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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Bubble charts in PowerPoint and Keynote

Bubble charts in PowerPoint and Keynote

Bubble charts are useful to present and analyse very large datasets. The standard template in PowerPoint and Keynote still needs some adjustment to make the chart useful. In this bubble chart on the SlideMagic template store, I have tried to do the hard work for you.

This a reformatted version of the standard bubble chart that you will find in PowerPoint and Keynote, on top it has the layout of a 2x2 matrix. The bubble chart is useful when you want to compare a data series with 3 elements, across a large number of data points. Examples are countries, business units, regions, products, etc.

The first two elements will be plotted on a regular XY chart, the 3rd element is the size of the bubble. PowerPoint or Keynote do not support labelling of the bubble very well, which are put in manually.

A 2x2 matrix structure is put on top of the regular bubble chart, giving you 4 distinct quadrants to segment your bubbles in. In the current example, the quadrants have the same size, by putting the 2 axes right in the middle. To do so, you need to manage the ranges of the axes carefully. If this is not important to you, you can put the X and Y axes where they are relevant without worrying about this. Quadrants of unequal size will still look good.

I am working hard to make the store more useable. This layout is an example. There are 4 variants of the chart: PowerPoint, Keynote, both in 4:3 or 16:9. I tried to add all the right instructions about how to use the layout, and show many links to other relevant slides in the store. While working on your presentation, you can go back and forth between designs and get ideas on how to visualise the key messages of your presentation. Some layout suggestions, you might be able to create yourself, others you might already have bought and can re-use, or you can download a layout right away to add it to your library. SlideMagic will be a place that saves you time making your business presentations.

Cover image by Alejandro Alvarez 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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Should you send a short "teaser" deck to a VC?

Should you send a short "teaser" deck to a VC?

Here is an interesting reply on Quora:

The answer seems like common sense. "Short" and "long", "tease" and "bore"

  • Don't send a "short" 3 page slide deck crammed with font size 8 text
  • Don't send a 3 page deck that is so vague and mysterious that the VC does not understand what it is about ("do you want to share our journey that will revolutionise personal finance?")
  • Don't send a super looooong slide deck does not get to the point even on slide 15 because you are still setting the market context and ticking of the hottest buzzwords
  • Don't send a long slide deck full of (confidential) details about your finances, product pipeline and roadmap, competitive strengths and weaknesses and the last Board decisions

"Short" and "long", "tease" and "bore", the smart approach sits somewhere in the middle. VCs are usually reasonably intelligent, and have likely seen many, many pitches from companies that operate in the same field as you do.

You could almost compare this to you checking out a web site of a new competitor to your business in your industry. After a few seconds, you either utter a sigh of relief, or get that feeling, "hmm, this could actually be pretty good". The VC will look at your deck in pretty much the same way.

Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

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The SlideMagic "insert" templates

The SlideMagic "insert" templates

When you hit "insert slide" in my SlideMagic presentation design app, you get presented with a number of basic grid layouts for the slides. 

 Here is the menu you are presented with when you select "insert slide" in the SlideMagic presentation design app

Here is the menu you are presented with when you select "insert slide" in the SlideMagic presentation design app

Many people have asked me for these layouts in PowerPoint, so I added them to the SlideMagic template store, you can download the template bundle here.

 Thumbnails of the slide layouts available in the PowerPoint template

Thumbnails of the slide layouts available in the PowerPoint template

I based the template mostly on slides that were already present in the store, so there are some deviations here and there. But, overall, these are the layouts I think should enable you to build almost any business presentation, that's why I selected them for the app.

The file with PowerPoint templates comes with a health warning though: the reason I created the presentation design app is that it is very hard to customise template slide layouts in PowerPoint. Adding or deleting rows/columns to a grid requires some clean up and realign work that not very layman designer can do. In the template you can find more variants on the layouts of some of the slides presented here, but they probably never match your exact needs.

The app is easy to work with but integrates less well with PowerPoint, the PowerPoint templates fit right into your corporate PowerPoint template and/or colleague's presentations, but are harder to customise. I am working hard to get rid of both these limitations.

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Native waterfall charts in PowerPoint for Mac

Native waterfall charts in PowerPoint for Mac

Waterfall charts have emerged in PowerPoint for Mac after a recent software update. This would be a major addition, since these types of charts are highly useful to summarise changes in data. I have shown in previous blog posts how it is possible to construct a waterfall chart starting from a regular stacked column chart, but it involves manual calculations and PowerPoint fiddling.

The new waterfall templates for PowerPoint for Mac are a step in the right direction, but things are not perfect (yet) though. For some reason, you cannot edit the data of the waterfall that gets inserted in PowerPoint, nor can you change the design of the chart. I figured out a work around:

 1. Data in the standard PowerPoint for Mac waterfall chart cannot be edited ("edit data in Excel" is grey out)

1. Data in the standard PowerPoint for Mac waterfall chart cannot be edited ("edit data in Excel" is grey out)

 2. The only adjustment you can make is selecting a cell, and then designating it to be a total column (or not)

2. The only adjustment you can make is selecting a cell, and then designating it to be a total column (or not)

 3. Work around: add a regular column chart

3. Work around: add a regular column chart

 4. Make it a stacked column

4. Make it a stacked column

 5. Delete data all but one data series

5. Delete data all but one data series

 6. Add the data you need

6. Add the data you need

 7. Convert the stacked bar to a waterfall

7. Convert the stacked bar to a waterfall

 8. Designate the totals to be "totals"

8. Designate the totals to be "totals"

 9. The final result

9. The final result

The problem is that you cannot format these chart more to make it fit in your overall design. And to change a data value, you have to convert back the chart to a stacked column chart, after which you have to re-re-convert to a waterfall and set the totals again from scratch.

I assume these are all early bugs that will eventually be ironed out. Do people have the same issue on PowerPoint for Windows? 

Here is the link to my manual waterfall chart in the template store. It requires some calculations, but once set up,  you can make it fit to your own look & feel, and changing data values should be relatively easy. As soon as Microsoft has ironed the above bugs, I will update this chart to work with the native chart engine.

 The "manual" waterfall chart in PowerPoint that can be downloaded from the template store

The "manual" waterfall chart in PowerPoint that can be downloaded from the template store

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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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The iceberg in PowerPoint, presentation cliches

The iceberg in PowerPoint, presentation cliches

I think people are spending way too much time on creating corporate presentation documents for internal company  meetings where the objective is to get your colleagues to agree on something that needs to happen next. Not every meeting is your all company annual sales kick off.

Presentation cliches can be effective visual shortcuts to get your point across. People have seen them before, instantly connect to the concept, and you can move on. The challenge is to make your slide look decent, maybe even referring to the cliche in a tongue-in-cheek way.

Below is what I tried to do to the infamous tip of the iceberg slide.

 The tip of the iceberg presentation "classic" (or cliche?)

The tip of the iceberg presentation "classic" (or cliche?)

  • Don't try to make it look too photo realistic, but rather use an abstract simple geometrical shape, and use the presentation accent color (instead of white against a dark background)
  • Keep the slide very simple, but the depth effect is actually created with clever layering of (partly semitransparent) shapes and image crops, it took me some head scratching to figure out
  • Shift the whole composition to the side to leave some more space for text, if you need it.

All in all, this chart looks better than a boring list of bullet points that describe some looming threat you want to warn your colleagues about. Just resist the temptation to fill that empty piece of arctic ocean on the right or the crisp polar sky with text.

If you want, you can download the tip of the iceberg slide here.

Photo by paul morris 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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System dynamics in PowerPoint

System dynamics in PowerPoint

Loops are a powerful way to visualise reinforcing trends. Electrical engineers use them and refer to them as "system dynamics". McKinsey consultants use them and call them "business dynamics".

You can use them in a presentation to support your point, but make sure you don't overcomplicate things like in the infamous US Army Spaghetti chart. Alternatively, you can use them as an analytical tool and add as much complexity as you want.

I often use some sort of loop diagram to scribble the basic story line of a presentation to make sure that I understand things myself.

When using a loop diagram in a presentation, go through different version on paper until you arrive at the most pleasing design, with the minimal amount of overlapping arrows in your spaghetti.

I have added a basic loop diagram to the template store. They are a bit tricky to make in PowerPoint, if you want all the circles and arrows to line up properly.

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Dominoes in PowerPoint

Dominoes in PowerPoint

I am filling the store with presentation essentials. Falling domino pieces might be a cliche, but they become useful if you can actually put text on the stones, rather than simply putting a cheesy stock image as a background.

Below is a downloadable dominoes template in PowerPoint. The pieces are editable rectangular PowerPoint shapes that have been tilted in 3D. You can change the number you want, their colour, and the text inside. I have put supporting 3D lines in the composition so you can clean up things after you made the adjustments to the diagram for your specific situation.

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The pillars and other PowerPoint cliches

The pillars and other PowerPoint cliches

Some presentation slide layouts have been used so many times that they have become a cliche. You know it, when you see one. In very high profile presentations, it is a good idea to take them out and replace them with a different design, to prevent the audience from thinking "Oops, it's going to be one of those decks again".

I am pragmatic though, and I you need to stitch together a quick deck for tomorrow's strategy meeting, and yes, you have a case that your strategy depends on 5 pillars, I will forgive you for digging up that temple slide from the archives.

For your convenience, I have created a downloadable pillar/temple slide in the template store. This version can also come in handy when you need to address not totally stable strategies. In case you  are curious, I  have labeled some other slides as "cliche" in the template store, you can a run a search for the keyword "cliche" and see what comes up. Do you agree?

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Back to one monitor

Back to one monitor

My old Apple Thunderbolt screen has had its best time, so I find myself back with just on 5K screen on my iMac recently. And I must say: I might keep this desk configuration. It creates a nicer work environment where I can actually look out of the window (over the Mediterranean in my case), with less clutter and big bright light beams shining in your face.

There is now no longer space to keep Twitter feeds and other distractions open on your screen. Also side-by-side design work where I have a spreadsheet and a presentation open at the same time somehow works actually better: moving your eye from document to the next, and looking for that number is quicker when everything is right in front of you.

We will see what happens after a few weeks.

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How to cut out shapes out of images in PowerPoint

How to cut out shapes out of images in PowerPoint

PowerPoint can do Photoshop-like tricks. One of them: cutting shapes out of images. Here is how to do it:

  1. Drag your image on the slide
  2. Draw a shape on top of it (the freehand shape allows you to create a very precise shape)
  3. First select the image, then select the shape (shift click)
  4. Now select the Shape Format menu
  5. Click Merge Shapes
  6. Click Subtract

That's it. Below is a slide from the template store that uses this technique (you can download the ready-made slide if you want)

 The final template slide

The final template slide

 The making of

The making of

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How to create Harvey Balls in PowerPoint

How to create Harvey Balls in PowerPoint

Harvey Balls are a repeating pattern of simple pie diagrams to score options among different access. Strategy consultants love them because it allows you to make qualitative assessments quickly. They work great on group discussion whiteboards as well: draw the empty circles and have the meeting participants colour them in.

Apparently they were invented at Booz Allen in the 1970s, which is probably why we at McKinsey referred to them as "moons".

In PowerPoint they are a bit tricky to make, in the template below I tried to make an effort. To change the values, you need to open each pie diagram and change its value, make sure that you are not moving or re-scaling any of the pie diagrams in the process.

At McKinsey, I remember always keeping a "moon" diagram somewhere in my hard drive, so I could easily re-use the various shapes (these were not Excel pie diagrams, but graphic icons that came in the four stages).

Visually, I think they are not perfect. Maybe in the early 1990s, with primitive computer graphics, Harvey balls served a purpose, but now the same effect can equally be achieved by applying different colour shadings in the background colour of the cells in your table.

As always, feel free to copy the design, or download the ready-made slide from the template store.

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Pop out of the box

Pop out of the box

My slide layouts usually have a white frame around them, even big images I don not let "bleed" of the page. Why? My slide decks are usually a mix of these minimalist big image slides and more traditional, dense, consulting-type slides. The big pictures usually go in the front of the deck to sell the idea, but for financials, roadmaps, etc. I need a different format. Mixing two styles of presentations gives the deck an inconsistent look.

(The exception would be tracker pages, or section separators, which I usually stretch over a full page).

That "box" gives you some new design opportunities though; you can make things pop out by putting them outside the frame on purpose. This is technique that is often used on magazine covers. Below are some slides from the store where I used this technique (clicking them takes you to the store).

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The tree

The tree

Trees like the one below are a great way to communicate a formula or a business model. It shows how factors are related. It forces you to "fill in the blanks". For example, if you think you are going to get 200,000 customers in Luxembourg, you need to relate that to the overall population somehow. It makes assumptions very visible, and separates the ones which are relatively certain, from those which are wild guesses.

 Business model tree

Business model tree

 A business model tree - inverted

A business model tree - inverted

Use the tree to triangulate your own view of a business model or forecast, then show it to your audience and convince them of the numbers.

I always make my trees left-to-right, McKinsey style, where you would take someone from the big picture to the smaller details. Some clients have a preference for doing it the other way around, going from inputs to the final result.

Feel free to borrow this design idea, or download the ready-made slide from the SlideMagic template store.

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

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Finding inspiration via search

Finding inspiration via search

A very significant part of my efforts to get my template store up and running goes in its search engine. I am surprised myself how well it works. My bespoke client work is the test case for it, and whenever I start out on a new slide, I give the search engine a go, and voila, most of the times a suitable lay out pops up.

Business presentations are a bit like business English: you actually don't need a big vocabulary of layouts ("words") to make a decent deck. 

You can use the search engine to you advantage without shelling out a dollar to buy a slide. Simply search for a concept, and maybe you can "borrow" the design that comes up, or the search results remind you of slides you designed before.

Here are some examples of how you can use the search engine:

  • Look for a business concept, anything to do with talking about the competition
  • Find specific well known strategy frameworks: 7S, Porter forces, etc.
  • Search for a specific layout: Venn diagrams, 2x2 matrices
  • You need a slide to visualise 4 things: look for the number four
  • And you can always try your luck with using SlideMagic as a stock image engine (try Stormtrooper), images on SlideMagic are free to re-use

I am monitoring the search terms people use closely. If a key concept is missing, I will add the slide, if a keyword does not match a suitable slide, I will fix that. At the moment, I am constraint by the search engine in the eCommerce platform that powers my site, which means that I need to work with keyword tagging of slides. As SlideMagic grows, I envision migrating to a custom search engine that can offer higher levels of intelligence. Ultimately, this will be the real differentiation of the site: coming up with the right slide layout on request.

Photo by Kyle Popineau on Unsplash

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