How’d you like to see the secrets to creating a successful presentation?
Well, consider yourself very lucky…
…because today I’ve got a killer infographic that will show you exactly what presentation heroes (those that rock at PowerPoint and get all the rewards from it) do, compared to presentation zeros (those that fail at PowerPoint and often hear loud yawns from audience members).
I’m bringing the noise.
Here’s my take on the PowerPoint tips from the above infographic:
#1.) Presentation heroes go above and beyond. Presentation zeros do the bare minimum
A lot of what you can do on the front end is time management. If you think it’s going to take you two days to do, don’t start it two days before! Give yourself plenty of time to work on it, get inspiration, make edits, and have some wiggle room if things don’t go as planned.
Heroes also make the time to make sure that everything looks perfect – they don’t just slap it all together and hope it works out. They look at the flow, the theme, and the content to make sure it all works.
If you need to learn PowerPoint, give yourself time to do that. Check out all the resources we have on our blog here at Presentation Panda, read Slides Made Simple, watch some YouTube videos, and spend time playing around with PowerPoint until you’re comfortable. Once you’re familiar with PowerPoint, you can follow our next tip! … Creating slides quickly with shortcuts!
#2.) Presentation heroes use time-saving shortcuts. Presentation zeros do everything the long way
Smart time management means knowing how to do things efficiently!
In the case of PowerPoint, one of the best things you can do to cut your work time in half is to know your ppt keyboard shortcuts. Don’t select all your images one by one – press Ctrl+A! Don’t waste your time hunting around the File menu when you need to duplicate an object, just click Ctrl+D! There are so many shortcuts that will save you time and streamline your workflow that you won’t know how you survived before you knew them.
Here’s a few examples:
Don’t select all your images one by one – press Ctrl+A!
Don’t waste your time hunting around the File menu when you need to duplicate an object, just click Ctrl+D! There are so many shortcuts that will save you time and streamline your workflow that you won’t know how you survived before you knew them.
Don’t move your mouse to hit the undo button each time – press Ctrl+Z
Nothing is worse than a messy, unorganized slide. Only presentation zeros make slides like that. But you’re a hero and you know better!
Heroes pay attention to alignment and distribution of the objects on the slide. They don’t make embarrassing PowerPoint design mistakes like lengthy line spillovers, random misplaced images, formatting inconsistency, and other slide sloppy moves. Be detail-oriented and make sure all your images are exactly where you want them to be! Make sure that your text is aligned so it’s easy and simple for your audience to read. Pay attention to the overall look and feel of your presentation, and make sure you’re telling a consistent story.
Zeros, obviously, don’t care about any of that. Like throwing junk at a wall to see what sticks, they just drop in text and images at random and hope for the best. Don’t be that guy.
Organization and consistency are one of those details that fade to the background if you do it well, but stand out as glaring errors when you neglect them. Be a hero and place everything on your slides precisely and meticulously.
#4.) Presentation heroes present info with creative layouts and visuals. Presentation zeros use boring bullet points
Bullet points. You can do better! Heroes know that, and they think outside the box. They ignore the common (and terrible) advice that slides have to have bullet points.
There are so many ways to make data look exciting in presentations. Putting a ton of work into making your theme and color scheme look awesome just to toss some bullet points up there is a sad day. Especially if they’re long and winded and there’s just page after page of them. You don’t want to sit through that kind of presentation as an audience member, so don’t do it as a creator. Heroes hate lengthy, text-heavy slides. Get creative with your layouts and your data!
Heroes hate lengthy, text-heavy slides. Get creative with your layouts and your data!
Have a nice brainstorming session about what your data really is – what are you really trying to communicate? There are probably visuals you can use instead of words to spice up the slide. Try and find some images that fit with your points to break up the text block. What about those fancy moving pictures the kids are using these days (gifs). Can you put a fun, short gif in to make your point in a clever way? Do it! Anything but the bullet point.
Anything but the bullet point.
#5.) Presentation heroes use a consistent theme of stunning visuals. Presentation zeros use random, inconsistent, cheesy visuals
We all know that little guy that appears on all our least favorite presentations. He’s this weird, amorphous but vaguely human character that does stuff like stand under exclamation points and lightbulbs. He can be tempting to use in your presentation – he’s recognizable and easy. It can also be tempting to use the first clipart that pops up when you Google “idea” or “sales”, without any thought to the overall look. But don’t do it! That’s such a presentation zero move.
Sure, these images can be tempting to use in your presentation – they’re recognizable and easy. But don’t do it! That’s such a presentation zero move.
Instead, develop a consistent presentation theme. Pick a color palette that is simple and clean, with complementary colors that are also easy to distinguish from one another. Use a few nice, readable fonts that play off each other well. Find visuals that are engaging (like the ones on Unsplash) and consistent with your ideas, and use a layout that is consistent throughout the presentation.
One of our favorite things to do for this step, if we’re starting from scratch, is to create a mood board. What colors fit with our presentation example? Blue is a great choice for something more traditional, while orange has a ton of energy and is very modern. We like to put together colors and images to create a visual representation of what we want our presentation to look like.
Zeros are random and have no flow to their slides. It looks like their presentation was created by 50 random people! That’s what happens when you ignore the consistency of the overall presentation and don’t pay attention to those color, font, and layout details. Heroes, on the other hand, make their slides look like one person created it.
#6.) Presentation heroes customize powerpoint so frequently needed tools are easily accessible. Presentation zeros spend forever searching powerpoint to find the tools needed over and over
Figuring out how to customize your PowerPoint setup so that it works for you is such a hero move, and it will show you how to make a good presentation from the beginning. If you use PowerPoint frequently, you know what tools you use most often! They’re the ones you waste the most time hunting around for on the ribbon on the top of the screen. No more! Set it up so that those tools are easy and fast for you to find and you’ll save a ton of time.
If you’re not sure how to do that and you want to learn, along with learning a ton of other invaluable PowerPoint skills, you can consider taking a course. Not only will you learn how to set up PowerPoint correctly, you’ll learn how to strategically build layouts and other time-saving, effective presentation tips. Only zeroes waste a ton of time constantly searching for the same tools over and over again because they haven’t made their tools easily accessible. Pssh. Amateurs.
#7.) Presentation heroes search for slide inspiration before starting a project. Presentation zeros stare at a blank powerpoint canvas hoping ideas will come to mind
Heroes don’t stare hopelessly at a blank canvas – they take action! A blank canvas isn’t really idea inspiring – a lot of times it’s intimidating, overwhelming, and frustrating. Who wants to feel like that before they even get started?
Similar to the idea that “motion creates emotion”, heroes know that finding PowerPoint inspiration will get the creativity and design gears turning. There are a lot of ways to do it, but storyboarding your presentation can really help get you started – one piece of inspiration leads to another, and before you know it you have thought of an awesome theme and a successful presentation.
Don’t know where to look? Heroes find the best places to get inspired for creating PowerPoint slides. There are always places to go to get inspiration! If you want to check out some incredible graphic design, head over to Dribbble. For other slideshows, head to SlideShare. There is no shortage of places on the internet to get inspiration from. It can be as simple as an image, a quote, or a color theme that can get you started. So get started!
#8.) Presentation heroes use a complete arsenal of slide creation tools both within powerpoint and online. Presentation zeros use only a few basic tools in powerpoint
Heroes bring an extensive presentation toolbox with them when creating slides. They know what tools to use to do all sorts of things that make their presentation pop. Matching colors is a tool you’ll never know how you lived without – find an image that encapsulates everything you want for your presentation? Match colors from that image to create part of your color palette. There are so many amazing tools in a presentation hero’s toolbox – editing visuals, aligning objects, copying formatting, cropping images, and so much more!
Of course, no one is born with all that knowledge in their brain, and no one is expected to know it right off the bat! Heroes know what online resources to use when creating slides. Learning the skills you need to create a killer PowerPoint is such a hero move.
Another hero trick is how to use powerpoint templates to save time. We know, we harp on brainstorming and customizing, but we do know that sometimes you just don’t have time for that. We understand! That’s why we also recommend PowerPoint templates if you’re running behind but still want to wow your audience. You can still end up with a professional and successful presentation.
#9.) Presentation heroes practice giving a presentation many times. Presentation zeros wing their presentations
Can you imagine getting up in front of your board of directors, or potential investors, or any audience at all and just winging it? Yikes. Zeroes don’t practice much, or even at all – which is a terrible idea! There are so many ways it can go wrong: forgetting what slide comes next, mixing up points, and just looking like you didn’t prepare. That doesn’t reflect well on anyone.
Heroes, of course, practice their presentation many times before giving it. When you practice, you get comfortable with your message, hone what you want to keep (and get rid of), and get an understanding for how well your slides and content are placed. All vital things to a good presentation!
Heroes also get feedback from others when practicing, and make tweaks when needed. You’ve been staring at your presentation for so long, it can be hard to see mistakes anymore. Fresh eyes are the best thing for your presentation, as they can see when things don’t make sense where you might not be able to.
#10.) Presentation heroes take time to learn design. Presentation zeros have no clue about design
Like we said earlier, no one expects you to instantly know all this stuff. You aren’t born a presentation hero! The important thing is that you put in the work to get there – and that mostly means learning from the right resources.
Heroes read books on presentation design like Slides Made Simple, Talk Like Ted, and Slideology. They know that learning from others is the first step to becoming an expert.
They also subscribe to presentation focused blogs like Presentation Panda (obviously), Lea Pica, Indezine, Canva, and others.
So many people are passionate about great presentation and beautiful slides, we’re in great company. Heroes use all that knowledge to their advantage!
So what do you say, want to be a hero? What’s your favorite hero tip? We want to know!
Also, do you have a friend that is currently creating a new presentation and could benefit from learning about how to be a presentation hero? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!
Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.
Hungry for information on how to create awesome PowerPoint slides? Here are a few suggested posts:
We’ve got some favorites, and they tend to be the ones we use the most:
Ever move an image or change a color and immediately think, “Nope!” and need to change it back? Don’t waste your time going all the way up to Edit and Undo, just press Control+Z and you’re there! Another one I use ALL THE TIME is Control+D to duplicate an object, for obvious reasons. If you want to learn some more,
Another one I use ALL THE TIME is Control+D to duplicate an object, for obvious reasons. If you want to learn some more, check out this round-up of our favorite PowerPoint keyboard shortcuts!
If you’re craving more PowerPoint time-saving tricks and shortcuts, you should probably consider grabbing yourself a copy of Nuts and Bolts Speed Training – a series of training videos to help you master PowerPoint and make your life easier. The PowerPoint training course will teach you how to speed through PowerPoint, turn boring bullets into engaging layouts, and much more.
If you have to make slideshows all the time, or you want to get faster to free up your time for other things, their course is going to be exactly what you need.
Another tool you may want to check out is Key Rocket recommended by our friend Lea Pica. KeyRocket is simply a software tool that makes you more productive in PowerPoint (and other MS Office programs) by giving you keyboard shortcut recommendations based on what you frequently do. Awesome right?
#2.) Download a professional PowerPoint template
Sometimes you don’t have the time to create a gorgeous PowerPoint template yourself.
If that’s the case, simply stroll on over to Graphic River and pick yourself out a killer template that’s guaranteed to wow your audience.
Professional PowerPoint templates can be great not just to save time, but also because they’re guaranteed to look great. They’re also super easy to customize exactly how you want it.
If you’d rather go rogue and browse through everything yourself, there are a few things you should look for – we’ve put together a nice guide to buying a PowerPoint template here. The most important thing is to find a template that fits your brand – if you’re working for a hip modern startup, you’re going to want to look for something modern, minimalist, and maybe a little quirky. With that in mind, make sure the template is consistent throughout! Pay attention to the color palette, fonts, and overall style. You don’t want to buy a seemingly great template and then have to spend a lot of time editing it to make it consistent. Kind of defeats the purpose, no?
When we created our own template, we kept all of those things in mind. We wanted a template that was well-organized, easy to edit, and consistently beautiful, as well as being effective and exactly what our clients wanted. With close to 1,000 sales on Graphic River and a solid 5-star rating, we like to think we’ve achieved that! So for a little #humblebrag, head on over to our Influencer template to see what we’re talking about.
#3.) Storyboard first before touching PowerPoint
We understand the impulse to just jump in and get your hands dirty, but a lot of times, like a little kid with finger paints, you just end up with a mess.
That’s why we recommend storyboarding before even opening PowerPoint. Your audience is going to need a story to follow, and the clearer you have that story before you start, the easier it will be to make the presentation. Make sure to figure out exactly what your key messages are – what do you want them to learn? What ideas do you want to connect? What key takeaway message do you need to drive home? Figuring out the flow of your story will naturally dictate the flow of the PowerPoint, which will make it so much easier to decide what the feel of the presentation will be, what images you need, etc.
After figuring all that out, we recommend using each slide as a placeholder to put notes for what images and content you want. This will help make sure you focus on the big picture and not get sucked into the details that can throw you off track. The notes at the beginning will make sure your overarching narrative stays intact.
If you think about it, the story of your presentation is a lot like the story of a book or a movie. Your audience wants to follow a plot and watch it unfold – make it interesting for them! And follow the cardinal rules of good storytelling, including a well-paced plot that you’ve already laid out in your storyboard.
#4.) Get inspired and come up with your theme first
You may be tempted to start your presentation design by collecting images, as it’s usually one of the more fun tasks – but avoid doing this!
A lot of the time you end up having to throw a lot of them out because you don’t need them, they don’t fit with the story, or they don’t match the style you’ve chosen.
And how do you figure out what you need, the story, and the style? You storyboard, and then you come up with a theme for your slides. It will be so much easier and faster to find the images you need. You’ll know what to look for so you stay consistent throughout the PowerPoint, and so that you match the feel of your story.
Nobody wants to go to a presentation where they have to read slides like a book. Let your visuals do the work!
Your story will be vital, but should primarily be visual (which is why crystallizing it beforehand is so important). Your text should be minimal, and you should be saying the majority of your points out loud, with your slides there for more of a visual aid. You can showcase things like visuals that what you’re saying, charts that explain your data, or infographics that simplify your points.
Ultimately, you need to make your slides work for you, not against you. If it’s too text-heavy, it will compete for your audience’s attention, which is the opposite of what you want! Use the slides to emphasize or enhance your points, but don’t make your audience choose between reading what’s on the slide or listening to what you’re saying. They can’t do both.
#6.) Practice makes perfect
We know you came here looking for a magic pill to swallow that will make you instantly way faster at PowerPoint. Sorry, I’m not Morpheus from the Matrix.
We do have some amazing tricks that may make it seem that way, but to be honest, it doesn’t happen overnight – even with the PowerPoint speed tips from this post, you’re going to have to practice.
You’re going to have to put these tips to good use, play around with them, and get used to using them before they really click and you start to use them intuitively.
This also means taking the tips we publish weekly and putting them into action. We publish this PowerPoint tips blog because we love great slides but they require action to work. Start practicing today and you’ll be amazed at where you are in a month.
#7.) Repurpose old material (previous ppt slides, images, etc.)
There’s no reason to do more work than you need to.
If you have a slide design you love, it doesn’t expire after you use it once! You can re-use old slide designs and templates and just tweak them to match your new audience, presentation, or story. This especially applies if you work in a company where you need to make a lot of presentations in the same style. Figure out the template you love and come back to it for inspiration and to re-work what you already have to fit what you need.
Keeping a library of photos is such a time-saver – if you find a photo you love but don’t end up using, save it! You can always scroll through your stockpile to find inspiration, or you know it’s in there for when you need it in the future. You can also bookmark your favorite image resource websites that you always come back to – or simply grab a copy of Slides Made Simple where I list all the best ones.
This can work for a lot of different parts of your presentation, too. Land on the perfect color palette? Save it to use in the future. Spend a lot of time making custom icons that are ideal for your needs? Save them! If you’ve already put the work into making something really great, don’t make yourself do that all over again every time you need a presentation if you don’t have to.
#8.) Resist the temptation to “fiddle”
If you’re getting to the point where you’re adding glow effects to images or going back-and-forth about which animation to use … STOP! Step away from the PowerPoint and let it go.
While it is true that details do matter in slide design, over obsessing on trivial edits can slow you down. Some things are worth perfecting and worth fiddling with. Some are not. Choose your battles wisely.
#9.) Stick with a slide creation process that works for you
Once you figure out a system you like, stick with it! Don’t fix what ain’t broke.
Keep doing that, because what will happen is that you get even better at doing it that way, instead of experimenting with different systems all the time and not becoming efficient at any of them.
Everyone has their own ppt slide creation method, and we won’t tell you what to do. Below is my four-step process if you want somewhere to start:
Step #1. – Brainstorm: First, I brainstorm. I think this is the best thing to start with because you can just get all your ideas down without worrying yet about flow, consistency, or style. Just a big brain dump to see where your head is at, and what directions you can go it.
Step #2. – Outline: After brainstorming, I take all the ideas I like and create an outline of a story, which I then organize into a structure.
Step #3. – Storyboard: From that structure, I create a storyboard – and seeing how that’s one of the first tips on this list, you can see how important I think it is. Those are my steps to getting to the storyboard.
Step #4. – Design: After the storyboard, I move to design. I find that the design flows much easier for me if I’ve completed the above steps, because I have a much clearer idea of what I want.
That’s what works for me, so that’s what I do every time! Find what works for you.
#10.) Hire a presentation designer – the ultimate PowerPoint time-saving trick!
Want to reduce your slide creation time by 100%? Hire a pro!
If you want the ultimate PowerPoint time-saver, you may just want to outsource your project to a pro. A professional presentation designer will give you the amazing results you want and you won’t have to spend any time doing it (hint hint, we may know a good team to call).
We get it – some people don’t want to get better at PowerPoint and simply need awesome results! They’ll cost money, but the time saved and deliverable you get may be worth the cost.
We hope this round-up of our favorite PowerPoint time-saving tips helped you out! Implementing these tips can drastically reduce the time it will take you to create your next presentation.
Here’s my question for you:
Do you use any of these PowerPoint speed tips already? Let us know! Did we miss one of your favorites? Set us straight! We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
We are kicking off a new series here at Panda called “This is how I work” – where we interview presentation experts to understand their routines, tools, hacks, resources and more.
Our first guest is Lea Pica, a presentation hero who has a TON of experience creating awesome presentations.
Lea is an accomplished speaker, writer and podcaster having spoken at industry and company events including eMetrics, Analytics Demystified, ConversionXL, and ForeSee. Her podcast, “The Present Beyond Measure Show”, helps listeners learn how to tell compelling stories with data, as she interviews the leading minds in digital analytics. The show has become one of the most popular analytics podcasts in less than a year.
So without further ado, here’s how Lea works. You are going to love the presentation tips, tools, and resources she has to share!
Location: Home office in beautiful Bucks County, PA
Current Gig: Director of Data Visualization and Storytelling, Search Discovery and Host of the Present Beyond Measure Podcast
One word that best describes how you work: Passionately
Current computer: Custom-built PC and Apple Macbook Pro
Preferred program for creating presentations: PowerPoint
First of all, tell me a little about your background and how you got to where you are today?
After deciding not to pursue my musical theater aspirations, I spent the first 12 years of my career in various roles in the digital marketing space. I managed search marketing and web analytics programs for the likes of Scholastic, Victoria’s Secret, Bath & Body Works and Prudential. Somewhere along the way, I realized I wasn’t getting anywhere with presenting my data to stakeholders and decision-makers. I had my big eureka moment when asked to present in Prezi for grad school, and I realized I had to completely rethink my approach.
I picked up Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds on a lark, and was totally hooked. I voraciously consumed every resource on presentation and data visualization I could find. I began to study the work of Edward Tufte, Nancy Duarte, Stephen Few, Guy Kawasaki, and Seth Godin. I began incorporating these principles into my work, and the results amazed me: I was earning more budget for analytics capabilities for my team, getting invited to kickoff projects, and reactivating dormant optimization projects. My presentations were finally beginning to inspire action.
When I attended a digital analytics conference later that year, I realized that these same mistakes were being made everywhere I turned. No one was being empowered with the right toolset for delivering information in an impactful way. I vowed that one day I would take that same stage to spread the message that there was a better way.
Four years later, I was invited by a software vendor to present at their annual status. I decided this would be my inaugural platform to spread the word about effective data presentation. Despite my no-name status, lack of polish and severe stage fright, it ended being one of the summit’s highest rated sessions to date. This reaffirmed to me the importance of tackling this issue in the analytics space head-on. Folks in the industry caught wind, and I was invited to a number of conferences and seminars in the years to follow. I finally decided to go rogue two years ago and leave the corporate world to pursue my dream of training, blogging, and podcasting about all things data presentation.
And here I am!
What presentation tools can’t you live without? Why?
One of my favorite finds is a suite of tools by Veodin. The first tool is KeyRocket, which is a little productivity app that acts as a keyboard shortcut training coach for your entire computer, including PowerPoint. Every time I use my mouse to perform an action, KeyRocket pops up a little prompt with a time-saving keyboard shortcut. Shortcuts are essential to finishing that slide deck in the 11th hour and creating more time for planning and prep!
The second tool is SlideProof, which acts as a majorly anal-retentive editor for your PowerPoint presentations. Through an 80-point check, it hunts down every rogue misaligned object, inconsistent spacing, and grammatical error. It’s saved me from more than one potentially mortifying slide flub! SlideProof also boasts a huge shape library, pulls together an agenda on the fly using site sections, and conveniently surfaces the program’s most powerful features.
Last, I can’t live without the Voice Memos app on my iPhone. Listening to myself speak was a game-changing practice for identifying and refining my weak points in diction and intonation. And, I listen to my recordings while traveling to speaking engagements as a method of preparation.
What’s your workspace setup like?
I have a whole lot of workspace stuffed into an itty bitty living space! My monster custom-built PC monitor sits next to my amazing Audio-Technica ATR2100 podcast microphone on a vintage gray desk. I have a filing cabinet to my left which houses my DBX 286s Mic Pre-Amp and Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 audio interface. My microphone plus those two bad boys make my podcast voices sound silky smooth with resonant depth. Atop my monitor sits a Logitech 720p HD webcam for video tutorials and interviews.
While working I’m able to view my sprawling backyard from my little cottage. I absolutely love mentally stepping into a vision of nature and stillness while in my peak creative zone.
What’s is a trend you see in presentations right now?
One of my favorite trends is a dimmed photo behind a bold statement or quote in white text, or a background using bokeh lights. I love seeing fresh interplays of thin and think font families to emphasize key words in content.
What’s your process/method for creating presentations?
I always start with a presentation planning method I discovered some time ago from Olivia Mitchell called Presenting By Boxes. It is a super practical approach for distilling and organizing your content into a clear framework that always keeps your audience and objective front and center. I love how it emphasizes succinctly supporting your key message and prompting your audience to action.
What is one of your favorite presentation hacks/tips/tricks?
My favorite hack is customizing the Quick Access Toolbar (or QAT) in PowerPoint. The QAT allows you to create your own shortcuts for rote tasks like object alignment that take your hand away from the keyboard and waste precious seconds. I learned about it through my friends at Nuts & Bolts Speed Training, who offer an entire course dedicated to tapping the productivity power of the QAT. It is one of the best-kept secrets in PowerPoint!
What’s a great presentation related resource you use often?
I adore the Canva Design School for inspiration on how to design beautiful and impactful quote slides, statement slides, and an overall look and feel. Canva’s interactive lessons are simple, fun, and visually entertaining. It helps prove the point that you do NOT have to be a professional artist to design effective presentation slides.
What makes you “cringe” the most when you think about a boring/ugly presentation slide?
Rather than one element being cringe-worthy, I rather cringe when I see a slide stuffed with many missteps. I often see a typical slide where the title is a boring statement about what the slide is showing, rather than a bold observation or insight behind the visual. Then there are multiple charts or tables crammed into a small space, usually rendered with cognitive-loading, visual noise like gridlines, excessive labels, and rainbow color palettes. The final nail in the coffin is a barrage of bullet points at the bottom in tiny font, hinting at the key insight but buried in excessive wordiness.
When I witness this symphony of slide sloppiness, it makes my heart sad. It is truly a function of never being taught a better way, and that is why I am so passionate about my “No Slide Left Behind” mission!
What do you listen to while you work on your presentations? Got a favorite playlist? Maybe talk radio? Or do you prefer silence? How do you get into the creative zone?
I’m a music fiend and always have something playing during go time. I have multiple playlists on Spotify running on a continuous loop throughout the day, catering to my specific mood and concentration. My favorite productivity playlists range between Deep Focus, 90’s R&B, and the soundtrack to Interstellar. Eclectic, I know!
Another amazing find is Focus@Will, an online radio station that plays what they call “neuroergonomic” music designed to maximize productivity by helping the listener enter a flow state. I FLY through my presentations when I listen to the Focus@Will Alpha Chill station.
What are you currently reading in relation to presentations? What’s something you’d recommend for people to read?
Right now I’m finishing Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo. I’m fascinated by the storytelling mastery behind TED, and am loving learning what makes an engaged audience tick. I particularly enjoy the analysis of the common threads between the most successful TED talks, such as an engaging backstory and delivering “jaw-dropping moments”.
My first recommendation when it comes to upping your data presentation game would be Storytelling with Data by my friend Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic. For me, this read distils the best of every presentation and data visualization book I’d read into a practical approach to telling your data story. Cole’s approach leverages cinematic storytelling techniques and her tone is balanced without a hint of dogma or judgment.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
I’m an avid yogini and incorporate a daily yoga and affirmation practice into my day. My cottage overlooks a stunning valley so I frequently go outside to my deck for some grounding and recharging, especially during the spectacular sunsets.
What’s a good piece of advice you’ve received when it comes to creating presentations?
Exercise extreme discrimination and intention when using animation. Early in my career, I was told by my boss that while my content was great, my animations made him seasick. I’m talking checkerboard and spiral transitions while laser beaming in every single letter on the slide (yes, that was an available animation back then.) I thought that because I knew every feature, that made me an expert on how to present. Oopsie daysie.
Today, I am very judicious with animation, using nothing more than simple fades and white boxes to strategically hide and reveal information as I guide the audience through my narrative. Animation is even riskier with Prezi, and I would advise an abundance of caution when creating your animation path to avoid vertigo-inducing death spirals.
What’s the one piece of advice you would tell someone before or during public speaking (delivering a presentation)?
Do NOT walk into that room or stage without rehearsing your talk. In my professional experience, I have learned that my stage fright is inversely proportional to my amount of preparation. There is a reason behind the old theater adage of “practice, practice, practice”, and the number three is quite relevant here. I believe that when you run through your material at least three times, you begin to integrate the concepts in a way that dramatically builds confidence. At the very least, practice at least one time more than you typically do (which often means one time!)
I frequently encounter resistance from my workshop students when expressing the importance of preparation due to a lack of time. I advise my workshop students to adopt a mindset that practicing your presentation is as critical as creating a slide deck or showing up to speak. If we treat preparation with the same degree of importance, pockets of time begin to reveal themselves.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
I am a super crunchy-granola closet hippie and amateur homesteader, which means I cook almost everything I eat from scratch. I love adapting traditionally indulgent foods like muffins and pancakes to a nutrient-dense Paleo template, it’s one of my great passions. I also adore crafting fun treats like homemade gummy candy and beef jerky with my budding toddler chef!
The Presentation Panda: How I Work series asks presentation heroes, experts, and flat-out awesome people to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. If you would like to be featured or have someone you want to see featured contact us here.
Unless you’re numbers oriented, looking at data is very BORING. That’s why it’s your job to make the data not boring!
To help get you on the right path, we are going to cover 5 smart tips on how to present data effectively in your next PowerPoint presentation.
Believe it or not, beyond trying to help people fall in love, Match.com has made us fall in love with their data presentation skills based on their recent ppt survey report, Singles in America, which presents insightful data about singles, dating, and more.
Let’s go through some slides examples from their survey presentation and discuss what they did right!
PowerPoint Data Visualization Tip #1 – Mix and Match
Looking at their slides, we love the way they mixed up their presentation of the data, using numbers on one side and a simple chart on the other. It flows really nicely, and they make sense together, but it mixes up the style just enough to keep you engaged.
Charts can be super helpful – they are great for when you are trying to talk while your audience is looking at the slide. You can use them as a visual aid to complement what you are talking about, instead of the text on the slide competing with the words coming out of your mouth.
Charts are also often a very clear way to present your data because the visual cues are a lot easier to get across. You can use a couple nice colors to make it stand out, and easily compare things like profits across years or responses across different ages. That kind of stuff is hard (and boring) to present using just text.
But not all data is like that. You see in the slide above that they are highlighting numbers from just one group, or results from a single question. This is an excellent example of how to present numbers in an interesting way. It looks great to have the text with the number highlighted by being a bit bigger. Those are some impressive stats, too, which draws the eye right to it – 270% is quite the attention-getter.
But to mix things up on the other side of the slide, they presented the data in a simple donut chart. It’s a really nice visual contrast to the left half of the slide and makes the slide as a whole way more inviting and engaging. Wouldn’t you agree?
As a side note, we also love their overall presentation on the slide here. The text both complements the slide and stands out, and they used one of our tips that we recommend in this article about how to overlay text on an image: the white text on a transparent shape technique. It allows the image to still show, but be more in the background, and really lets the text pop. It is an easy way to use an image that is super relevant, but too busy to put text directly on.
PowerPoint Data Visualization Tip #2 – Avoid the PPT Default Trap
Sure, the PowerPoint default chart is easy. But it is also boring, and you are better than that!
For all the effort you put into creating amazing slides, you do not want to just slap your results into a basic, default chart (with the same tired default color scheme) and be done with it. You want to go beyond the standard PowerPoint chart defaults and look for CREATIVE ways to display your information.
If you look, you will see that there are defaults for everything; there are even PowerPoint presentation templates for surveys. But who wants to present their survey the way everyone else is?
Using the default charts is easy, sure. But it just does not look that great – it takes a little more effort to make them look awesome. Expert presentation designers always find a way to go above and beyond the standard formatting that PowerPoint provides.
Taking a look at our example, notice how the pie charts have their own unique style to them. The minimalist style, with the larger yellow portion representing the results, contrasted against the smaller blue portion, is fantastic and very unique. There is also no data shown on the chart itself, but instead, it is shown in large bold font in the text underneath the chart.
Even when they present the data in the text underneath the pie charts, they keep it simple. They only highlight the important portion, and when they reference the percentage, the font color is the same as the corresponding part of the chart. The minimalist text really complements the overall simple presentation.
We definitely do not mean simple in the way that we refer to the PowerPoint default charts here. For sure, these took some work to make them look this great. The difference here is that the design is purposefully simple and clear, to enhance the presentation and make it easy to scan and get the key takeaways quickly. Ultimately, it is simple for the audience, not for you. But it is so worth it!
Another thing we love is their use of color. Notice how bright and fun the slide looks. They used colors that contrast beautifully (teal and yellowish orange) with the white text, which was an excellent choice. If you love these color choices but are a little confused at how to do that yourself, check out our list of tips on how to pick colors for your PowerPoint presentation.
PowerPoint Data Visualization Tip #3 – Sometimes the Best Chart is No Chart
We know, that seems like kind of a funny tip on a list about how to present data effectively in PowerPoint – your mind kind of automatically jumps to charts and graphs – but just hang in there.
This is a bit of the “less is more” kind of advice. Sometimes all you need is the data highlights and a nice way of presenting them on the slide.
Look at the example slide for this – notice that there is no chart showing the proportions or anything. Really, it’s just a few stacked boxes with some text and numbers. If you’re wondering how to present numbers in PowerPoint, this is it. The background image helps a lot because it relates to their biggest finding, so it is relevant and creates interest.
Also, notice that there are only three data points on the slide. We bet the survey included a lot more answer choices – but who cares? The presentation designer probably ignored those on purpose. But why?
It is likely that they understand their data, they understand their audience, and they know that they just need to focus on the most important findings. Is the audience really going to care if 2% of singles got the best results when they flirted at their local zoo? The audience does not really care about the lower numbers because they want to know what to do and where to go to have the most success. These are the most important results, so those are what are shown on the slide. This is the type of survey results PowerPoint example that shows how you can really edit down the data and make the slide look great.
Do you feel like something is missing from their presentation? We don’t! We get the message, it is easy to read through and understand quickly. This is the information we want to know, we don’t need a complicated bar chart showing the percentage of EVERY option presented in the survey.
Also, as a quick tip, you may notice that the percentage of the three answers adds up to more than 100%. This means that they let their audience choose more than one option, which means it would not work as a pie chart even if you wanted it to.
When you have data like that, where the audience was allowed to choose more than one and your audience really only cares about a portion of the findings, a simple numerical presentation like this is the simplest and most effective.
PowerPoint Data Visualization Tip #4 – Think Outside the Box
We know the phrase “think outside the box” is an overused buzz word but you really should be thinking outside the box and having fun with presenting your data.
Before you go running for the standard bar chart or pie chart, do a little brainstorming to think about some potential ideas of how presenting your data could be a little more UNIQUE.
It is geographical, like the example above? A map is an easy reference point, and it is just as easy to see what they are trying to get across. If your data is about a group of people, try using icons to represent them instead of the bar in the bar chart. There are all sorts of fun ways you can play with your data. Data visualization in PowerPoint doesn’t have to mean graphs! This is a really fun way to turn your survey results into presentations that are interesting and fun.
You can see in our example that it looks so much cooler than something you would see in a typical bar chart. We all know the map of the U.S. pretty well, and we know where we live. It is easy to see where those locations are, and they have them labeled on the right for clarity as well.
Of course, don’t go extreme with it:
We’re not saying you should always avoid charts – sometimes charts are genuinely the best choice for your data. All we are saying is to think about how you can present your data well. This especially applies if you have a ton of data to present (which is sometimes unavoidable) because bar chart after bar chart is going to put your audience to sleep. Experiment with different styles and colors and images to keep it interesting!
PowerPoint Data Visualization Tip #5 – Overlay Data Onto Images
A super cool way to make your data look awesome is to find images that match the topic of your data and overlay your data onto the image. This will immediately cue the audience into what you are talking about, and help them remember it – and of course, it will look great!
Look at the slide for this example. The theme of the slide is communication, so the data is presented over the length of the megaphone image in the background.
This image is even a little more clever than that because it is talking about annoying dating advice. Who is more annoying than that guy with a megaphone, shouting useless cliches about love at you? This checks all the boxes for us.
Of course, creating slides like this takes a bit of effort. You have to find just the right image to work with your data and layout, and there are a lot of factors that go into that. On top of being relevant, it has to be high quality, with enough white space to write on, and not too busy to distract from the information. We know, it is quite a list of demands!
The end results, though, are worth it. If you pull it off, you’ve got an awesome and engaging slide with a clever visual cue sitting in the background. It’s really one of the best ways to present data in PowerPoint.
Presenting data in PowerPoint is fun stuff, right?
Hopefully, after reading this list of some of the best ways to present data in PowerPoint, you agree with us that it can be!
There are definitely a lot of things to keep in mind when you are putting data into your slide, but it is all in the spirit of creating a great presentation: make it beautiful, clear, and interesting.
Data is a part of that, and it is always worth it to put in some time into making sure it fits those criteria.
Here’s my question to you:
How do you feel about presenting numbers in PowerPoint? Do you use the standard bar charts and pie charts, or do you make it all your own? Or do you do a combination of both? Also, do you have any data visualization tips we missed or resources that really help you out? We would love to know what they are! Share them in the comments below.
For most people, PowerPoint is that awkward tool that is used for making amateur presentations in high school and college. And sadly, many people will continue using it that way in the future. In other words, most people suck at PowerPoint and presentations don’t look like there are getting much better anytime soon.
But fortunately, if you’re reading this article (and have hopefully subscribed to our free weekly newsletter) you begin to see the true power of PowerPoint and its potential for helping you achieve presentation greatness.
What’s more is that new PowerPoint tips and tricks are being discovered all the time. Even for us advanced PowerPoint designers here at Panda, we continue to find golden nuggets while creating presentations for clients. On top of that, PowerPoint is continuing to roll out new feature updates based on consumer feedback.
This PowerPoint tip is especially helpful for those that:
work alongside graphic designers who work in Adobe programs (like Adobe Illustrator)
want to save time by downloading pre-made vector graphics
Without going too much into specifics, PowerPoint allows you to take objects exported as a .emf file from Adobe Illustrator and insert them into PowerPoint seamlessly.
The objects imported into PowerPoint will then become completely editable as if they were built in PowerPoint natively. Cool right?!?
This means you (or your graphic designer) can build complex graphics in Illustrator and then edit the fill color, line color, shape and size all within PowerPoint. This ability to edit illustrator objects in PowerPoint also means you get full creative power on how they animate in and out of a slide.
PowerPoint Tip# 2.) Master the Selection Pane – this will make working with complex animations a breeze
The Selection Pane is one of PowerPoint’s hidden gems.
Nobody ever talks about the Selection Pane because most people don’t know what it’s used for!
Basically, the Selection Pane lets you show/hide objects as well as rename them.
This feature is a TON of help when you have a complex slide that requires specific animations to specific objects. Especially when you have a lot of layers within your PowerPoint slide.
PowerPoint, by default, gives some random funky names to objects on a slide (as seen in the image above) which can create a headache when you want to add animations and create animation chains to numerous objects.
The ability to select an object and then rename it from the Selection Pane makes creating animation chains so much easier.
In other words, the Selection Pane keeps you organized and quickly able to identify everything.
Just like a brain surgeon wouldn’t start surgery without having everything laid out properly, the same goes for PowerPoint design (or PowerPoint surgery you might say).
The point is when you organize your slide objects nicely with the Selection Pane you don’t have to TEDIOUSLY pour over your Animation Pane to make sure all the objects have been assigned an animation and in the correct order.
Organizing and correctly labeling your slide objects in PowerPoint will make your slide creation process much easier!
The Selection Pane will allow you to rename objects in a group based off of the animation that will be applied to it so will always be a step ahead of those pesky animations!
PowerPoint Tip #3.) Convert your charts to shapes and then animate them for instant “WOW” factor
You probably know that one of the best ways to showcase complicated statistics in PowerPoint is by using a graph or a chart.
But, what you might not know is that the default graphs and charts in PowerPoint are sometimes a big pain to customize the way you like.
Another thing you may not realize is that that you can convert your PowerPoint charts to shapes so you can then animate them however you like.
Once things are converted to shapes you then have full control over all elements of the chart you want to animate (as seen in the example above).
The only drawback to converting your charts to shapes is that the chart will no longer be integrated with Excel meaning that if you want to change a data point in Excel it won’t automatically update the chart (i.e., you will have to update the chart manually). It’s a tradeoff but it’s often worth it for that extra wow factor of introducing chart elements in creative ways with animations.
PowerPoint Tip #4.) Hyperlink slides with text, objects, and images – to make your presentation a “choose your own adventure” experience for your audience
Most PowerPoints are very linear because the “story” that is being told can’t be told any other way. You move from slide to slide in sequential order till you reach the end.
With Prezi presentations becoming creating more buzz, PowerPoint is making updates/upgrades to make them less linear, but what most people don’t realize is that using simple hyperlinks can take your PowerPoint decks to whole new levels because it gives the audience control of where they want to go in the presentation.
To hyperlink an object simply Right Click on the object and select Hyperlink. A box will then pop up and from there you need to select Place in This Document. And there you can select which slide you want to jump to when that object is selected.
Once you play around with hyperlinks more you will start to see PowerPoint in a whole new light.
PowerPoint Tip #5.) Use conceptual images, (not literal ones)
Using conceptual images is way smarter than resorting to literal ones, but you don’t want to get too abstract either.
It’s important to strike a balance.
You want to avoid literal imagery for two reasons:
It may not illustrate the nuances of what you’re talking about.
It can cause your audience to immediately think about personal connections they may have to the image, which may not be relevant to your story. This could lead to distraction.
For example, let’s say you are trying to illustrate the idea of “interconnectivity” on a particular slide. Now, you may be tempted to find a picture of a spider web or group of cheerleaders forming a pyramid. However, both of these are likely poor image choices!
In both examples, your audience may have personal connections to those things that would throw off their thinking. For example, maybe your listeners hate spiders or used to cheerlead in high school—and now, instead of thinking about interconnectivity, they’re thinking about that.
Below is an example of a graphic that would better illustrate the concept of “interconnectivity”. Notice how with the image above nobody could have a personal connection to the image which could throw them off and have them thinking about the wrong things!
Remember, your goal is to keep people entertained and focused!
PowerPoint Tip #6.) Reinforce your ideas with repetition
So, after you’ve picked some great conceptual images/graphics (mentioned in PowerPoint tip #5 above) it’s time to use repetition to help drive your points home.
You can use this technique by first introducing your image or graphic early in order to set the tone for the rest of your presentation. Then, reinforce your message by putting the image on multiple slides throughout your presentation. You can even use it as a highlight on each slide, like your presentation’s own personal trademark.
By reinforcing your conceptual images often your audience will have a better chance of remembering your ideas, which is exactly what you want when you give a presentation!
Which of the PowerPoint tips mentioned in this post are you most interested in trying out?
Sound off in your comments below… And please remember to be specific as possible.
Also, do you have a friend that is currently creating a new important PowerPoint slide deck and could benefit from learning about these presentation tips? If so, send them a link to this blog post right now. I’m sure, they will return the favor to you one day!
Finally, if you enjoyed reading this post, please remember to like and share using the sharing icons to the left.