Creating Interactive PowerPoint Presentations
for Teachers and Students


Drs. Terry & Cathy Cavanaugh

Florida Center for Instructional Technology, USF


The Presentation

††††††††††† PowerPoint is much more than a linear presentation tool. The 97 and later versions of PowerPoint support branching navigation, including custom buttons and menus. These features make PowerPoint a powerful and flexible product for creating custom lessons. This tool is useful as an automated kiosk, or as an individualized tutor. It is easier than ever to incorporate multimedia elements such as sound, graphics, animation, photos, and movies into the show. In addition, a PowerPoint show can include Web links, and a variety of files created in other programs. Databases, spreadsheets, and charts are a few examples. Now PowerPoint streamlines the process of designing for the Web, when presentations are saved as HTML files.


††††††††††† Presentation software, such as PowerPoint, can be used for education in three general formats:

1.      Teacher to Audience

2.      Teacher to Individual

3.      Student to Audience

Teacher to Audience presentations involve the teacher, a presenter, sharing information with a class or group, in the classroom or even across the web. A presentation can be used to do more than just transmit information. Other applications include brainstorming, organizing, and reviewing. Benefits of interactive presentations include sensory engagement through multimedia, and easy reuse and updating of saved files.

Teacher to Individual presentations are often delivered by way of a hand-on computer station. Here students or small groups can work on tutorials, interactive lessons with feedback, review, and even testing. Using this approach students can work at their own pace, and can experience individual remediation or enrichment. This type of program can be run in a computer lab, through a schoolís network, or onto the World Wide Web.

Student to Audience presentations allow a student or group of students to share their learning with their class, their parents, their community, and even the world. By developing a presentation students gain extensive experience with organizing information, and they experience the real-world task of communicating knowledge to others.


Design Basics

When creating PowerPoint shows, there are some design considerations that should always be kept in mind. These characteristics will make presentations easier to comprehend and make the presenter appear more professional. First, on any slide itís best limit yourself to using a maximum of six text items as phrases or bullet points. Any more than this and the text will be too small or there will be so many points that it is hard for the audience to keep in mind. If you have more than five or six points, consider could grouping them into subtopics, then present the list for each subtopics as its own side. For purposes of presentation, it is best to use clean fonts and large font sizes. Avoid using decorative letter fonts, and instead use the classic Arial or Roman font types. When presenting, a 20-36 point font size is good for distance reading. Avoid writing in all upper case, even for titles. The shape of a word can make it much easier to comprehend, and all caps make all words have the same block shape, so use lower case for most of your text.Also, since web use has become very common, it is a good idea to be sparing in your use of the underline and limit it to URLs and references only. Always choose a few high-contrast colors for your presentation: too many colors can become confusing, and a lack of contrast between your text and background can render your presentation unreadable. While people prefer to read dark text on a light background, light text and dark backgrounds are also acceptable. Just make sure that the contrast is sufficient. Finally, consistently test the display of your presentation, along with testing microphones, speakers or any other associated equipment you may need to use.



The use of multimedia is an excellent way to enhance a presentation. You can use graphics, sound, video, animation, and charts to add to your message. If possible keep multimedia files small, since they will have to load into your presentation computerís RAM before being used and therefore may cause delays or pauses in the presentation. Donít include picture or sounds just because you can. An image or sound that has no bearing on the presentation can be confusing or distracting. Also itís usually a good idea to avoid repetitive sound. A short tone is usually OK, but something longer that repeats often can also be disruptive and distracting.


Multimedia Examples

q       Virtual field trips

q       Displaying items students need to recognize

q       Displaying photos of student performances

q       Simulations of processes or events

q       Stills from movies

q       Scans of documents

q       Views through lenses

q       Spoken instructions

q       Reinforcing feedback

q       Vocabulary pronunciation


Interactive Presentations

Two very easy types of interactivity that can be included into any PowerPoint presentation are navigation and feedback. For navigation, you can use onscreen buttons and hypertext for a branching structure, allowing the user to visit the sections as they wish or to provide the option to gain more information on topics of interested. For feedback, slides can present questions and offer choices of answers. With proper scripting, when students make choices they are either given feedback on the slide or are taken to new slides which provide information. Benefits for the user of this structure include increased engagement, control, and interest along with immediate response.

You can go even further through the use of Visual Basic Applications (VBA).With VBA, it is possible for a PowerPoint presentation to not only ask and evaluate questions, but also track responses, store information, provide feedback, and generate reports.


How to add interactivity with buttons for navigation or answers:

1.      From the Slide Show Menu choose Action Buttons

2.      Select button appearance

3.      Then choose the action that you would like the button to do

4.      Locate and size button on slide

5.      Double-click button to change color

6.      Right-click on the button to add text or change action


How to add interactivity through hypertext for menus and links:

1.      Highlight text,

2.      Then right-click the selected text to choose Action Settings

3.      Select an action for the text: (such as)

q       link to another slide

q       link to another PowerPoint

q       open a file

q       open a specific web page (URL)

q       run a program

q       run a macro (or VBA application)

q       play a sound or video