How to combine and merge PowerPoint-presentations

Picture of Christian Lindberg from Kongsberg Lyd & Lys controlling presentations during Kongsberg Agenda 2023

In my work as an AV-technician on conference and events, I receive Powerpoint presentations from speakers that represents different companies. My job is to make sure that these are displayed on the projector/screen at the right moment exactly as they were made. To simplify this task, we made Auto Presentation Switcher (APS) which lets you open and display new presentations using keyboard-shortcuts and network-commands.

But you may ask, isn’t this something that can be done from within PowerPoint? How can we merge and switch PowerPoint presentations without using third-party software?

And yes, as it turns out, Powerpoint has methods for combining slides and linking presentations. Today we will show different ways to work with multiple PowerPoint presentations for live events, and focus on 3 methods:

After reading this blogpost, you should be a master of combining and merging PowerPoint-presentations. This can solve a lot of problems if you work as an event-producer or AV-technician on live events.

1. Paste and reuse Powerpoint slides

Some event-organizers want to have all the slides from the different speakers in one master-presentation. Then they can control everything from one presentation-clicker, and never exit the presentation during the show.

To create this presentation, you can paste the slides you need into one master-presentation. Or you can use the Reuse Slides method, which is an option in Powerpoint to import multiple slides.

When pasting and reusing slides, there is one pitfall that you should be aware of, which can easily be overlooked: By default, if you bring slides from one presentation into another, PowerPoint can automatically make those slides look like the new presentation, by applying the destination theme to them. If you want the pasted slides to look identical to the original, you need to apply the option “Keep Source Formatting”

Pasting and reusing slides on Mac

This video shows how to paste slides and keep source formatting when using Mac:

There is an easier way to import multiple slides: using the “Reuse Slides” method. However, when I tested this for Mac, I couldn’t find a way to keep the source formatting. Notice in the video below that the popup-square for the theme-options doesn’t appear after reusing the slides. So, unless I did something fundamentally wrong here, the “reuse slides” method on Mac can´t be used in my workflow. The reused slides wont be identical to the originals.

Paste and reuse slides on PC

It seems that these things work better on Windows: When I paste slides, the formatting-options appear as an option before the slide is inserted, making it harder to miss: 

And when re-using slides, the “keep original formatting” is chosen as the default option: 

This is one example where the PC version of PowerPoint is more developed than the Mac counterpart. If your workflow relies heavily on combining slides from different presentations, I recommend using the Windows version.

2. Use APS to switch between different PowerPoint presentations

The method of pasting and reusing slides takes time, and it’s easy to screw up the formatting. And, if the presentations have different aspect-ratio of let’s say 16:9 and 4:3, then combining the slides becomes more difficult. For these reasons, I think its a good idea to have alternative solutions for working with multiple Powerpoint presentations.

One of the reasons we made APS was to solve this problem of quickly and seamlessly displaying content from different presentations. With APS, you don’t need to edit the presentations at all, instead you get shortcuts and network-commands to open and display new presentations. And with the seamless switching method, the audience wont notice the switch: The transitions will look the same as if you progress to the next slide.

This video shows how to switch presentations with APS using keyboard shortcuts. The method also works with Keynote and PDF-files.

If you don’t want to use a third-party program like APS to switch presentations, you can try the internal solution presented by Powerpoint: Hyperlinks. This lets you create buttons in a slide that jumps to another presentation. This video shows how it’s done: 

The Hyperlink-button switches seamlessly to the next presentation. When pushing “escape”, you go back to the presentation with the hyperlink.

I recently had a discussion on Reddit where the user u/SteveRindsberg explained how he used Hyperlinks to display different Powerpoint presentations: He has one presentation which only consists of one slide with hyperlinks to all the other speaker-presentations. The hyperlink-slide acts as a remote control. To exit the speaker-presentations and return to the hyperlink-slide, he push “escape”. In this setup, the presentation with the hyperlink is always in slideshow-mode but hidden behind the speaker-presentations started from the hyperlink.

I think this is a sound method, and a viable alternative to APS. However, in my biased opinion, being the founder of APS, I do want to point out some advantages of using APS compared to using hyperlinks:

  • Easier preparation. With APS you just need to sort the presentations in a folder. Creating a master-slide with the hyperlinks can be more intimidating if you don’t know Powerpoint very well.
  • You get more ways to trigger the command to switch presentations. The commands can be controlled from Companion and Stream Deck, making APS compatible with professional A/V networks. With Hyperlinks you can only start the presentations by pushing the links with the mouse
  • Switching presentations with APS are seamless, whereas with the Hyperlink-method there is no way to avoid displaying the slide with all the hyperlinks. Arguably, you can use a video-switcher to smooth out the transitions, but with APS these things are taken care of within the computer.

Summary: The best way to combine and merge Powerpoint presentations for professional live A/V

In this blogtext we have shown different ways you can merge slides and switch presentations, and if you are a professional A/V technician working with presentations, I think its useful to know all of them:

  • Pasting and reusing slides can be a good solution if you have time to prepare this, and the organizer wants to have all the slides in one presentation
  • APS works great to quickly and seamlessly switch between different presentations with a minimum of preparation
  • Hyperlinks works well if you are experienced with Powerpoint, you like to have a page with links to all your presentations, and you don’t need the seamless transitions between the presentations.

As always, bring different tools to your arsenal, and be prepared for any request the client might have. But before we finish this text I want to repeat one thing: If you decide to paste slides or reuse slides, remember to turn on the setting for Keep Source Formatting. Otherwise the speakers can be in for a surprise when they see the presentation on the projector.