PowerPoint Presentations for Zoom

One of the helpful features in Zoom, and other teleconferencing apps, is the ability to “share your screen” with everyone in the conference, thus sharing videos, documents that you’re working on together, and more. As much as possible, I like to have all the materials I will share gathered into one PowerPoint presentation that’s loaded and ready to go so I don’t have to figure out anything or switch between programs in the middle of the call.

This page describes the method I have found most effective for preparing a PowerPoint presentation and sharing it on Zoom.

Slide Format

If you’re used to presenting on a big screen in the front of an auditorium, you’ll learn that some things are different when you’re sharing screens. For example, in an auditorium, I only use font sizes 24 and up (ideally 28 and up) for legibility so you can’t fit a lot of words on a screen. On a shared screen in Zoom, even 12-14 point is fine if most of your users are on computers (if most users are on phones, keep it big.)

Zoom displays a little differently on different devices and depending on people’s different settings. SOME people are not able to see things at the very top of a shared screen, or the very bottom of a shared screen, or the right 20% of the screen because Zoom items are displaying there. It’s a little hard to predict, but basically, it’s best not to put any super vital content on these edges of your slides.

I like using black backgrounds and white text on slides – I think it looks a little more elegant in a shared screen and is easier to read.

If I will be showing part of a slide show, then stopping sharing so I can talk for a while, then going back to sharing, I find it helpful to leave blank slides at that break point. That way when I finish up part A – I advance to a blank slide, and stop sharing. When I start sharing again, then I’m starting with a blank slide as everyone’s screen makes the switch over, then I advance when I’m ready. It’s just smoother than returning to the old and now slightly irrelevant slide.

If I’ll be showing a video, I always have a blank slide or title slide for the video on the slide before it. Then on the video slide, I set the video to play automatically. That means I can come in to the title slide, and then easily advance to start the video without having to find the right place to click to start it.

Showing Pictures on Zoom

On a Zoom call, you could, of course, just share photos from your files on your computer, or from random websites – anything you can have open on your computer. I prefer copying photos and inserting them into my PowerPoint. Then I can crop them to exactly the portion I want, or add captions or anything else to optimize the way they look, and have them exactly in the order I’ll want them to be in the presentation.

Sometimes I want to show what a website looks like. I’ll usually do a screen capture, or use Microsoft’s snipping tool to grab a copy of it to insert in my PowerPoint. That way I don’t have to worry about what will happen if that website goes down that day. (Now, obviously if I want to be able to interact with the live website, then I would just share the screen of what’s in my browser window.)

Note: pictures can take up a lot of memory. You can compress them to save space without losing much quality. After you’ve inserted the pictures in the PowerPoint, select any one picture, then in the “picture format” menu, near the left side of the screen, you’ll see a number of options. See the one in the top right of this image that’s a picture with 4 little triangles pointing at each corner? Click on that to compress images. Unclick the box that says “apply only to this picture” so it will apply to all photos in the presentation and choose “web” or “print” resolution.


Adding Audio and Video

Lots of people just share videos straight from YouTube or Vimeo or wherever. Some people will “insert online video” into their PowerPoint presentation. This links to a video online and plays it from the web at that point in the presentation. I DON’T recommend this… if that website is down, or your signal gets interrupted, or ads play or whatever, it can get really awkward. I highly recommend downloading videos and inserting them into your PowerPoint.

Downloading what you need

If you want to download videos from YouTube, YTD downloader is a free software program that enables you to do that easily. (You could also check out 4K Video Downloader as an option.) Please be aware of copyright law and consider whether you are legally able to use that content for your purposes.

Gathering Recordings in one place

Make  sure that you have saved all the video you will use in a presentation IN THE SAME FOLDER as where you’ve saved the presentation.  With the video, we are only putting a LINK to the video in the slide deck. If we insert the whole video in the slide deck, it becomes a massive file and has problems loading. Having the video in the same folder makes it more likely the link works as you intend.

If you’ll upload your work to google drive for someone else to use, make sure that when you upload the PowerPoint, you also upload all the videos  to the SAME FOLDER as the presentation they’re associated with and that they know they’ll need to slide deck and the videos for the presentation.

Inserting audio recordings (.mp3)

On the slide where you want the audio to play, choose “insert” then choose audio, then choose audio on my PC. Then find the right file and insert it. On playback menu, choose “start automatically”, set the volume to medium (you’ll need to test this on Zoom later to find out if that’s the right level). And choose “hide during show” so you don’t get the little speaker icon on the slide. If you want the music to keep playing as you advance slides forward (say you’ve got several slides with lyrics for the song in the recording, or you have several images you want to show as the music plays), choose the box for “play across slides.” The music will keep playing when you advance to the next slide.

Note that if desired, you can “trim” the recording. Like if there’s dead space at the beginning of the recording or clapping at the end, you can use the trim command to play only the portion of the recording you want.

Inserting video recordings – .mp4, .mov

On the slide where you want the video, choose “insert” then video, then video on my PC. Find the file you want, select it, and then in the bottom right where it says “insert”, click on that little triangle to get the drop-down menu. Choose “insert link to file” instead of “insert” video. This will help keep your PowerPoint a manageable size – if you insert the whole video, the PowerPoint is huge, and that can cause problems with it running smoothly or being easy to upload.

In the playback menu for the video, choose “start automatically”. Set the volume to medium. (You’ll absolutely want to test the volume on Zoom later to see how it sounds to your meeting participants. Sometimes what sounds quiet to you will blast them.)

You’ll often want to choose “play full screen” but not always (like if you want to type lyrics on the slide to appear with the video) and you may want to “hide while not playing” – that’s up to you. You can also “trim” videos to start exactly where you want them to start, and end where you want them to end.

Sharing Links in PowerPoint

If you want to send people to look at a website during class, you can put a QR code in a PowerPoint that you share, and they can use a QR scanner on their phone to scan that image on their computer screen. (You should also paste the link into the chat for those who only have one device)  You can use this web site to generate QR codes: https://www.qr-code-generator.com

Checking your presentation

Did you put blank slides in before your slides with videos? Remember that helps you gather your thoughts before you start the video.

Play through the slide show a few times to make sure everything works correctly before your call. I think if the success of the presentation is important to you, you should also test it on Zoom before the actual moment of the meeting. Practicing the transition to sharing the slides can help you be more successful.

You can practice by doing a free Zoom meeting online anytime at https://zoom.us. You could ask a friend, family member or co-worker to join you on the call to give you their perspective on what they can see and hear. Or, you can use a second device (a phone or tablet) to dial into the call so you can see and hear how it looks there, or you can record the meeting, then review the recording.

Sharing Your Presentation

Just prior to the meeting, try to close down as many other things on your computer as possible. Close your open documents and spreadsheets, close your internet tabs, your social media apps… that will make it easier to find the thing you want to share, and mean your computer isn’t wasting processing energy doing other tasks.

Then, start your slide show from the beginning (or wherever you want to start from). Then go to the Zoom meeting. (You may need to tap the Windows key or the control key on a Mac to get the Zoom icon – click on that to return to Zoom.)

During the meeting, when it’s time to share, choose “share screen” and a window like this will pop up. Select the “PowerPoint slide show” (bottom left) not the “welcome to PowerPoint.” If you will be playing audio or video that you want the participants to hear, you MUST choose “share computer sound” in the bottom left. If you will be showing a video, then choose “optimize… for video clip.” Then click share.

share screen

You’ll know the sharing is working if you see your slide show and you see this bar across the top of it. When you’re done sharing, click the red box.


Advanced Tips for Sharing

There’s lots of ways you can optimize the sharing so your work looks its best. Read my article on Sharing Screens on Zoom for all the details.

Learn More

To learn more about how to use Zoom, check out the articles in my Zoom Guide. Here’s some to start with:

Updated 6/28/21