Presentation Tip: Proportional Object Collection Calculator
Earlier this year I created an online tool to calculate the sizes of two shapes based on values that you input. This allows you to create a diagram with two proportional shapes. I wrote about this calculator in the June 11 issue of the newsletter and gave examples of the background and other links about this type of diagram. At the Presentation Summit in September, fellow PowerPoint MVP Glenna Shaw of visualology.net suggested that what I had created was good, but needed to go further.
Glenna had written about the online tool in blog posts for Microsoft (see the June 11 newsletter for links), but she wanted it to do more. She wanted the tool to calculate the sizes of more than two shapes. This would allow it to be used when you have more than two values to compare visually. She also wanted it to be more generic, so the sizes could apply to any shape or image, not just squares, rectangles, and circles.
Of course her ideas made perfect sense. So I went to work in my hotel room that day and created a new tool, the Proportional Object Collection Calculator. It allows you to create slides like this:
This example of a proportional object collection shows one of the shapes only partially on the slide. When one of the values is much larger than the rest of the values, this approach can work well because it allows the shapes for the smaller values to be more easily seen on the slide. The audience still understands the magnitude of the large shape because more than half of it is on the slide.
To use the calculator, enter the height and width of the largest object you want to create (in inches or centimetres). Then you enter the values you want to represent with proportional objects. Enter the values in order from largest to smallest. In the Results section, you will see exact measurements for each object. Use the entry fields in the Size group for the object to enter the height and width shown in the Results table.
I have found it easiest to copy the results table of object sizes onto my slide so it is easy to see when entering the sizes for each shape or image. You can make the table smaller if it is taking up too much room, and move it to one of the top corners of the slide so it is out of the way of where you are placing the objects. When you are done, you can delete the table or move it to the Notes section of the slide if you need to keep the dimensions of the objects.
Instead of a column or bar graph, consider using a proportional object collection in your next presentation. It tells the story of the numbers visually in a way the audience will understand and remember.
Celebrating 300 newsletter issues
Today I am celebrating the 300th issue of my newsletter. I have been writing this newsletter every two weeks for almost 11 years. I would not be able to keep writing if it was not for the support and encouragement that my loyal readers have shown. If you are not on the list yet, click here to sign up. To thank my subscribers and those who read my articles on my blog or website, I am offering a sale on my Kindle ebooks and reminding you of some of the free resources I offer you and all presenters on my website.
In the US, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. A tradition started years ago is the Black Friday sale at many retailers the day after the holiday. That tradition expanded to Cyber Monday where online retailers get into the sale mode a couple of days later. So I decided to have an Issue #300/Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale on my Kindle ebooks. As a thank you to my loyal readers, I am cutting the price of my Kindle ebook series in half until Tuesday December 3. Instead of $2.99, the ebooks are only $1.49 on Amazon. The ebooks include 20 Tips for Financial Presentations, Sales Presentations, Project Status Presentations, and, the latest one in the series, 20 Tips for Students. Here are the links directly to Amazon to take advantage of the sale:
20 Tips for Effective Financial Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips for Effective Sales Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips for Effective Project Status Presentations with PowerPoint
20 Tips to Help Students Ace Their Next PowerPoint Presentation
I have always been known for giving many free resources on my website that help presenters improve their presentations. If you haven’t visited my website lately, you may have forgotten about some of these resources. Two of the resources I get a lot of comments on are the PowerPoint tutorial videos and the slide makeovers. I offer over 30 videos that show you how to use PowerPoint to create graphs, diagrams, handouts, and more. These aren’t feature focused, they are specific to the tasks you have to get done. All of the videos are short, usually in the 3-8 minute range, so you can learn the task and get back to work. They are organized by category on this page. My slide makeovers are also organized so it is easy for you to find one that is relevant to the type of slide or industry you are in. These slide makeover videos show you a “before” slide, how I revised it into a better “after” slide, and lessons presenters can learn from the makeover. If you are looking for a new way to show information on a slide, check out these videos on this page.
I also offer two tools that help presenters design slides that are visually appealing and easy to understand. The first is the Color Contrast Calculator. This tool allows you to enter the RGB values of two colors and know if the audience will be able to easily read the text on the background, or distinguish between adjacent shapes in a graph or diagram. Full instructions on how to use the calculator are included on the Color Contrast Calculator page. The second most annoying thing presenters do, according to audiences in my latest survey, is use a font that is too small to easily read. How big of a font should you use? The only true answer is “It depends.” You need to take into account the size of the screen and the size of the room. I use visual acuity standards and road sign guidelines to create two charts that you can use to determine the right font size for your presentation. The charts for standard 4x3 projectors and widescreen TVs are on this page in English and French. If you need to create a full template for your organization, there is no better book than one written by my fellow PowerPoint MVPs Julie Terberg and Echo Swinford. If you have been tasked with creating the PowerPoint template for your organization, get their book today.
Thank you again for your loyal support and kind comments over the years. I look forward to serving you for many years to come. For those of you gathering with family and friends this week to celebrate Thanksgiving, travel safely and celebrate the blessings you have been given.
Presentation Tip: Treemap Diagrams
At the Presentation Summit in September, Nolan Haims showed a diagram I had seen before, but did not know the proper name for: a treemap. A treemap is a type of visual that allows you to visually compare the size of different measured values using proportionally shaped rectangles that are arranged into an overall rectangle. Here is a link to an article that contains more on the background of this type of visual. Here is an example of a treemap.
The challenge with this visual, like many other diagrams that use proportional shapes, is that you need to do somewhat complex calculations in order to get the shapes exactly the right size. Nolan shared that there are some online tools that can create these types of diagrams, but the tools produce an image that you can’t edit in PowerPoint. I knew that there must be a way that presenters everywhere could quickly and easily create these diagrams without having to figure out the calculations themselves.
After a few hours of work, I created a calculator that allows you to input your values, and the calculations are done for you. The calculator is on my site at www.SimpleTreemapCalculator.com. You enter the height and width of the overall area of your slide that you want the treemap to occupy (in inches or centimetres). Then you enter the values you want to represent within the treemap. You need to enter at least four values in order from largest to smallest. In the Results section of the calculator, you will see exact measurements for each rectangle that makes up the treemap. You can then use the entry fields in the Size group for the object to enter the height and width of each rectangle shown in the Results table.
To make the calculator work, I had to make some assumptions about how the rectangles would be arranged. In the treemap created by the calculator, the rectangles are always arranged starting with the largest rectangle on the left side of the area for the treemap. The next rectangles then fill in the remaining area from the top to the bottom. The final two rectangles split the last space left in the overall area used for the treemap. You can see this pattern in the example above.
When would you use a treemap diagram? I think it is a good option to replace a pie chart where one of the wedges is about 50% or more. Instead of the typical pie chart of wedges, you can input the values into the Simple Treemap Calculator and create a treemap diagram. Since each rectangle is a separate shape, it is easy to build each rectangle one by one with animation as you speak to that value.
Now that the calculations are easier, you can start to use treemap diagrams in your presentations.
Presentation Tip: Show steps in a process
When you need to explain a process, whether it is a manufacturing process, process for handling expense claims, or process for installing a new system, there are steps you want to walk the audience through. The default template in PowerPoint leads many presenters to use a numbered list of steps: step one through to the final step. In today’s tip I want to show you some examples of visuals that can show a process better than a numbered list.
Linear process with same type of activity
The first example is for a linear process where each step is the same type of activity. Here is an example.
Each step in this example is handled by the same department and in the same location. When the audience sees the same shape used for each step, they draw a conclusion that each step is the same type of activity. Use this type of diagram when you have a simple process that does not include different types of activities.
Linear process with different types of activities
When it is important for the audience to immediately see that there are different types of activities in the process, use a diagram like this example.
The different shapes indicate the three types of activities: design, coding, and testing. When you create these types of process diagrams, you can see how adding an icon that represents the type of activity makes it even easier for the audience to understand the diagram.
Not all processes are linear. Continuous improvement processes are one of the most common types of processes that do not really ever end. Once the cycle is complete, it starts again. Here is an example.
Creating a circular diagram in PowerPoint is easiest if you use the drawing tools instead of the built-in SmartArt diagram tool. I find the SmartArt circular process diagram hard to work with, hard to customize and difficult to get looking exactly the way you want. The type of circular diagram above is easier to create and allows you to include as many steps as you need.
Your audience will appreciate you using diagrams instead of a list of steps when explaining processes. You do not need any fancy software to create these diagrams. The examples above were created in PowerPoint using the drawing tools that everyone has in the software. You may need to brush up on the use of these tools, but you can soon be creating your own process diagrams for your presentations.
Presentation Tip: Ideas from the 2013 Presentation Summit
Every year when I speak at and attend the Presentation Summit conference I come back with great ideas from other presentation experts that I can adapt or use in my own presentations. Last month the conference was in Ft. Lauderdale, FL and in this article I want to share three ideas I picked up at the conference.
The first idea came from Nolan Haims (www.PresentYourStory.com). He showed us a bullet graph, a type of graph created by noted visual expert Stephen Few. This is what a bullet graph looks like.
What I liked about this type of graph is that it is a good substitute for a two series column graph when you want to compare values that are related. The example above is a good illustration of this as the projected value and actual value are related information. Instead of two columns side by side where the audience has to work to determine the difference, the bullet graph shows the comparison on top of each other. This makes it easier for the audience to instantly understand whether the actual value is greater than or less than the projected value. While this is not a built-in graph type in PowerPoint, it is possible to create this graph in PowerPoint by placing the second series on a second axis and making each column a different width.
The second idea came from an Entrepreneur’s roundtable session that I moderated. One of the big issues for people trying to make a change to the presentation culture in an organization is the phrase, “It’s good enough.” Change doesn’t happen unless someone recognizes the value of that change. If the decision makers don’t see the problem as big enough, they won’t pay for a solution. When it comes to presentations, we need to look at the cost of presentations in organizations. There are costs of people spending more time creating presentations than they should because they haven’t been given the training they need. There is the cost of poor presentations that result in rework to get a decision made. I created an online calculator as part of this article that will quantify the dollar cost of presentations that require rework. And there are the hidden costs of sales not made or productivity gains not realized because the audience was confused or not convinced to take action. When totalled, these costs can easily run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If you want to change the presentation culture in your organization, quantify these costs and present that large dollar figure to your boss. Now they may be willing to solve the problem with the type of customized training and other resources I provide to my clients.
The third idea came from the now annual Pecha Kucha session hosted by Ric Bretschneider. Two of the participants giving example presentations used slides that were full screen images. One participant had a headline on each slide, and one did not. What I found fascinating while watching the two presentations, is how the slides without headlines kept me more intrigued as to what the presenter was going to talk about. I advocate using a headline for your slides, but this observation got me thinking in a new direction. I still think that having headlines is important in corporate presentations, especially those that will be distributed later via e-mail. I am now thinking that in certain cases where you really need to grab attention with a full screen image, consider revealing the headline after you have explained the key point. You continue to talk about the point after the headline appears on the slide, but you have taken advantage of the intrigue the audience feels before you r eveal the key point. This isn’t something that you will use in every presentation, but it is another tool to put in your presentation toolbox.
I so appreciate those of you who attended the Presentation Summit and came up to me with kind words about this newsletter and the work that I do. If you want to learn more about the conference and join us next year in San Diego, check out www.PresentationSummit.com.
Insights from Audiences: Results of the 2013 Annoying PowerPoint survey
I recently wrapped up my latest survey of audience members on what annoys them about PowerPoint presentations. A total of 682 responses came in and the message for presenters is clear: A lot of you don’t understand how to create and deliver an effective presentation, and audiences are getting more fed up about it. In this article I will give you the highlights of the results and where you can find the detailed analysis and results on my website.
The first key insight from the survey is that presentations are becoming a more common form of communication. In the survey, 25.5% of respondents said that they see, on average, one or more PowerPoint presentations each day. This number has increased from 13.4% in 2007, to 14.2% in 2009, to 19.7% in 2011, and now 25.5%. This is an almost doubling in the number of people seeing at least one presentation per day in the last 6 years, an average growth rate of 15% per year over that time.
Many of my clients are telling me that almost every meeting has a PowerPoint presentation and reports and memos are being replaced by presentations. Does it make sense that so much of communication in organizations is shifting towards presentations? Not necessarily. As the write-in comments showed, more people are recognizing that their time is being wasted with presentations that really should have been written documents e-mailed for everyone to read.
In the survey I give people a choice of twelve things that can annoy an audience member about a PowerPoint presentation and ask them to select the top three. The number one annoyance, and the top three annoyances have not changed since the last survey. Here are the top three, with what percentage of respondents included them in their top choices.
The speaker read the slides to us 72.0%
Text so small I couldn’t read it 50.6%
Full sentences instead of bullet points 48.4%
The percentages did not change much from the last survey two years ago. Reading the slides to the audience is still the most annoying thing a presenter can do, by a wide margin. The next two answers switched spots from the last survey. In second place, using text that is too small to comfortably read was cited by over half the respondents. It continues to amaze me what font size some presenters use on their slides. One of my clients has set the record for me in terms of smallest font I have seen used on a slide – 4 point! As I explain in my workshops, “if you ever hear yourself say, “I know you can’t read this,” just turn off the projector”. As the survey clearly indicates, you are annoying the audience by using text they can’t read. In third place was using full sentences instead of bullet points for text. Full sentences encourage reading, which leads to the most annoying thing a presenter can do.
In this survey, I asked respondents to write in three words or phrases (positive or negative) they commonly hear in their organization about PowerPoint presentations. I took all the words and phrases, excluded some common nouns, and created a word cloud to show the most common descriptive words the respondents used.
Boring stands out far above any other word. Why are audiences bored? Because they don’t understand the message and feel they are wasting their time. I don’t think that boring refers to the presenter not having content that the audience wants or needs to hear. The audience wants to hear the information, but it is so poorly organized and presented, that the audience gives up trying to figure it out and decides that this was a waste of their time. Often it is because the presenter didn’t take time to decide what the core information was, and just does a “data dump” presentation.
The issue of information overload is reinforced with the prominence of words such as long, much, and many. Too much information is being included in presentations, information that is not helpful to the audience understanding the message. In my workshops and my latest book, Present It So They Get It, I share five strategies for reducing information overload. This is always one of the most commented on sections of my workshops. Presenters need to learn how to pare down the information they have and create a focused message for the audience.
I have many more thoughts and insights from the survey, and you can read the full report on my website here.
So what is the overall message presenters, whether they are analysts, professionals, managers, or executives, should take from the responses to this survey? It is clear that presentations are becoming more popular as a vehicle for communicating ideas. With this increased emphasis, the expectations of the audience have increased. They are no longer satisfied with mediocre slides and poor delivery. Presenters need to improve their skills in planning their message, creating slides that support that message, and delivering those slides effectively. The result will be improved sales, increased efficiency, and faster decisions.
Presentation Tip: Donut Graphs
For the last year or two I have noticed newspapers and magazines using donut graphs more often to show proportional data results. Donut graphs may look like they are hard to create, but they are actually built into PowerPoint, so any presenter can use them. Here is an example that shows how a donut graph can be used.
In this article I want to talk about when you may want to use this type of graph and how to use it effectively.
A donut graph is closely related to a pie graph. In fact, some people say a donut graph is just a pie graph with the center cut out. Both pie graphs and donut graphs show the proportional relationship of data. These types of graphs can show market share, responses to a question, proportional spending in a budget, or any data set where you want to show how much of the total each item represents. So a donut graph is a good substitute for a pie graph when you want visual variety in a presentation where there are many pie graphs.
I also think that a donut graph is a good graph to use when showing a comparison, like the example above. It allows the identification of the two graphs to be placed in the center of the graph instead of a caption on each graph that can sometimes get lost.
When creating donut graphs, I have some suggestions to keep them clean and clear. First, a donut graph works best with very few wedges, usually three or less. More than three wedges gets a little harder to understand. Two wedges in a donut graph can work well when you are showing a comparison at two points in time and there is a dramatic change in the size of the two wedges.
Second, labelling a donut graph is much harder than a pie graph, Donut graph data labels don’t give you the option to automatically place them outside the segments the way a pie graph does. You will have to manually drag each label from inside the wedge to outside. Sometimes it is best to just leave the data labels off and add your own using text boxes. That way you can format and position them exactly the way you want to (as I did in the example above). You will also add a text box to indicate what each donut graph represents when you are using them in a comparison slide. There is no center title option for donut graphs in PowerPoint.
Third, I find it easier to understand a donut graph if the hole in the center is a little smaller than the default size. The default is to make the hole 50% of the diameter of the graph. By using the option to format the data series, you can reduce this value to around 35%, which looks better in my opinion because it makes each wedge bigger on the slide. Finally, you do have the option to animate the pieces of the donut using the regular animation feature. If you only have two wedges in the donut, animation is unnecessary.
If you use pie graphs in your presentations, why not consider a donut graph instead for some of the slides. It gives visual variety and works well for comparison slides.