Keep supporting details handy for your PowerPoint presentations

When someone raises a question during your presentation, you can try to wing it -- or you can smoothly bring up an ancillary slide that clarifies the issue. Having a few extra slides up your sleeve can make all the difference in the success of your delivery.



To make a presentation informative and efficient, you may sometimes exclude details that aren't of interest to the general audience. But as soon as you make that decision, you can count on someone asking about what you left out. You can try to answer the question and move on. Or you can include a supporting slide. That way, if the topic comes up, you can skip to the slide, have a short discussion, and then return to the main presentation, exactly where you left off.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

Create the supporting slide

Supporting can mean many things, but for this technique, the term refers to an optional slide that's available but that you might not display. A supporting slide contains data that further defines or augments information on another slide in the presentation. Simply insert a link on the slide that requires a supporting slide. Similarly, link the supporting slide to the slide it supports. Then, just hide the supporting slide. You can decide when — or if — to display it. In addition, you can print a support slide along with the presentation.

For example, the slide in Figure A highlights consulting skills. If someone asks how to contact a consultant, you can display the supporting slide with that specific information, shown in Figure B.

Figure A: Most slides exclude details.

main slide

Figure B: This supporting slide contains contact information, in case someone in the audience requests it.

supporting slide

Once you identify a slide that's apt to prompt questions (like the one in Figure A), create the supporting slide and add a Return action button that takes you back to the main slide, as follows:

  1. With the supporting slide selected, choose Action Buttons from the Slide Show menu.
  2. Choose Action Button: Return (the first button on the third line). In PowerPoint 2007, choose Action Buttons from the Shapes tool in the Illustrations group on the Insert tab.
  3. Click the slide to insert a button.
  4. Click the Mouse Click tab.
  5. Click the Hyperlink To option in the Action On Click section and choose Last Slide Viewed, as shown in Figure C and click OK.

Figure C: Add a Return button to the support slide.

action button

You can change the Return button if you like. Right-click the button and choose Format AutoShape. The default button fits our needs fine.

Now hide it and link to it

To keep PowerPoint from displaying the supporting slide during the presentation, you must hide it. The slide will stay with your presentation and be available, but it's up to you to decide whether to show it. To hide the supporting slide, choose Hide Slide From Slide Show. PowerPoint identifies a hidden slide by displaying a strikethrough line in the number icon in Normal view.

At this point, the supporting slide is finished, so you just need to link to it. Select the slide that requires a supporting slide. If you're lucky, the slide will contain a picture or graphic you can use as a hyperlink. If not, you'll have to add something. (As a last resort, use an Action button.)

For our purposes, the consultant's name provides the perfect hyperlink hot spot. To add a hyperlink to the supporting slide, do the following:

  1. Select the text or graphic you want to use as a hyperlink. In this case, that's the consultant's name in the slide's title.
  2. Right-click the selection and choose Action Settings to display the Action Settings dialog box. (You could also choose Hyperlink from the Insert menu.) In PowerPoint 2007, click Hyperlinks in the in the Links group on the Insert tab.
  3. Select Hyperlink To.
  4. Choose Slide from the Hyperlink To drop-down list, shown in Figure D.

Figure D: Create a hyperlink from text on the original slide.


  1. In the Hyperlink To Slide dialog box, highlight the supporting slide, as shown in Figure E.

Figure E: Point to the supporting slide.

link back

  1. Click OK twice.
  2. Save your presentation.

While running the presentation, PowerPoint never displays the supporting (hidden) slide on its own. You must click the hyperlink on the original slide to display the supporting slide. When you're finished, click the Return button to go back to the original slide so you can continue the presentation. The downside to this technique is that the hyperlink usurps the text's format.

I've got that information right here... somewhere... hold on...

Being unprepared to answer questions from the audience can be frustrating (and embarrassing) for you and disappointing to your audience. Add details to supporting slides and then display the information as needed. The details are there, but only if you need them. This technique is great for displaying flow charts, detailed figures, and so on — anything that supports the presentation can end up on a supporting slide.

Susan Sales Harkins is an independent consultant and the author of several articles and books on database technologies. Her most recent book is Mastering Microsoft SQL Server 2005 Express, with Mike Gunderloy, published by Sybex. Other collaborations with Gunderloy are Automating Microsoft Access 2003 with VBA, Upgrader's Guide to Microsoft Office System 2003, ICDL Exam Cram 2, and Absolute Beginner's Guide to Microsoft Access 2003, all published by Que. Currently, Susan volunteers as the Publications Director for Database Advisors. You can reach her at


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

Editor's Picks