Want to Make Awesome PowerPoint Presentations? Try Enrolling in Slide School

Ample evidence to the contrary, there's no law that says PowerPoint presentations have to be boring, confusing, and repetitive. With a little education, you can learn to craft engaging, informative, perhaps even entertaining slide decks. (And once you get good at it, you might even win a prize. Read on.)

I'm talking about Microsoft's Slide School 101, a new collection of tips, tricks, and tutorials designed to teach you the finer points of lively presentations. Topics include 5-Minute Makeover, Moving Beyond Bullets, and Fabulous Free Templates.

While you're at it, watch the amusing series of Presentations in History videos, which reveal "historical presentation disasters" like overuse of graphs and too much repetition. Here's an example:

Okay, so it's not exactly Monty Python, but I give points to Microsoft for having a little fun with an inherently dry subject.

All this stuff falls under the umbrella of Microsoft SlideFest, a new contest that rewards the best PowerPoint presentations. Prizes include a copy of Office 2010, an Xbox 360 with Kinect, and a trip to next year's TEDActive conference in Palm Springs, CA.

Don't worry, you've got time to polish your slide decks: the contest doesn't open until April 11. And you've got until April 29 to get your submission in.

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