PowerPoint Tip - Use Gantt chart for Timelines
Some have used a bulleted list with each bullet containing a date and the text of the event or development. The challenge with this format is that it does not make it easy to get a sense of overall timing because the gap between the dates in the list may not be consistent. It also does not allow for an easy way to show how long something took if it developed over, say, 2 years.
Another attempt was to have a timeline of years through the middle of the slide and add events along the timeline above or below the timeline. This is better because it is visual, but the challenge is twofold. First, too often the timeline is what stands out because of where it is positioned and the text of the events becomes too small to see. Second, it is not always easy to indicate the duration of a situation.
A better choice is to use a Gantt chart. Gantt is not an acronym, is it the name of the man who created this way of showing information. A Gantt chart has a timeline along the bottom of the chart with equal spacing representing each time period. Above the timeline each event is represented with a horizontal bar which indicates when the event started and ended based on the timeline. The advantage of the Gantt chart is that it is a good visual representation of the sequence and it allows for an audience member to easily put the events in an overall context. By building each bar on the chart, the presenter can explain each event individually.
On my consulting page I have recently posted five videos showing examples of the work I have done for clients. One of the examples is how I changed a timeline slide to a Gantt chart slide. You can view the example at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/consulting.htm (the video examples are links about three quarters the way down the page).
If you want to learn how to draw diagrams yourself and not spend hundreds on a graphic designer, check out my video on using diagrams at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/vtusingdiagrams.htm . Another good reference for diagram ideas is the latest book by Gene Zelazny, an expert we reference in Guide to PowerPoint. His latest book is "The Say It With Charts Complete Toolkit" and can be ordered at http://snipurl.com/sayitwithcharts .
Update: The Gantt chart is just one of the many visuals I explain in my new book "The Visual Slide Revolution: Transforming Overloaded Text Slides Into Persuasive Presentations." Get all the info and read a chapter for free at http://www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com/vsr.htm .