-slide presentation and a reference section with 56 slides in it. To create the presentation for Tuesday, I copy monday.ppt to tuesday.ppt and, before getting started on the presentation itself, decide what to do with Monday’s presentation. I move any new and useful slides to the reference section and delete the others. Hence, the reference section grows with time (and may need trimming occasionally).

Having planned the presentation (note 1), I then create it using, for much of the content, slides in the reference section (copying, rather than moving them). There is a lot of copying going on here, and I admit that this method is inefficient from the disk space point of view. However, the advantages make this worthwhile:

  • The presentation material that you are most likely to reuse is easy to find. Rather than being distributed across many files, each of which contains variants of what you are looking for, it is all in one.
  • The link mechanism, being in a Master page, is automatically present on each slide, and requires no maintenance. Once it’s there, it’s there for good.
  • Presentations can be shorter and more punchy. This is because you can rely on quickly finding backup material. Hence, rather than ‘if in doubt, throw it in’, you can practise ‘if in doubt, leave it out’.

To reiterate this last point: when the conversation prompts the need for a reference slide, you can stay in slideshow mode, click on the copyright link (for example), and go immediately to the reference contents page. You will have already created sections in the reference part of the file and, if you are very organised, the contents page will have links into each of these sections. In this case, you just click on the relevant link then, when the diversion is over, you return to the main presentation via the company logo link (for example). You stay in slideshow mode at all times—no need to hit escape and expose your desktop to the audience (or your email, the image of your cat, or worse).

If your content page does not have links, it can simply list the contents of each of the reference sections, facilitating your search. And at least this search stays in the same file, so that you still only leave the slideshow once, at most.

At the moment, I use this technique for two types of presentation: company introductions and training modules. As an independent consultant, I often need to present my company, adapting the slides to the occasion. I also have quite a few training modules and each module is in a file with its own reference section. Since every training course requires some customisation, this technique is an excellent way to keep all my most recent training collateral on hand.

Note1: My preference is to use William Freeman’s Two-Minute Message system