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Templates

Stress-testing a new corporate PowerPoint template

Stress-testing a new corporate PowerPoint template

The PowerPoint template is usually an after-thought in a corporate brand image project. Business cards, letterheads, envelopes, are considered more important than the look & feel of almost any document that is exchanged among employees and external investors, clients, etc.

As a result, you will find the PowerPoint template guidelines at the back of the brand book, written in language that is aimed at a print designer, it uses non-standard fonts, and its programming was a copy paste from Adobe InDesign.

Here are some things you can do to stress-test a suggested PowerPoint template that is handed to you by your graphic design agency:

  • Click view, slide master, and see whether it contains dozens of layout slides that are leftovers from Microsoft's default master, ask why you need them
  • Check the file size of an empty presentation, any huge image hiding in the master?
  • Copy past an old presentation into the new master, see what happens. How much time do your employees have to spend fixing things?
  • Try an empty text box and an empty shape: what are the standard colours, standard fonts? Do the bullet points look decent, or do they come in weird shapes and/or colours
  • Are there any random guidelines all over the slide that no one needs?
  • Open the presentation on your children's computer, how does the template look? Especially the fonts
  • Create some bar and column charts. Are the colours and fonts correct? 
  • Open the deck on a Mac and see what happens
  • Try writing a big headline, maybe one that runs over 2 lines, are any logos or other slide items getting in the way?
  • Same for a big rectangular table, can you fit it, or is there a logo or other graphic element sitting in the one of the corners that gets covered?

Make the PowerPoint template one of the most important end products for your graphics design agency. And as a briefing, don't ask them to work on an empty slide, instead send them an actual presentation (i.e., slides with content) and ask them to design a look for them.

When in doubt, you can always use the empty master from the SlideMagic store (free), and adjust the accent colour, add your logo to the bottom right, and you are good to go.


Cover image by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

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Flying through

Flying through

With a bit of Photoshop editing you can create an effect of a PowerPoint shape flying through some loop. I uploaded a new slide to the template store that uses this effect. Over the arrow, I positioned a second layer of the image, but just with a piece of rope with its background isolated. The arrow expanding outside the frame of the image (yes, I look those), adds to the motion feel in the slide.

Click the image to find the slide on the template store, subscribers can download it free of charge.


Cover image by Blake Wheeler on Unsplash

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Starting to use the store myself

Starting to use the store myself

Recently, I have started to use the template store myself for the few bespoke design projects I still do for long standing clients (SlideMagic gave me a really attractive rate :-)). My hard drive is filled with 1000s of slides and still it is difficult to find a nice clean layout to use as a basis for slide number 1001.

Up until a few weeks ago, I started every slide pretty much from scratch, I have gotten pretty fast in setting up yet another 4x5 table grid. But even I can't beat search the store for "table" and re-download that slide again and hit the ground running.

I am continue to monitor which slides people decide to buy, and which slides are downloaded by subscribers. Many subscribers download a lot of slides right after they made the purchase, and then don't return for a couple of weeks. Initial downloads include slides that you can only use in very specific situations, like these sheep. They hardly ever download the same slide 2x. There could be 2 possible explanations:

  • Less likely: after that $99 annual subscription, you better make sure you get what you paid for, maybe the store will stop running somehow before the 12 months are up.
  • More likely: we have built up the habit of mining through old decks, and recycling slides into a new presentation.

As a designer who now uses its own store, I would encourage you to think Netflix, iStock, Spotify: your slides will always be there, and search is there to help you find the slide you need at the moment (and nothing else). Change your design process:

  • From: open your consolidated SlideMagic deck (which took time to assemble from all the individual slides you had to download), pick 20 designs you think you are going to need, see how you can tell your story with these 20 designs
  • To: scribble your story flow on a piece of paper, create a deck of empty slides with just titles, search the appropriate slide template on SlideMagic

It will take you less time, and you get better presentations. And remember: I am constantly adding new slides so your first burst download will run out of date soon.

Having said that, I am willing to look into a technical solution to combine multiple slide downloads in one deck, my commerce platform cannot handle that (yet).


Cover image by Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash

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Sensitivity analysis in PowerPoint

Sensitivity analysis in PowerPoint

Today, I am adding a simple table to the store to show the sensitivity of an analysis. Each cell in the table shows an outcome of an analysis with a slight variation on 2 critical input variables. I used this type of a slide a lot in discounted cash flow valuation models, where assumptions about discount rates and assumed perpetual growth could make a significant impact on the outcome of your analysis.

The base case scenario is put very prominently in the centre of the table, it is the anchor for the viewer from which to start studying the other scenarios. I prefer making these type of charts manually, and not via a blanket copy-paste out of an Excel sheet. In that way, you have to think about whether each cell in the table is meaningful, and you can make sure that the data is formatted and rounded in the best way.

You can download this sensitivity analysis from the store, subscribers can do so free of charge.


Cover image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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Quick reformat of the YCombinator Seed Deck Template (free)

Quick reformat of the YCombinator Seed Deck Template (free)

The application deadline for the next YCombinator is coming up and the incubator posted a suggested seed-stage investor pitch deck template. I quickly ran the template through a make over process using templates available in my store. The resulting pitch deck template can be downloaded free of charge.

Some comments:

  • This is a seed stage pitch deck for an investor which has very specific opinions/requirements about sourcing investments: early stage, seed stage businesses are extremely fluid and change/pivot so many times that there is little point in long-winded elaborations, given the volatility of these extremely early stage businesses, the team is the biggest indicator whether there is a chance that the company will be successful.
  • YCombinator is proud that they can see through fancy-looking decks, you probably even get points for not wasting time on PowerPoint slides, and instead focusing your efforts on the company (pretty much the philosophy behind SlideMagic). This might not work with all investors (hence the slide upgrade in look & feel in my remake).
  • The big selling point in this deck is obviously the placeholder for traction and growth, not many early stage companies will be able to produce the numbers for that "hockey stick" (yet).

All in all, these are good guidelines for crafting a pitch deck for a highly knowledgeable investor. I would up the graphical finish just a notch to make it look more pleasing, without overdoing it. That's what my template tried to do. 


Cover image by Evan Kirby on Unsplash

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Risk matrix in PowerPoint

Risk matrix in PowerPoint

I am continuing to tick off the standard presentation frameworks in the store, yesterday I added a PowerPoint template for a risk matrix. The matrix has 2 axes: one for the probability that a disaster happens, the other one how severe it would be if it were to happen.

The matrix is designed in true SlideMagic style: not very fancy, but highly symmetrical, usable, and adaptable to your everyday presentations. You can download the slide here, subscribers can do so free of charge. Feel free to adjust the axis titles, labels, or dim the bright traffic light style colours to your taste and needs.


Cover image by JC Dela Cuesta on Unsplash

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A prism that shows what's inside

A prism that shows what's inside

I have used the prism visual metaphor a few times in my client's presentations to show how rich, intricate, subtle components are present in a service or product that might not be apparent from the outside. Below is an attempt at a minimalist pyramid in PowerPoint (roughly modelled based on the cover of that Pink Floyd album).

I simplified the laws of physics here and there, the tricky bit was to get the blue shape inside the triangle right. I added the slide to the template store yesterday, you can find it ready for download here, and subscribers can do so free of charge.


Cover image via WikiPedia

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How to present to the CEO

How to present to the CEO

I recently answered this question on Quora about presenting to your own CEO. I think the "what if you had to present a prototype of the iPad to Steve Jobs" is a good mind set. Your presentation should be very good, but a different kind of good than a deck for an external audience. Very clear, brief, and action oriented. (Click this link if the Quora embed is not visible)

Cover image by Farrel Nobel on Unsplash

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Puzzle pieces in PowerPoint

Puzzle pieces in PowerPoint

Although you could consider them a presentation cliché, puzzles can work really well in a presentation:

  • Show how things fit beautifully
  • Show how your are missing (hopefully just one) critical piece
  • Show that you finally managed to plug that last gap

Puzzle shapes can also work great when you use them in combination with images. You can go back to this blog post about making Photoshop-like image cut outs in PowerPoint.

Stock image sites are flooded with millions of puzzle piece designs, but they are not very practical for the average PowerPoint designer (especially late at night working for tomorrow's deadline). Almost all these puzzles pieces are vector objects or images that are impossible to edit in PowerPoint. Moreover, all these puzzle pieces have wildly irregular shapes that make them hard to fit in your slide composition that requires exactly nine of them.

This PowerPoint puzzle slide solves the problem for you. The pieces inside are fully editable PowerPoint shapes, you can change their colour, you can put text in them, you can reconfigure and piece them together as you see fit. Yo'u can download the finished slide by clicking the image (An Apple Keynote version is available as well).

You can try to create the pieces yourself if you want, I used simple square shapes and circles, either joining or subtracting the shapes. Circles and squares might not be the most realistic shapes, but they are very practical when have to piece things together. There is a little bit of math homework to do to determine which type of puzzle shapes you actually need, and which ones you can create by rotating existing pieces.

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Concentric circles in PowerPoint

Concentric circles in PowerPoint

You can create very beautiful compositions by just using basic shapes and a few colours. Below is a presentation slide with concentric circles, and an image that shows how it is constructed. Feel free to borrow the design approach, or you can download the finished slide here.

This technique was often used by the Swiss graphics designers in the 1960s. You can use the slide concept below in a number of ways: show some sort of layering, show multiple layers of security or protection, show a whirl or rolling dynamic. You can take the labels of and just use the circles.

 Concentric circles in PowerPoint

Concentric circles in PowerPoint

 How to make concentric circles in PowerPoint

How to make concentric circles in PowerPoint

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Blue ocean strategy in a presentation

Blue ocean strategy in a presentation

Most investor or sales presentation have some sort of slide about the competitive environment. (Here are earlier blog posts about how to present the competition). Usually, people use tables, or 2x2 / 3x3 matrices to show how they are different.

The chart below might a completely different take on the subject. The Blue Ocean strategy concept developed by INSEAD argues that is often better to define an entirely new market rather than battling with all the existing companies that go after well-established market segments. You can download the slide here.

 Visualise the competition using "Blue Ocean Strategy" in a presentation

Visualise the competition using "Blue Ocean Strategy" in a presentation


Cover image by Ishan @seefromthesky on Unsplash

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Presentation layout for when you are stuck...

Presentation layout for when you are stuck...

Sometimes the simplest slides can be the most effective ones. This slide layout shows a big arrow crashing into a wall to visualise your obstacle or roadblock. The wall image is framed, while the arrow is bleeding of the page, adding an extra movement effect.Edit to text in the arrow and/or on the wall to show your audience what it stuck. The text in the arrow will automatically tilt in the right 3D angle, and both the wall and arrow will colour in your primary accent colour. Please copy this slide into a presentation that uses your own corporate presentation colour theme.

I am gaining a lot of experience now in translating PowerPoint designs into Keynote. This chart is only available in PowerPoint and not in Keynote, because the latter cannot tilt objects in a 3D space. The same problem arises with charts that rely heavily on bevels or other 3D lighting effects, which is not obvious to do in Keynote.

Here you can find this wall layout in the SlideMagic store. Cover image by Chris Benson on Unsplash

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Most templates now available for Apple Keynote

Most templates now available for Apple Keynote

The template store now supports Apple Keynote, a drop down menu let's you make a selection between your preferred presentation software. Not all templates could be converted, Keynote is missing the 3D shape rotation feature of PowerPoint that I used in some of the slides.

 The store now gives you the option to download templates either as a PowerPoint or Keynote file

The store now gives you the option to download templates either as a PowerPoint or Keynote file

 Slides in Keynote look the same except for the font

Slides in Keynote look the same except for the font

The only adjustment I made was the font: switching it from PowerPoint's default Calibri to Helvetica Neue for  Keynote. I am keen to keep the look and feel of the charts as "standard" as possible to make it easy to integrate the design in the corporate presentation templates that people are using.

 Under pressure!

Under pressure!

The slide above is a layering of 2 images that visualizes a big dam that is under pressure from something. You can use it either to show that something is about to burst, or the opposite, that defenses are strong and holding out well. I love the massive architectural scale of these hydro power installations, especially when you can highlight it with this tiny car driving across it. You can download this dam template here.

Looking for other visual concepts that are similar? You can try and search the store for "forces", "down", or this search "downward" and see what slides come up. That is my longer-term vision: no more boring bullet point charts, and no more searching for "where is that slide that I made 2 years ago", but rather have all the relevant designs ready at your finger tips. The search engine with design ideas is almost as important as the actual design itself.

 Searching for "downward" in the template store

Searching for "downward" in the template store

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Layering PowerPoint shapes

Layering PowerPoint shapes

Here are some examples of PowerPoint slides that cleverly use layering to create a "woven fabric" effect. Why clever? Take the circle for example with the arrow flying through. Part of the circle needs to below the arrow, part on top. The solution? Cut the circle in half... The interwoven arrows have small square blocks in the right colours pasted in the relevant junctions, and the spiral was a bit tricky, placing small black cut outs on the junction with the blue arrow.

Click the image if you want to download the relevant slide. Alternatively, search the template store for keywords like "arrow", "downward", "circle", "process" etc. to get to charts like these.

 A regular process, with a circular process around it

A regular process, with a circular process around it

 "The making of"

"The making of"

 Layered PowerPoint arrows give a fabric or knot type slide layout

Layered PowerPoint arrows give a fabric or knot type slide layout

 A downward spiral in PowerPoint

A downward spiral in PowerPoint

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100+ new PowerPoint layouts

100+ new PowerPoint layouts

I am adding designs to the template store at a healthy pace now, so it is not possible to feature every new design as a blog post. Head over to the store and check them out, this link will bring you to the latest additions. This view is chronological, and does not represent the breadth and variety of templates that are available. I encourage you to use the search box and see what comes up, it works really well now.

My objective is to get to such a variety in the store that I can move to a subscription revenue model: you can find a starter slide for every business concept you possibly would want to present. I need to find the "sweet spot": most PowerPoint template sites offer a huge amount of slides, but very few actual concepts, mostly permutations of images and text box layouts. Stock image sites have gone the the other way: millions and millions of similar compositions, but in the process they have diluted the quality and usability of the site. And of course, an image is in most cases not a finished presentation slide. The ideal is somewhere in the middle.

Photo by Alicia Steels on Unsplash

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Quarterly performance summary: lots of different KPIs on a page

Quarterly performance summary: lots of different KPIs on a page

I often use the slide below in quarterly investor presentations for large corporates. How to give a quick overview of the key financials in one chart?

 A chart with an overview of the main financial indicators of the last quarter

A chart with an overview of the main financial indicators of the last quarter

This chart is an example of why often a "manual" chart is much more powerful than a simple copy and paste from Excel:

  • The chart contains values that can differ vastly in range: sales can be 100s of billions of dollars, EPS can be less than a dollar. Margins are percentages, not dollars.
  • Despite this, I forced the Q1 column of each of these values to be the same. In the underlying spreadsheet, they will all say "100". The other values are calculated as a relative value compared to this 100. To accentuate this in the chart, I connected the left columns with a dotted line.
  • As a result, all labels in the chart need to be filled out by hand, the same for the growth bubbles which I placed over the columns (again a bit unusual)

You can download this KPI chart from the template store.

Photo by Sabri Tuzcu on Unsplash

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How to make organization charts in PowerPoint

How to make organization charts in PowerPoint

I added the first organization chart to the template store. It is hard to design a generic template for organizations, there are so many different permutations possible. This is the reason they are still hard to create in my presentation design app, and this is probably also the reason that it is tricky to create beautiful organization diagrams from simply copying pasting a pre-fab template. Let's give it a try.

Here is the process I usually go through when designing an org chart:

  1. Make a sketch on paper, and reshuffle, re-juggle existing PowerPoint organigrams. These are made by HR people, not by designers. Often you can rearrange objects in such a way that you get a much nicer composition without changing hierarchies and relationships between people and departments
  2. Find out the horizontal layer that has most boxes in it, this will determine the size of the horizontal grid. Find the person with the longest name / role title, which will give you a clue about the maximum font size you can use.
  3. Put this layer in, and add all organization elements relevant to this layer.
  4. Make sure every object is perfectly aligned, and start putting in the PowerPoint connectors. (You will immediately see when you made a small alignment glitch, the connectors will not fit nicely)
  5. Now that the whole structure is in in place it is time to put in names and roles, and if required the FTE count of the various units (the small black bubbles in my example). 
  6. Take a step back and look at the whole structure to see whether there are opportunities to use color to make things clearer.
  7. You got your reference slide was all the info about all the people in the right places, the final step is to think what your specific slide actually really needs to say: our organization is big, or organization is flat, our organization mirrors our customer segmentation, everyone in the organization is over-stretched, our organization is basically 3 silos. Start deleting, adding, coloring things just to make that point.

Related to point 7, remember that some of the points you want to make in an organization do not always require an organization diagram. I nice photo of the lunch room can show that you have a big group of people working here for example. And, the names, lines, dotted lines, titles, are incredibly important for the people who work in the organization, for some people that title might be the reason they show up in the morning. For many outsiders however, these details are far less important. In startup organizations, the org chart changes every week, the structure is not that relevant, what is important though (for potential investors) is the caliber and experience of the people you managed to get on board. I simple team overview slide can do the trick here. You can search the template store for "team" and see whether a suitable design comes up.

Let me know if this template (you can download it here) works, or whether I should add more permutations.

 A PowerPoint presentation design template for an organization chart

A PowerPoint presentation design template for an organization chart

Photo by Vincent Botta on Unsplash

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A multi-dimensional comparison

A multi-dimensional comparison

This chart can be your weapon of choice when you need to visualise a complex comparison: multiple options, multiple dimensions, and subtle differentiations (beyond "yes" or "no"). You can position the balls anywhere in between the extremes. When using the slide for your specific situation, it might have to go through a number of iterations. Choose the order of the dimensions in such as way, that the lest complicated line pattern emerges.

Feel free to copy the design, or download the completed slide from the SlideMagic store.

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Some decision charts

Some decision charts

Decision charts. I added a few slides to visualise a decision or a trade off the store: simple boxes, the same boxes over an image background, and a minimalist scale

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Examples of slides in the SlideMagic slide bank

Examples of slides in the SlideMagic slide bank

An overview of the slide templates that are available in the SlideMagic template bank.

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