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Self-running presentations in PowerPoint 2003

We look at a particular timesaving technique that involves setting up a PowerPoint slide show so it runs all by itself.

This week we look at a particular timesaving technique that involves setting up a PowerPoint slide show so it runs all by itself. That may sound like a ho-hum feature, but it’s really pretty cool because you can combine PowerPoint’s bullet points with animations and multimedia clips to create interesting stand-alone ads, demos, and various kinds of attention-grabbing displays.

No doubt you realize that PowerPoint makes it relatively easy to put together slide shows that sizzle and zap. Even if you don’t have much to say, PowerPoint can help you say it with panache. You can make individual bullet points whirl or blink or pop into place, accompanied by sounds or color effects, stir up a graph that flies up on the screen bar-by-bar. You can even put video clips inside presentations and have them launch as the slide comes up – full of sound and fury, possibly signifying something.

Many people don’t realize that you can automate an entire presentation so it runs by itself: you start the presentation, and it goes through all of your song and dance without any human intervention. When the presentation’s done, PowerPoint starts all over again. You set the slide animations and timing in advance. If you want each bullet point to swerve in, with a five second delay between appearances, PowerPoint can do it.


In broad terms, here’s how to do it:

Put your presentation together precisely the way you want it to run. Make sure you get the animations right. For example, you could put together a restaurant menu presentation that features items sliding on-screen, accompanied by prices and descriptions.

Run a rehearsal timing. Click Slide Show | Rehearse Timings. PowerPoint starts the slide show, and puts a clock in the upper left corner. Run through the presentation at precisely the same speed that you want it to ultimately run itself – click to bring up bullets, to run video clips, to do all the things you want the presentation to do. You can monkey around with the clock if you flub a slide and need to re-set the timing, but it’s much easier if you can simply run the presentation all the way through.

When the slide show finishes, PowerPoint asks if you want to save the new timings. If you’re happy with the way the rehearsal went, click Yes. That’s the key: it sets up the timings that PowerPoint will use to run the slide show automatically.


Once the presentation’s ready, you need to tell PowerPoint to run the slideshow unattended. (For reasons I’ve never completely understood, this is called “kiosk mode” in PowerPoint, although unattended presentations have plenty of applications outside of standalone kiosks.) To get PowerPoint in an unattended mood, click Slide Show | Set Up Show, check the box marked “Browsed at a Kiosk (Full Screen)”, then click OK.

From that point, to get the presentation running all by itself, just run the presentation normally (either open the PowerPoint file and click Slide Show | View Show, or right-click on the PowerPoint file and pick Show). It will go through the presentation using all the timings from your last rehearsal and when it’s done, PowerPoint will loop back to the beginning and start all over again. The mouse and keyboard are completely disabled, except for the Esc key. When you press the Esc key, PowerPoint stops the presentation.

If you have a spare computer, it’s amazingly easy to use PowerPoint to run customized, continuously looping presentations – and the presentations can include just about any kind of animation or sound, with or without the traditional PowerPoint bullet points. The “kiosk” can run on a shop counter top, at a trade show, or even projected on a giant screen behind Tata Young at her next concert. Well worth the effort.

(Ten bonus points if you knew who Tata Young was before you Googled her.)


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