Professional creativity

Professional creativity

Quite a few years ago, Eric Thorn produced a number of features introducing constructive tips for using projection software. Since that time, he has been receiving a slow, but sure, stream of enquiries pertaining to what are probably the most popular projection programs used in churches and schools across the United Kingdom. Many of the questions were posed more than once, so Eric has selected some of these widespread queries to share.

Eric has asked us to point out that the information imparted in these columns is based on his own personal experience utilising the software versions that he is familiar with. Different editions of the same software and differing operating systems may give other results, so it is essential to always try things out privately on your own system prior to letting them loose on your unsuspecting audience!

Thinking back, it must be around nine or ten years ago since my scribbling in this column circumnavigated that debatable chestnut known as projection software.

Following some missives on both software and hardware, with those concerning High Definition output allied to digital screens apparently proving extremely popular, I genuinely believed that I had exhausted that topic and laid it to rest in my imagination. I certainly never anticipated a reprise!

But I have to salute our loyal Maintenance and Equipment News for Churches and Schools readers. It transpires that many of you who subscribe to the hard copy printed edition have adopted the good habit of filing away your copy as a sort of reference for possible future use. Or maybe it is just that you recall who has pursued topics you are interested in, and contacted the relevant author or advertiser. Either way, over time I have collated a cache of frequently asked questions and in this feature I am reviewing those filed under the heading of Professional creativity.

Many have apparently attended lectures or other events where a PowerPoint presentation formed a crucial part of the programme. They have seen for themselves PowerPoint presentations that are somehow reminiscent of television commercials and/or trailers for comedies such as Judge Romesh which is being transmitted on the Freeview Dave channel even as I write.

On the other hand, there are PowerPoint presentations so plain that it would have perhaps been more effective not to create one at all. Indeed, only a few weeks ago I attended a training seminar at which (for me personally) the lead PowerPoint presentation proved to be a boring negative distraction rather than a warming positive learning experience.

Other enquiries, notably those from representatives of churches and Christian organisations, indicate that other presentation software is increasingly being adopted for use in addition to, rather than in place of, PowerPoint. No surprise there, because places of worship are progressively using specialist software for digitally displaying hymns, songs, readings, prayers and so on in their services.

Not only that, but they are gradually upgrading their systems to utilise the very latest digital screens, or giant television screens as they are often referred to.

These internal screens are not as large as the goliath industrial digitals that are steadily conquering a takeover of traditional roadside hoardings. But on my travels I am increasingly observing churches that have installed exterior digital screens to publicise their activities. Taking it a stage further, it is probably possible to have a closed circuit television link to enable passing members of the public to view what is going on inside the building.

Most popular

Without doubt, the most popular queries I receive revolve around Microsoft PowerPoint and Softtouch Development Easyworship software.

Also, without doubt, the most frequently asked questions are common to both of these popular software installations. All about how to make life easier!

As a matter of course, I always endeavour to respond to enquirers by advising them to open up their particular program and click on the Help tab, which is commonly duplicated as a function on key F1. This is essential because whatever advice I can personally give is based on my own experience over the years, using my own programs and operating system (Microsoft Windows®). Different editions of software, operating systems and personalised features may all have an effect.

Keyboard layouts can also have a consequence. I use the United Kingdom (UK) keyboard. One of my correspondents a few months back responded to me that none of my suggestions made any difference to his problem. It later transpired that his desktop computer had been set up, presumably by his supplier, to use the United States (US) keyboard layout. After that was sorted, he thanked me and remarked that he was now a happy bunny!

For the record, please note that most, if not all, of the hints and tips conveyed by me were found by me originally in that important F1 Help file. More detailed information is often to be found online, especially from the software publishers’ web sites which sometimes include useful training videos and other resources. Some, including Microsoft, provide free downloadable templates, and so on.

Once downloaded, if you change your mind you can either delete the template or save it for possible future use, prior to returning to the download centre to find an alternative. Incidentally, many of the templates available from the download centre have been contributed by real people.

As this article relates only to the two programs I have been asked about, those readers using one of the many other presentation programs should check their F1 Help tab or relevant web site. Or send me an email!

Keyboard shortcuts

For making life easier, I have always found that keyboard shortcuts are the bee’s knees, as one of my acquaintances frequently remarks. In some instances, it can actually be quicker to use a keyboard than a mouse.

Just last month, keyboard shortcuts proved their worth to me as a valuable standby whilst
I was projecting for a church service using their Easyworship program. The batteries housed in the cordless church mouse decided their time was up. Using key strokes I carried on regardless, thankful that I had committed to memory those necessary shortcuts. And here they are:

Easyworship shortcuts

HOME – First Slide
END – Last Slide
DOWN – Next Slide
UP – Previous Slide
RIGHT Arrow – Next Schedule Item
LEFT Arrow – Previous Schedule Item
Ctrl+C – Clear text screen
Ctrl+B – Black screen
Ctrl+L – Logo
Ctrl+N – Nursery Alert
Ctrl+M – Message Alert
Ctrl+Space Bar – Switches between live output and control screen in single monitor mode
V <Enter> – to select the first Verse
V# <Enter> – to select Verse #
C <Enter> – to select the first Chorus
C# <Enter> – to select Chorus #
0(Zero)<Enter> – to select the first Chorus
R <Enter> – to select the first Pre-Chorus
R# <Enter> – to select Pre-Chorus #
T <Enter> – to select the first Tag
T# <Enter> – to select Tag #
B <Enter> – to select the first Bridge
B#<Enter> – to select Bridge #
I <Enter> – to select the first Intro
I# <Enter> – to select Intro #
E <Enter> – to select the first End
E#<Enter> – to select End #
Slide Number<Enter> – to select the slide corresponding to the number typed. Switch to the Summary View to see the slide numbers

In the shortcuts above, it is necessary to substitute # for the item number required.
For example, V3 <Enter> – to select Verse 3.

Users of Easyworship will be encouraged to know that this program can be fully used without a mouse. Useful if your mouse fails, as in my recent experience. So, for those without a mouse, there are additional shortcut keys for the song and scripture editing sections of Easyworship, as follows:

Song/Scripture Editor shortcuts

Shift+Enter – In the Editor – Allows you to put extra spacing between lines of text without making the next line select a new slide.
Ctrl+A – Selects all of the text in the text editor.
Ctrl+C – Copies the selected text to the windows clipboard.
Ctrl+X – Cuts the selected text to the windows clipboard.
Ctrl+V – Pastes the text in the windows clipboard into the text editor.
Ctrl+Z – Undo – Reverses the last action taken.
Ctrl+Y – Redo – Reverses and Undo.

PowerPoint® shortcuts

Being that it is probably the world’s most popular projection program, PowerPoint shortcuts almost seem unnecessary. However, for those who are regularly called upon to create original PowerPoint presentations, there is a mine of useful time saving shortcuts available. An online search for PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts reveals many links to download lists of such shortcuts, some of which run into a sheaf of pages.

Those who conduct PowerPoint presentations regularly use a remote control unit to change slides. But even remote controls cannot yet, as far as I am aware, replicate some of the tasks easily undertaken by my favourite shortcuts for use during a live presentation. These are:

PowerPoint® shortcuts

‘N’, left click, space, right or down arrow, enter, or page down – Advance to the next slide
‘P’, backspace, left or up arrow, or page up – Return to the previous slide
Number followed by Enter – Go to that slide
‘B’ or ‘.’ – Blacks/Unblacks the screen
‘W’ or ‘,’ – Whites/Unwhites the screen
‘A’ or ‘=’ – Show/Hide the arrow pointer
‘S’ or ‘+’ – Stop/Restart automatic show
Esc, Ctrl+Break, or ‘-‘ – End slide show
‘E’ – Erase drawing on screen
‘H’ – Go to hidden slide
‘T’ – Rehearse – Use new time
‘O’ – Rehearse – Use original time
‘M’ – Rehearse – Advance on mouse click
Hold both buttons down for 2 secs. – Return to first slide
Ctrl+P – Change pointer to pen
Ctrl+A – Change pointer to arrow
Ctrl+E – Change pointer to eraser
Ctrl+H – Hide pointer and button
Ctrl+U – Automatically show/hide arrow
Right mouse click – Popup menu/Previous slide
Ctrl+S – All Slides dialog
Ctrl+T – View task bar
Ctrl+M – Show/Hide ink markup

Captivating Slides

Some time ago, the New York Times ran a business feature debating PowerPoint presentations. They illustrated the report with a slide that had been declared (at that time) “The world’s most worst PowerPoint slide” and it looked like this:

Messy slide

For me, the worst slides are those that do not attract my attention. Captivating slides are what I like to both enjoy and, when I am involved, project. For me, there is nothing worse than a presentation that incorporates the entire script of a lecture with so many words displayed in an unacceptable miniature typeface that helps me to nod off. Even worse, when the presenter is using the presentation as a kind of teleprompter, reading the text off screen and not even glancing at the audience.

Something else which is far from audience friendly is the badly prepared text slide. Probably the most common to cross my eyes are those where text boxes have seemingly been disregarded, resulting in a slide that depicts only a handful of words running well over the allotted space.

Long line of text on slide

Instances of bad slides are not uncommon, and have been nicknamed by professionals as Death by PowerPoint. For me, one of the worst PowerPoint sins is the slide that utilises a graphic and text combination, but fails to select a suitable typeface, typeface size, number of words, suitable brightness and contrast.

Slide that have poor legibility

These elements are not important just for general audiences. Alongside getting them as near perfect as possible, consideration has to be given to those who may be visually impaired. This is almost certainly an obligation under the UK Equality Act 2010, which replaced previous disability discrimination legislation.

During a work related training course that included me among the delegates, it was pointed out that when an individual’s eyesight is failing, the last colours that they can realistically see are usually yellow on a blue background. At the training centre, this was somewhat endorsed by the fact that their light switches were those with a blue plate and yellow rocker switch.

Those who have Dementia or Autism, and probably some with other impairments, are best served with slides having few words in a large size. Those who experience Epilepsy are among those who should not have to endure flashing graphics or fast moving transitions.

All of these points should be taken into account by those who prepare church service presentations, irrespective of which software is being used. By getting the presentation right, the hymns, the readings, and everything else combine to ensure that the message is received joyfully by all members of the congregation.

Two sides comparing too much text with just right


A big Thank you to those who have kindly allowed me to reproduce their original PowerPoint and Easyworship slides. Thanks, also, to Roy Stanley for permission to use his artwork in one of the illustrations.

Eric A. Thorn