How to Solve PowerPoint's 3 Biggest Problems With Presentations

Being a PowerPoint geek can be a blessing and a curse.

After 10+ years of  salvaging presentations (and professional reputations) I thought it was time to compile some answers for three of the most universally puzzling PowerPoint problems:

"With great power comes great responsibility" - Uncle Ben Parker to Peter Parker (aka Spiderman)

1. How do I get a YouTube video to play in PowerPoint?

First things first: PowerPoint supports a wide variety of multi-media files, but it's not uncommon to encounter a file type that doesn't play well with PowerPoint. PowerPoint 2010 is much more multi-media friendly, but for those of us who don't have it yet, here's a nice list from Microsoft that details supported audio/video file types in PowerPoint 2007:

Like I said, Microsoft has made it MUCH easier to work with web-based video files in PowerPoint 2010, but if you're working with PowerPoint 2007 or earlier, you'll have to take some extra steps to make YouTube videos work for you.

Here is an article from Microsoft on adding youtube vids to powerpoint

2. How do I add a background audio track to my PowerPoint?

Like video, audio files in PowerPoint can be linked OR embedded.  The differences between embedded sounds and linked sounds are where they're stored and how they're updated after you insert them into your presentation.  Embedded files are stored within the presentation file; linked files are stored outside the presentation file. This means that linked files are automatically updated when you make a change to the source file, but embedded files will need to be re-inserted to update your presentation.  As a best practice, I usually recommend placing linked audio files into the same folder as the presentation file so PowerPoint can easily find the files when you want to play them.

By default, only .wav sound files under 100 KB each are automatically embedded in the presentation file.  All other media file types and .wav files larger than 100 KB are linked.  If you need to embed a larger .wav in your presentation, you can increase the size of the embedded file - up to a maximum of 50 MB.  One caveat: raising the file size limit also increases the overall size of your presentation and it may slow performance.

Here's a nice little tutorial that walks through some of the basic steps around working with sound files in PowerPoint 2007.

3. Where did all my cool fonts go?

If you've ever received a PowerPoint file from a colleague sporting some unexpected font funkiness, it's probably because a non-standard font was used and not embedded into the presentation file.

Thankfully, embedding fonts is easy*.  Check out this quick tutorial for step-by-step instructions.






*Note: If your font licensing doesn't allow you to embed it into your presentation file, here's one work-around:

1. Right-click on the text box containing the font you can't embed, and select "save as picture" to covert the text to a transparent .png image file.

2. Delete the text box and insert the new .png file into your presentation.

Keep in mind, that this is only a reasonable solution for a small presentation or for a font that's used minimally. I wouldn't recommend replacing every occurrence of the font with an image file if you've used this font throughout the presentation - unless you've got copious free time.

These were the three PowerPoint puzzlers I hear about most often, but what are yours?  Share them with the Mindflash community and leave us a comment.


Trina Rimmer is a learning and communications consultant with twelve years experience designing, developing, and delivering smart, engaging training. When her skills aren't being tested by her children, you'll find her helping others to develop their own training design muscles.

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