Even More Ways to Print White Lines in PowerPoint – PowerPoint Video Tip #14

In a previous video, I showed you white lines in PowerPoint are printed as black lines. And I showed you a workaround.

Then presentation designer Krzysztof Baszton contacted me to tell me there are more elegant ways to accomplish this. Watch.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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Obama Re-Elected? Graphs Tell the Story

Will President Barack Obama get re-elected? History shows Americans prefer to re-elect presidents instead of electing new ones, with 7 of the last 10 presidents winning their re-election bid.

And what about President Obama? The numbers tell a gloomy story for President Obama’s re-election chances. First, Obama had a 45% approval rating in Nov 2011. No president has been re-elected with an approval rating below 50% one year before the re-election.

Second, the unemployment rate was 8.7% in Nov 2011. With only one exception, presidents do not get re-elected when they enter the re-election year with high unemployment rates.

So the story looks grim for President Obama. But these numbers tell the wrong story. Because the real numbers that matter is how things are improving. There is a strong correlation between approval ratings and unemployment rates. High unemployment leads to low president approval ratings. And when unemployment falls, approval ratings climb.

Unemployment has improved over the past year and assuming this trend continues, Obama will head into re-election season with a 1.5% two-year reduction in unemployment, down from 9.8% in Nov 2010 to 8.3% today and still improving.

There are other factors that matter: the strength (or weakness) of the opposition candidates, the president’s re-election promises, scandals that can derail a re-election bid. But assuming the economy keeps adding jobs, and Obama’s approval rating continues to climb, Americans will likely continue their habit of re-electing the incumbent.

By the way, the graph used in this article is called a win/loss graph and it’s one of many graphs I’ll be talking about in my new book, focused on telling stories with graphs. To get alerted when that book is available, subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Show Percentage vs Goal With the Progress Bar Chart

On the Microsoft Office LinkedIn group, someone asked this question:

“Which chart is better to show percentage to goal results?”

It’s common in business presentations to show progress toward a goal, like percentage of sales versus sales quota or percentage of employees trained versus training goals.

One graph that is great for this is called a progress bar chart. It gets its name because it looks like the progress bar when you’re downloading something from the internet.

How to create a progress bar chart
1. Create a side by side bar chart. One bar shows the goal, the other shows progress to date
2. Overlap the bars with the longer bar in the back. Right click one of the bars and choose Format Data Series > Overlap 100%
3. Color the longer bar a neutral color, like light gray
4. Add a thick border around the longer bar (15 point width in this example). Color it the same color as the bar to make the longer bar fatter and the shorter bar appear to be inside it
5. Add data labels and manually change the dollar values to percentages if you prefer

You may be interested to know I’m writing a followup book to Speaking PowerPoint, focused entirely on how to present and tell better stories using graphs. Subscribe to my blog or my LinkedIn group to be alerted when it’s published, likely in the next few months.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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Graph Makeover by Andy Arrow

This is a great graph makeover by presentation designer Andy Arrow. The ideas expressed in this video are the foundational stuff of great graphs.

Some main principles

1. Clarify the graph’s main message in the title

2. Take what’s important and move it higher on the slide

3. Use colors to highlight what’s important and subdue everything else

Great graphs don’t just happen. They require thought and skillful use of design principles. Thanks to Andy Arrow for this thoughtful and practical educational video.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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A New Way to Visualize Data = The Grable

Cole Nussbaumer, at the Storytelling with Data blog, has introduced a useful term for data visualization in business: the Grable. It’s a combination of a table and a graph.

Tables are good for some things, like looking up specific values and especially when each row has several columns of numbers and text data. Graphs are good for other things, like showing patterns in the data instantly.

Sometimes you need both – a combination table and graph – or “grable”.

Now, the idea of a combination table/graph is not new; they’ve been around forever. But the term “grable” is new. And it’s a useful addition to the data viz vocabulary, especially for business data.

How do you create a grable? There are several ways to do it. In Cole’s grable above, she creates a table for the text part of the grable and then adds a graph, which she resizes to align with each row. That’s option one.

Option 2 is to use conditional formatting (Excel 2007 or later). Enter the data in one column, then select all the cells and choose Home > Conditional Formatting > Data Bars > Solid Fill. Now a bar chart appears over top of the data values.

One problem with conditional formatting is sometimes the number half on the graph and half off, so it’s hard to read. Or, you may not have the right Excel version. In that case, there’s a poor man’s version which can work just as well. It looks like this

Here’s how to build the poor man’s conditional formatting. List the data in one column. Then in the column next to it where you want the bar to appear, enter this Excel formula:

Let me explain this formula. REPT means to repeat the symbol in quotations a certain number of times. The symbol in quotations is the “|” pipe symbol. And when you place them side by side enough times they look like a bar. Use the Playbill font for best results.

The formula in red is the number of times you want to repeat it. “A4” is an example where you would point to a cell that contains your data. But if the number is too large (eg. 400,000) that’s too many pipe symbols. It would stretch from here to the elevators. Instead, divide that number by some reasonable amount so the bar is the length you want. Similarly, if the number is too small (eg. 0.5) then multiply that by some reasonable number to get a bar length you like.

Try a grable the next time you present data to executives. Thanks to the charting gurus at Chandoo.org for this handy Excel tip!

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

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Table Makeover: How Do I Avoid that Checkerboard Effect?

It’s easy to create tables in PowerPoint. But it takes some thought and design skills to create a really attractive and effective table. In this blog article, I want to show you some principles for creating better tables.

This post was inspired by instructional designer Craig Hadden at Remote Possibilities, who asked for my comments on how to approach this table.

In particular, Craig wanted my ideas on how to solve the contiguity problems. That is, how to eliminate the checkerboard effect, where highlighted cells are adjacent to non-highlighted cells, creating “holes”. 

First, let me tell you what I like about this table.

1. It’s well-conceived. The main point is you can create a great presentation by starting with a presentation title that combines a question and/or an action and/or mentions the audience directly. This table provides examples of presentation titles and indicates which approach(es) each demonstrates.

2. Smart color choices. The light blue background holds the table together without being obtrusive. The gray lines whisper in the background while helpfully guiding the eye across the table. The overall mood is calm, confident and visually elegant.

In the interest of helping you build your table design muscles, here’s how I would approach this table.

Step 1: Say NO to “Yes”. Each cell is either highlighted (“Yes”) or non-highlighted (“-”). But this table uses text for the highlighting. Reading is slow and doesn’t take advantage of things like color and contrast which the visual system can process instantly. And instead of using the repetitive word “Yes”, which requires the reader to scan up to the column header to see what the “Yes” refers to, you can insert that word directly into the cell. Now we have a table like this.

Step 2: Address contiguity. Now we deal with the contiguity issues. Actually, Craig has done a nice job of minimizing the contiguity problems already. But since there is only one row with all 3 cells highlighted, contiguity problems cannot be 100% avoided . There will have to be some rows with 2 cells highlighted and some with 1 cell highlighted, guaranteeing some checkerboard effect.

But here’s where it gets interesting. I notice the table has two different rows where both “Action” and “Mention” are highlighted. Strange. But there’s no row where “Question” and “Mention” are combined. Now I see what Craig has done. He has selected example titles, not only for their value to the reader, but to avoid the checkerboard pattern.

It occurs to me that we could include an example of every type of presentation title — a total of 7 possible combinations. Now the contiguity problem has not been solved, but there is a predictable logic to it.

Step 3: Discourage side by side reading. One reason contiguity is a problem is the cells, butted up against each other, encourage the reader to compare them side by side. A dark box next to a light box makes the checkerboard effect very obvious.

But what if we increase the distance between the cells? We can do this by using circles instead of squares, separated with a healthy dose of whitespace and a vertical line. Instead of the full word in the circle, we only have the first initial. Now the reader is encouraged to read across and not read up and down.

Step 4: Intelligent chunking. Finally, we make this table intelligible by grouping the rows into 3 groups: titles that use all three approaches, titles that use two approaches and titles that use just one approach. We use heavier lines to separate each group and remove the horizontal rules within each group.

Now the contiguity problems are completely solved. The heavy horizontal rules limit contiguity problems to whatever is in that section, where the blank cells have a logical and predictable order.

My thanks to Craig Hadden, for allowing me to use his table as an educational example. What do you think? Leave your comments below.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Posted in graphs, slide makeovers | 3 Comments

Why the Right Color Can Make or Break Your Presentation

Slide colors are important because color affects our mood, which in turn can affect whether or not your audience will agree with you. I was reminded of this important point when I stumbled across this image of the funeral procession of North Korea’s fallen dictator, Kim Jong-Il.

The image on the left was shot by Kyodo News of Japan. The one on the right, doctored in Photoshop to remove the stray crowd in the lower left (and to brighten the snow?), was released by the North Korean Central News Agency.

Look at the image on the left. How does it make you feel? Now look at the image on the right. Do you feel any different?

I can instantly feel more energy, optimism and joy looking at the image on the right. Don’t take your PowerPoint slide color choices lightly. You may want to pick up one of these fine books for advice on selecting slide colors: Speaking PowerPoint (my book), The Non-Designer’s Design Book (Robin Williams), Slide:ology (Nancy Duarte), Presentation Zen (Garr Reynolds).

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Posted in design | 3 Comments