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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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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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The snapping chain

The snapping chain

Business presentations usually rely on a few basic concepts. One of them is the snapping chain or rope, where 2 forces pulls something apart. One way to create this is with a stock image of a snapping rope or chain, but it can be hard to find one without an unhelpful 3D rotation, another approach is to create a chain from basic PowerPoint shapes.

Here is what I did

  • Take a rectangle with rounded corners
  • Increase the rounded corners until they become half circles (the small yellow dot in the shape)
  • Copy the shape, make it smaller
  • Centre the 2 shapes, subtract the smaller from the bigger
  • Apply some 3D bevel to to get the basic chain ring
  • The other chain ring is simply a rectangle with rounded corners.
  • Now, scribble a "saw" freehand shape.
  • Copy a chain ring, subtract the saw shape to get the broken ring
  • Copy this broken ring, and subtract it from another ring (to get the exact complement of the break lines)
  • Line everything up for the final composition.

You can follow these steps, or download the finished product from the template store.

Once you have your chain, "store it in a safe place", there are endless ways you could use it in future slides: multiple chains, longer chains, chains that go all around the slide :-) Here is another possible composition from the SlideMagic archive

The resulting chart is not a master piece illustration, but its unpretentious simplicity can do a decent job in an everyday business presentation. People spent too much time dealing with presentation software, and the objective of SlideMagic (the app, the store) is to help you get business concepts on a decent slide quickly and move on with more important things in life (and business).

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Turning a bar chart into a Gantt diagram

Turning a bar chart into a Gantt diagram

From bar chart to Gantt. Read in this blog post how you can turn a stacked bar chart into a Gantt diagram.

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Using perspective in PowerPoint

Using perspective in PowerPoint

How to create a 3D perspective in PowerPoint. Most of the time, 3D is not required in business presentations. But sometimes, it is. See how to position objects on a 3D canvas in this post.

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How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac

How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac

How to export PowerPoint slides as high res images on a Mac. See how by setting the slide width to 2998 things somehow seem to work.

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The origins of PowerPoint

The origins of PowerPoint

The origins of PowerPoint. This article The improbable origins of PowerPoint is probably the most detailed story of how PowerPoint became what it is today I have read.

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My own clean PowerPoint template

My own clean PowerPoint template

PowerPoint templates get corrupted over time. It usually starts with a template that was designed by a print graphics designer as an after thought after designing the logo and the business cards: creating slide layouts without paying much attention to the technical issues of programming a template that can be (ab)used by thousands of employees. Then over, slowly but gradually, "foreign" templates infect the original until nothing is left of the original.

I go back to zero every time I design a new presentation. The file that I put up in the SlideMagic template store is pretty much the one I start every new presentation design project with. It is really simple. You can customise it with your own colours and you are good to go.

When creating a new slide, go to the "Layout" button in the top left of the menu to create a select a new slide layout.

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Slideuments and graphics designers

Slideuments and graphics designers

Many designers with excellent skills in web and/or print design somehow cannot deploy their talent very well in PowerPoint/business presentations. I have been thinking hard about why this could be.

The key challenge I think is the tight relationship with content and design. In print/web the design of a page does not really change that much if the content changes (it is still a block of text, an image, and an icon that fit in the same overall grid). In a business presentation, everything goes upside down when your competitor analysis needs to include 3 instead of 2 dimensions.

The second reason is - I think - that both people who write presentations and designers who polish them, stick to the conventional slide format: title across the top, list of bullets.

Now here is an interesting experiment for a 100% graphics designer who is not allowed or does not have the knowledge to touch any of the content (the classical print graphics designer situation). Assuming the presentation is a slideument (meant for reading rather than presenting).

Hand over the material in a word processor, as a long text file rather than a partly finished PowerPoint presentation. Now give the designer total freedom to present this material in any form she wants, even in any software she wants, using any page layout she wants.

Changes are you might get a pretty good lucking slideument by taking "PowerPoint" and its familiar layout out of the equation.


Image via WikiPedia

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Making a transparent cube in PowerPoint

Making a transparent cube in PowerPoint

There is a 3D cube shape in PowerPoint, here is how you can make it transparent. The secret: rotate a copy of itself and paste them over each other.

Screenshot 2017-09-19 07.52.33.png

Image via WikiPedia

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Size creep

Size creep

Super high resolution images of small slide elements can inflate the size of your PowerPoint or Keynote file without you noticing. A common culprit is an innocent looking page with 30 customer logos. Compress your images often to keep file sizes in check.

Another common file size mistake is to include high resolution images in the slide master to make it easer for people to understand template slides that are meant for photos. As a result, even a simple text slide will create a huge file as the slide master gets saved as an integral part of the document. This can add up in a company with 10,000 employees.

Image compression in PowerPoint can sometimes produce unpredictable results, especially when you tick "apply to all" and you have a presentation with a lot of photographs. I often see cropped images going haywire, the only rescue is to compress images one by one. Always save a copy of your file before attempting to compress the file.

Handy link: how to reduce file sizes in Office


Image via WikiPedia

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Fusion chart

Fusion chart

In the 2 images below you can see how to create a "fusion chart" where lots of stuff flows into something central. In the second image, I changed the color of the white triangles to grey and drew strong border lines so you can see what shapes are involved.

UPDATE: You can now download this slide concept from the SlideMagic store

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Building image grids in PowerPoint

Building image grids in PowerPoint

Making a grid of images in PowerPoint is tricky. Images never have a consistent aspect ratio, and when you place a lot of them on a page, the guide suggestions always snap in the wrong place somehow. Here is a survival guide.

  • Copy all your images inside the page and select them all
  • Right click and go in "format picture"
  • Tick the "size" icon, and click "size" 
  • Hit "reset" to kill any aspect ratio distortion
  • Hit "lock aspect ratio"
  • Now select each image one by one, hit "crop", hit "aspect ratio" and pick one
  • After this, select all the images again, and give them the same width with a numerical value
  • Position the images on your grid
  • Take each image in turn, select "crop" and move/zoom the image mask for the right composition

The above was a major consideration when designing the image grid system in my presentation app SlideMagic.

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Chart hygiene

Chart hygiene

Here are some slide make over suggestions for messy PowerPoint presentations that do not require any changes to content. They fix basic graphical hygiene:

  • Make sure all slides use the same slide master template: titles, page numbers, logos (if you want to use them), all sit in the same place
  • Find/replace fonts: make sure all fonts in a deck are the same
  • Create a frame of guides in the master slide and make sure all slide content fits inside the frame on each slide
  • Apply a consistent color scheme to all the slides
  • Eliminate italics
  • Make sure that characters in the same box, paragraph have the same font size (huge differences are OK, but very small size differences do not look good)
  • Un-stretch photos with the wrong aspect ratio
  • Align and distribute slide elements where ever you can
  • Play with line breaks and font size to avoid orphan words on a second line
  • Remove multiple, overlapping "confidential" labels and page numbers from pages
  • Draw a shape, set proper colors and fonts, and make it the default shape, delete the shape, repeat for a text box and a line

That was presentation make-over V0.1, the content might be bad, the layouts could be poor, but it will look organized.

If you have been working in my presentation app SlideMagic, you will have noticed that is almost impossible to make the mistakes I am correcting in the above.

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Data leakage in PowerPoint

Data leakage in PowerPoint

Be careful with sending PowerPoint presentations that could have left overs of confidential information hidden inside that you do not want outsiders to see:

  • Comments in the speaker notes field at the bottom of the slides ("Let's don't tell our investors yet, about the disappointing Q1 results, we will do that in 2 weeks"). When you use an old presentation to "copy-save" it as the master of a new one, comments get copied across as well. 
  • Regular comments on slides that have not been removed
  • Information, comments, analysis, that sits in the Excel engine of data charts, when someone clicks "edit data", the full Excel sheet opens
  • Also, even if you remove the data labels or axes from a data chart, the data still remains visible when hovering over it with a mouse.

It is best to share your presentation as a PDF file, but even then watch out with information that becomes visible when hovering over with your mouse (data points, file names of images, etc.)


Image via WikiPedia

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Making image grids in PowerPoint

Making image grids in PowerPoint

It is tricky in PowerPoint to make a nice grid of images that comes from different sources, in different sizes, and in different aspect ratios. How do you get them all the same size? It can be very tedious to crop them all to the same proportion, and then line them up correctly. There are always one or two that are wrong.

Here is what I do. Crop each image to a certain aspect ratio, don't worry yet about the exact size. Now select them all and give each the same height, the width will automatically be adjusted as well! Pro-tip, crop to 1:1 and then try cropping to a circle.

In my presentation app SlideMagic, it is impossible not to lay out images in a grid :-)

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The latest cool presentation app

The latest cool presentation app

I saw this Tweet by Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen):

I agree fully, and as the CEO of an aspiring presentation app (SlideMagic), I am not contradicting myself. SlideMagic is of course cool, but not because it adds spectacular features. It makes you design slides in a very strict grid so that your slides look good regardless of your design experience. Try it yourself.

 

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How do you do it?

How do you do it?

A question I often get after a very simple make over of a slide. Answer:

  • Make boxes the same size
  • Line everything up in a grid
  • Cut excess filler words and passive verbs
  • Us one accent colour
  • Harmonize fonts
  • Reset image aspect ratios
  • Fit everything inside a frame with white space around it

"You make it sound so simple, but it is not.". It actually is. If you struggle doing it in PowerPoint, use SlideMagic, my presentation app.

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The multiple uses of PowerPoint

The multiple uses of PowerPoint

Presenting slides in front of a big audience is just one application of PowerPoint, and probably not the one that is most commonly used. Here are a few others:

  • Corporate knowledge database
  • Product catalogue
  • Project management and planning tool
  • Word processor
  • Story boarding tool
  • Group brainstorming tool
  • Animation editor
  • System design tool
  • To do list and meeting minutes recording tool

A 1980s presentation design tool ended up being the operating system that power most communication inside a company.

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