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Create a looping introduction in PowerPoint to get people's attention

An interesting PowerPoint loop at the opening of a meeting is a neat way to set the tone for the event and provide some anticipation. This tutorial will show you how to set the loop up - and how to make a smooth transition into the rest of your presentation when the time comes.

What goes in to the loop is up to you - a series of interesting graphics is the obvious choice, but jokes, animations or funny quotes can work. Or you could cycle a series of factoids about your organisation.

Whatever you choose to feature, it's not difficult to create a looping presentation. Set it up in the usual way - assemble the slide sequence, go to Slide Show | Set Up Show, then select Loop continuously until "Esc".

Make sure that you have set the timings to advance the looping show automatically; you could add these from the Slide Show | Slide transitions menu, or go to Slide Show | Rehearse timings to click through the presentation with the timings you want.

The harder bit is attaching the loop to your main presentation. Ideally you'd want to embed the opening loop as a kind of sub-presentation in the main one; that way you would be able to exit from the loop immediately and start your show. But PowerPoint does not allow you to combine a timed loop and a conventionally cued presentation within the same file; you can't cycle around the loop indefinitely until the presenter clicks the mouse or presses a key, for instance.

The solution is to set up two presentations, then include a clickable link from one to the other - specifically, from the main presentation to the loop.

Produce the two presentations and save them. Load up the main presentation and open the first slide. Pick any object on that slide; you're going to be clicking on this object to start the loop.

You can use any object on the first slide of the main presentation, even the title - though be careful: you'll be using a hyperlink to link to the second presentation, and by default any text with a hyperlink attached to it will automatically acquire an underline. You can switch the underlining off, but it might be easier simply to attach the link to some other object on the page.

Here's one suggestion: draw a box, give it the same fill colour as the page background, and put it somewhere memorable like the top left-hand corner.

When the slideshow is running, this box will be invisible - but you'll know roughly where it is.

Back in the editing window, right-click on this object and choose Action Settings from the popup menu. Now select Hyperlink, scroll down the list of options to find Other PowerPoint Presentation, click OK, and locate the loop file.

Click OK to accept this and exit from the Action Settings dialog. Save your file.

Now you can try it out. Load the main presentation (and make sure only the main presentation is running - this idea won't work if the loop is also loaded at the same time). Press F5 to go into Slide Show mode and run the mouse over your interactive object; it will turn into a pointing hand when you're on it. Clicking on the button now will start up your loop show.

The loop will run continuously until you hit the Esc key (once only - do it twice and you'll leave slideshow mode). That will put you back into your main presentation show.

The same trick can be used to link separate presentations from different speakers. You might have a single "agenda" slide listing the speakers, with Action Settings links from their name to their own presentation. In this example the link is being set up from a drawing object, a red circle that acts as a bullet point (an actual bullet point can't be used since it is associated with the accompanying text and isn't an object in its own right).

In the same way you could develop a sort of master control panel for your own slideshows - place icons on a master slide, set them up with Action Settings, click the appropriate icon to branch out to that presentation.

Another use for the click-and-link technique: providing extra information in response to questions. This information need not be part of the main presentation, but it would be neat to have it instantly available. So anticipate the questions and come up with mini-presentations to provide the answers.

If you need only one or two slides for this, a separate slideshow might not be necessary: you could do it by including a couple of explanatory slides at the back of the main presentation, after the end-of-show slide. In this case you'd set up an icon with the Action Settings dialogue as before; but in the Hyperlink To box you would select Slide ... and specify the slide which starts your explanatory sequence.

The last of your explanatory slides would have a clickable icon that returns the show to the point where you branched off.

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