Presentations are almost always designed as linear. You start from Slide 1 and then move to Slide 2, then Slide 3, etc. in this fixed order.
But linearity has limits: what if you get a question that finds its answer on slide 56? Quitting slide show mode to manually search for the right slide will interrupt your presentation, waste time and loose your audience's attention.
Instead, how would you feel about a presentation that is like a website, where you can navigate through a menu that gives you more flexibility and interactivity? How great would that be?
This can be done, and it's actually rather simple. To achieve this dynamic behavior, you can use links in the presentation and connect slides to create clickable menus.
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How to create a clikable menu with links to other slides in a PowerPoint presentation
The most typical use case for links is to create a clickable menu allowing to easily navigate the presentation's agenda. There are actually multiple ways you can do this.
Always keep in mind that links are not always relevant. Typically, don't spend days creating very complex links everywhere for a presentation that people are actually going to print! (there is a true story behind this warning!)
Use action buttons
From the "Insert" tab, click the "Shapes" gallery and then insert "Action Buttons" at the bottom.
Insert a "Go Forward", a "Go back" and a "Go Home" buttons. The "Go Forward" button will automatically be linked to the next slide and the "Go back" to the previous slide.
Select a button and click "Action" under the "Insert" tab. This will open the "Action Settings" dialog box below.
You can change the link for each button to point to either:
First slide in the presentation
Last slide in the presentation
Last slide viewed
Slide (use this to link to a specific slide, for instance to link the "Go Home" button to the slide with your table of contents for the presentation)
When your menu is ready, you can duplicate it on all the slides in the presentation.
Launch the presentation in "Slide Show" mode and click the action buttons to navigate the presentation easily. You can also save the presentation as a PDF and the links will still work in the PDF file.
Create custom buttons and links
Action Buttons are quick to use, but you would probably like to have something a bit more elegant and flexible. For this we can use hyperlinks.
Select the shape that will work as a button. Links cannot be added to a Group, so in the below example we will be adding the link to a transparent shape overlaying the icons that we want to use as clickable buttons.
Go go the "Insert tab", and click "Link". The dialog below will open. Select "Place in this document" at the left. You now select the same options that existed for "Actions Buttons", and select a specific slide in your presentation to create a link to it.
Repeat the same for each item in your menu, with a link to the corresponding slides in the presentation. You can also add links on all other slides, and use these links to go back to the agenda slide. This will make your entire presentation easy to navigate.
In some cases, you might even want to push this further and create presentations like work like a app where the users can open topics of their choice and PowerPoint will show the right slide or menu each time thanks to these handy hyperlinks.
Also keep in mind that with this method as well, the slides can be saved as PDF without causing any issue with the links.
Use Slide Zoom to create linked visual summaries
PowerPoint has a feature that can be quite useful for linking slides. It's called Slide Zoom.
Slide Zooms has a very interesting behavior:
The link takes the form of a picture of another slide
This picture is not static, but will update if the slide it's referring to gets updated
The picture is inserted with a nice zoom animation when going to the linked slide
To create a Slide Zoom, go to the "Insert" tab and click "Zoom" and "Insert Slide Zoom". The below dialog opens.
Select the slides you would like to add a Slide Zoom for, and validate with "Insert". This will add the pictures on your slide which you can then organize.
Now you can try editing one of the slides these pictures are linking to, and you will see the Slide Zoom gets updated as well.
If you now launch the presentation in Slide Show mode, you will see that clicking these previews will provide a nice zoom effect going to the slides they are linking to.
Creating agenda slides with hyperlinks automatically in the PowerPoint presentation
Creating an agenda with manual links can be quite time-consuming, since each link needs ot be created and edited manually. If there are some changes to apply to your presentation or menu, you can find yourself needing to re-create everything from scratch.
An alternative to avoid this is to use Power-user's Agenda feature to create your tables of contents with links automatically added.
Other types of links in PowerPoint
Linking objects to external urls or files
The hyperlinks method show above can be used not just for linking slides in the same document, but also for opening external links. External links will simply open pages or files, but will not link the content of your slide to external sources.
Typical uses for this could be to:
Launch a Youtube video or open a website through a link in the presentation
Open another file on the computer, for instance an Excel spreadsheet
To create external links, you can select an object or select some text. Then go to the "Insert" tab and click "Link". In the link dialog, paste a web address in the "Address" field at the bottom, or select a file top open.
Sharing links to specific slides
Links in PowerPoint can also refer to something quite different, which are actually links that can be shared by email or chat to refer to a specific slide in the presentation.
The main idea here is that instead of sharing the whole deck of slides with your colleagues, and have them navigate the presentation to find the slide you are talking about, you can simply share a link that will open the presentation directly on that specific slide. This can improve the collaboration of multiple users working on the same presentation.
To create and share a link to a slide, you first need to make sure your presentation is saved on OneDrive or SharePoint.
Then right-click the slide to share in the thumbnail list at the left of PowerPoint, and click "Link to slide".
You will get a link to copy and share. Feel free to change the share options by clicking "Anyone with the link can edit" and choosing another option for restricting access to specific users for instance.
When people click that link, it will open the presentation directly on the slide.
Linking PowerPoint to Excel
Links can also be used in PowerPoint to connect content in the presentation with a source data from Excel. Linking Excel and PowerPoint allows you to update charts, tables or even values within text ranges.
To learn more about linking Excel with PowerPoint, you can refer to these 2 pages:
Discover the Power-user link between Excel and PowerPoint, the best solution to update presentation data in seconds