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The right way to present a PowerPoint file during a Microsoft Teams meeting

There is a correct way to present a slide deck during a Teams meeting. And it's stupidly simple. Here's how to do it.
Published on
August 7, 2020

You can have your PPT cake and eat it too

PowerPoint is likely one of the most popular apps shared during a Teams meeting. There’s a reason when you bring up the share options, PowerPoint takes up more than a third of it. People present slides all the time. But are they using PowerPoint to its potential when they use Teams? Most people do not. To view a video version of this post (lots of video demos!), press play below. (You should watch it, actually.)

PowerPoint has a lot of really great features and while this isn’t a PowerPoint best practices post, I do really appreciate PowerPoint for many of its professional features, like smooth transitions (Morph can be amazing), slide notes, non-distracting animations, screen annotations, and especially presenter view.

Well, if you’ve ever tried to present a slide deck in Teams, you’ll know that some of these features can be hard to find depending on which method you use to share your slides. There are three main sharing options and these are the only three I’ll cover today.

The three options—and I’m going to stick to this naming convention throughout the post—are The Teams Built-In Share, Desktop Window Share, and Presenter View Share.

TL;DR: For the most part, you want Presenter View Share. Launch your slideshow like you would normally. Alt-Tab to your meeting and share the window (not the screen), Alt-Tab back to your presentation, right-click, and select Use Presenter View. That's it! Below is a more in-depth review of this way and the most common other ways to share slide decks during a Teams meeting.

Teams Built-In Share

Teams Built-In Share is the first option we’re going to discuss and it uses the built-in PowerPoint option. The sharing drawer shows you all your recent PowerPoint files. Though note that they’re only ones you’ve accessed in SharePoint or OneDrive; you don’t see anything from your local device or other cloud locations like Google Drive. Whether you know it or not, this method makes use of PowerPoint for the web—or formerly known as PowerPointOnline—so you’re getting the “Lite” version of PowerPoint when you present. That can work in many situations, especially if your slides are simple and straight forward.

There are a couple major upsides to this method. First, everything stays right in Teams and you have full control of your computer and its screen, unlike normal presentation mode with PowerPoint, where it completely takes over your screen. The other is that your viewers can actually choose to jump ahead or backward in your slides at their own pace without impacting what others see, which is a benefit you don’t get from any otherPowerPoint sharing option. You can disable this if you want to keep them on the slide you’re presenting, though. I generally don’t like people being able to jump slides on their own; it's usually more a distraction than a benefit. So for me, this isn’t a compelling feature.

The major downsides to this method are that you’re stuck with PowerPoint Lite: animations and transitions are sometimes really poor—and yes, animations and transitions are incredibly powerful for your message when they’re used correctly. But more importantly to me, you don’t get presenter view, so no annotations, no notes, and you have absolutely no idea which slide or animation is coming up next (unless you practice your slides a lot, but let's be real: you probably cobbled them together right before the meeting). Those downsides are the reason that I never use this method, even if it is right up in my face when I want to share a slide deck in Teams. The only way you’ll find me using Teams Built-In Share is once presenter view is built into PowerPoint for the web. 

Desktop Window Share

Desktop Window Share, the second option, is a nice little hack for sharing your presentation from the desktop app, complete with all the slick transitions and animations you’d like. You won’t get presenter view with this method, but you will get safety and comfort of all the full-fledged features in the desktop app and it won’t take up your whole screen while you’re presenting. Though it will include a little chrome in the top toolbar.

This method is similar to what people use when they set up kiosks for people to browse at expos or stores, except in this case, it doesn’t take up the whole screen. To present this way, you need to toggle a setting. Jump into the Slide Show tab in PowerPoint and click Set Up Slide Show. Select Browsed by an individual and click OK.

Now when you present this slideshow, it’ll show your entire slide in its own window, without the rest of PowerPoint showing. It’s like a mini PowerPoint presenter mode. To share this window, jump to your Teams meeting, click Share, and select PowerPoint under the Window section. Handy.

Presenter View Share

Note: This feature seems to have been recently removed from PowerPoint on macOS; I haven't been able to test it on Windows to confirm any impact there. I've reached out to Microsoft for some explanation or insights on this. I'll provide an update when I have one.

And lastly, Presenter View Share is my favorite way to present a slide deck during a Teams meeting and it’s really the subject of this post. Presenter View Share gives you all the features of the desktop app—because that’s what you’re using—including presenter view. That means you get notes and annotations, can see the upcoming slide, and can jump around slides as much as you want.

This technique is actually stupidly simple, but it’s not obvious at all. To share your presentation this way, it works best if you’re only using one monitor. If you have a second monitor, I’d actually recommend disconnecting it. And that’s coming from someone who always uses two monitors. The reason for that is the feature isn't available when you have two monitors because you'll already have presenter view on one of them and you can't share PowerPoint as a window when you have two monitors because the app takes up two windows and becomes essentially disqualified from being shared as a window (the only way to share the slides is by sharing the whole screen, which is less private).

First, have your PowerPoint file open and start the presentation the way you normally would. Now, Alt-Tab (Command-Tab on Mac) back to your Teams meeting and share the PowerPoint window—not the whole screen. Alt-Tab back to PowerPoint. And here’s where the magic happens: right-click on your slide and click Use Presenter View. And that’s it!

Once you've started your slideshow, share your PPT window in Teams then right click on the slide and choose Use Presenter View.

Wait, you’re worried that the people on the other end are seeing presenter view? They’re not. In fact, they didn’t even see you right-click because the menu isn’t part of the window. For them, nothing happened. While on your side, you just went from low fi to high fi in a matter of two clicks. From here you can do all the stuff you want through presenter mode and everyone on the other end will only see slides.

Wrap up

So, why do I like this method the most? Because I get to have my cake and eat it too! Sure, the slides take up my whole screen, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping around my device all I want. Alt-Tab is your best friend. If you’re not an Alt-Tab person now, you will be moving forward, because it’s a great little trick for jumping between apps.

That means I can be taking notes about a potential customer in my OneNote app during a demo without them knowing. Or I can check in on the meeting itself to see if someone’s raised their hand or said something I need to respond to. All they’ll ever see is the current slide—even if you see another app on top of it—because all I’m sharing with them is the PowerPoint window.

Edit: Some folks have reported they can actually use two monitors and still are able to share the single presented-view of PowerPoint. I can't confirm this because on Mac, the Use Presenter View isn't available when you have two screens (the option is not available in the right-click menu). That said, if you use multiple monitors, you're a power user. So take 2 minutes to check with a colleagues to test if it still works in your situation to pull this off, but with the multiple monitors you're used to. So if one of your original thoughts was, "I can't not use two monitors", test before you knock it. 🙂

Frankly, I’ll never look back on any other presentation options again. At least until Teams Built-In Share—remember, I really mean PowerPoint for the Web when I say this—finally transitions from PowerPoint Lite to a full-fledged version of PowerPoint. Once that day comes, I may convert. But for now, I’m sticking to the desktop app because it’s a beast.

But what do you think? How do you present slides during Teams meetings? What tips do you have when you’re presenting? Share them in a comment below so others can learn some of your tips and hacks for better meetings in Teams.

Matt Wade
Matt is an engineer-turned-IT nerd and Microsoft MVP. His career began in the nuclear power design field and ended up in SharePoint adoption, pretty much by mistake. He’s best known for his SharePoint and Microsoft 365 infographics—especially the Periodic Table of Office 365—and advocating Microsoft Teams as the modern workplace.

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