Create a vignette effect to make a photo more powerful

A vignette effect on a photo typically places a dark, semi-transparent border around it. There are other possible variations, such as a light border, but dark is more common. Designers use this effect to make the center of the image stand out. Here you see a photo with and without a vignette.

powerpoint-tips-vignette-effect-photo-1  powerpoint-tips-vignette-effect-photo-2

Can you see how the vignette effect intensifies the center of the photo and therefore makes the man’s dismay feel more powerful?

You can create a vignette effect in a few ways in PowerPoint but here is an easy technique. Read more! →

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Create a table from Excel data in PowerPoint

Recently, a subscriber asked me about how to put a table of data from Excel on a slide. You can do this in a couple of ways.

powerpoint-tips-excel-table-on-slide-1 First, think about whether the data will be readable if it will be projected on a screen. Also consider whether the data lends itself to a graph, because graphs can be easier to understand. If you have too much data to fit on a slide, here are 2 options:

  • Divide it up onto multiple slides
  • Provide it as a handout, either printed or electronic

Copy into a PowerPoint table

powerpoint-tips-excel-table-on-slide-2PowerPoint’s tables offer you lots of options for design and layout. If you want the table to look polished, use this option. An easy way to start is with the Title & Content layout. Then click the Insert Table icon in the middle of the slide. You’ll see the small Insert Table dialog box.

Go back to your Excel data and count the number of columns and rows you need, including the row and/or column headers. This is also the time to select the table and copy it to the Clipboard. Then return to PowerPoint and complete the dialog box. Click OK to insert the table.

You now see a default table on the slide and the Table Tools Design and Layout tabs appear, as you see here. Read more! →

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Create a quiz in PowerPoint

Did you know that you can create a quiz in PowerPoint? You can create a simple quiz in PowerPoint using just hyperlinks. It’s simple because it doesn’t require any programming and you can’t grade it.

Students take the quiz in Slide Show view. When they choose the wrong answer, they go back to the question to try again. When they choose the right answer, they go to the next question.

Create the slidespowerpoint-tips-simple-quiz-1

Start with a title slide that explains the topic and includes instructions, as you see here. That Next button at the bottom right is a hyperlink–I’ll discuss the hyperlinks in the next section.

Create your first question slide. You can format this in any way you want. You can use the Title & Content layout and put the question in the Title. The Content section contains the answers. Type them and then convert the bulleted text to SmartArt. Finally, ungroup the SmartArt (twice). But you can also use the Title Only layout and manually insert shapes with the answers.

What’s important is that you use shapes with text in them because you want to add the hyperlinks to the shapes, not to the text. I recommend 3 or 4 answers–obviously one is correct and the rest are not. Here’s an example question slide. Read more! →

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Create a tile menu with hyperlinks to slides

It’s often useful to create a menu for your first or second slide. Here are some scenarios:

  • To facilitate easy navigation to anywhere in your presentationpowerpoint-tips-tile-interface-menu-2
  • To allow your audience to choose the order of the content, for a non-linear, live presentation
  • To allow viewers to navigate through an online presentation

Use an updated interface style

A recent design trend uses tiles to create a visual menu. You’ve probably seen this type of tile menu in Windows 8/8.1, but others have used it as well. This type of menu is easy to create in PowerPoint.

Here’s an example. Read more! →

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Discover PowerPoint Mix for interactive online lessons

PowerPoint Mix is a new PowerPoint add-on by Microsoft, now in beta (not finalized).

What is PowerPoint Mix?

PowerPoint Mix is a PowerPoint-based tool for creating interactive online lessons. The basic process is simple:

  1. You create slides and can record audio and video.
  2. You can add quizzes.
  3. You upload the final result to the Mix website and share it with anyone you want, such as your students. You can even export Mix to a SCORM-compliant format.
  4. You get statistics about who watched the Mix as well as quiz scores.

How to get started

Read more! →

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Create handouts for data-heavy decision meetings

One of the most common uses of PowerPoint is to present data that will be used to make a decision at a meeting. A good example is a market research team presenting to marketing executives. Some of the important issues in a meeting like this are to:http://www.ellenfinkelstein.com/pptblog/flipped-presentation/

  • Tailor the presentation to the audience’s level of expertise
  • Distill the data to the important conclusions
  • Create clear slides in spite of the complexity of the material
  • Provide detailed data when requested without confusing the message

How do you provide detailed data without confusing the message — and putting so much on a slide that it’s impossible to read and understand?

It’s common to print out the slides because of the amount of data they contain. This does make them more readable — people can look at them up close — but they are still overly complicated. Such slides often hide the important point. It can be hard to see the forest for the trees.

In “The flipped presentation,” I talk about a way to put additional content in the Notes pane and print out Notes pages as handouts instead of just slides.

But there’s a problem with that

Read more! →

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Office Clip Art gallery is going away

According to the Microsoft Office blog, the Office Clip Art gallery is going away.

I’m very upset by this, because I use its photos daily. While much commentary (include a funny riff by Conan on TV) focus on the line art, the text of the blog post makes it clear that photos will also disappear.powerpoint-tips-cli-art-gallery-going-away-1

When? I don’t know. The blog post makes it sounds as if it’s already gone, but I’m still seeing all of the clip art — both photos and line art. How about you?

Also, the post says, “Customers can still add images to their documents, presentations, and other files that they have saved to their devices.” Maybe the Clip Art gallery will continue on as long as you use an existing presentation. I wonder if you could take an existing presentation, choose File, Save As to make a copy, and still have the Clip Art gallery. I’m checking with Microsoft directly and will let you know what I hear. (Update: Nope. It’s gone.)

What about Bing search?

The blog post says that you can add images using Bing Image Search. It adds:

Bing Image Search uses a copyright filter based on the Creative Commons licensing system.  The results that are returned are images that have been tagged with Creative Commons licenses.  A link to the source of the image is provided, which you should use to review the source of the image and the applicable license to determine whether your use will comply with the license.

If you have PowerPoint 2013, try it yourself to verify what I’m saying. Here are the steps:

  • Choose Insert, Online Pictures.
  • In the Bing Image Search box, enter a keyword.
  • Click an image.  Note the size of the image, because some of them too small to put on a slide.
  • At the bottom, click the link to the source of the image.
  • Click Insert.
  • Go to your browser where the link opened and check it out.

Why online search is NOT a good substitute for the Clip Art gallery

Here are my reasons: Read more! →

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Happy New Year! What are your goals for 2015?

Here’s my New Year’s card to you. It highlights photos I’ve taken during all 4 seasons, from New York, to Florida, to Iowa and Nebraska. I hope you enjoy it!

I have big plans for 2015 — a weekly 15-minute webinar series, a new/old e-book, and more. How about you? Leave a comment!

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Link text to an Excel cell to dynamically update data

Sudeep wrote me, “I need some help to update a slide containing a map with certain districts. I have the monthly sales turnover for these districts. In need to update them monthly from an Excel sheet. Can you suggest a way to automate the  process without having to punch it in a text box every month?

Sudeep doesn’t want to create an entire table of data. Instead, he wants individual text boxes that appear on the map. Each one should be linked to an Excel cell.

Here’s an example of what such a slide might look like.

powerpoint-tips-link-text-to-excel-1

One solution: Copy and Paste Link

Read more! →

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Presentation design trends

 Mike Parkinson is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, trainer, and award-winning author. Over the last 22 years, he created thousands of presentations that results in improved success rates for his clients.  Mike owns a creative services firm, 24 Hour Company (24hrco.com), authored a successful visual communication book (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics), and launched Get My Graphic (GetMyGraphic.com) that helps consultants, organizations and agencies achieve their training, education and sales goals with visual communication and proven communication techniques. Contact Mike at mike@24hrco.com.This is a guest post by Mike Parkinson.  Mike is an internationally recognized visual communication and presentation expert, trainer, and award-winning author. Over the last 22 years, he created thousands of presentations that results in improved success rates for his clients. He owns a creative services firm, 24 Hour Company, authored a successful visual communication book (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics), and launched Get My Graphic that helps consultants, organizations and agencies achieve their training, education and sales goals with visual communication and proven communication techniques. Contact Mike at [email protected].

3 orange large asterisks

Change is inevitable. Over the last decade, the presentations we produce, the tools and processes we use, and the industry have evolved. Specifically, presentation graphics and methods for making them are changing. As with all change, some will stay with us (the Internet) and others are merely a fad (pet rocks). The following are current presentation design trends:

  1. Infographics
  2. Flat Design
  3. Photographs
  4. Visual Metaphors

Let’s determine if they are here to stay.

 1. Infographics

infographics

Graphic courtesy of 24 Hour Company (www.24hrco.com)

The ubiquity of infographics has spilled into the presentation industry. It is important to note that the strictest definition of an infographic is any graphic that clarifies or explains. Recently, the term infographic has become synonymous with a specific style of graphic (and not a definition), rendered as an aesthetically simple and flat image using quantitative data to educate and persuade.

A successful infographic requires its content and messages to be clear and concise so the final graphic is simple and easy to follow. Unfortunately, many presentation infographics I have seen are cluttered and confusing. The message is unclear and text has been replaced with a smattering of ambiguous icons and symbols.

Verdict
Use infographics sparingly in your presentations. Do them well or don’t do them at all. Start with a simple message. All content must support this message. Use icons your audience will recognize. Images should complement and highlight your content and not distract or muddle your idea. Infographics work best when quantitative evidence tells a clear, compelling story. The push to get to the point and provide (quantitative and qualitative) proof is here to stay. However, the current infographic style is a trend. As with all aesthetic trends, it will evolve over time.

2. Flat Design

Flat design is seen as the modern graphic style due to the popularity of small electronic devices. To improve content legibility on hand-held devices, artistic embellishments such as highlights, depth, and shadows were eliminated.

The opposite of flat design is realism (skeuomorphism).

flat-realistic

Graphic courtesy of Get My Graphic (http://www.getmygraphic.com)

 

Both styles have pros and cons. For example, flat graphics are associated with newer design; therefore, applying this style subconsciously conveys the message that your company and solution are modern and innovative. Because of its plainness, flat design is often less expensive and time-consuming to produce. On the other hand, flat design can oversimplify or under explain critical pieces of information. Flat graphics limit aesthetic choices, making it difficult to highlight important or subtle concepts. Skeuomorphism can communicate the authenticity of your solution. Because realistic visuals are often considered more labor intensive and superior than simple designs, using this style can improve the perceived quality of your company and solution as well as demonstrate your commitment to the project.

Verdict
There is a time and a place for both flat and realistic graphics. With a skilled designer, you can mix both into one template to reap the benefits of each style. For example, you could use flat icons with realistic graphics within your slide deck. Be sure that your decision to choose flat and/or realistic graphics is driven by objective goals (e.g., legibility, customer perception/preference, messaging, or brand standards).

3. Photographs

It is common to see a slide with a single photograph and minimal—if any—text. Using a single image to reinforce or replace content places more emphasis on emotional factors. Less textual content (e.g., bullets, sentences, paragraphs) also forces audiences to turn their attention to the presenter.

 

photograph

Slide courtesy of Fotolia (Fotolia.com)

Verdict

Dominant photographs are here to stay for three reasons:

  1. Focus is on the presenter to provide the narrative.
  2. Pictures tell stories. Stories are one of the most powerful presentation techniques because stories are felt not heard.
  3. It is a relatively inexpensive, easy approach to slide design.

The style of the photographs, placement and cropping will evolve with stylistic trends of the time. (Because this aesthetic approach does not work well for technical information, expect related slides to be text and graphic-based.)

4. Visual Metaphors

Using a visual metaphor, simile or analogy helps the audience understand complex information. For example, explaining a transition plan to an audience unfamiliar with the concept can be challenging. A visual metaphor, such as a bridge, improves understanding because it is a familiar concept that shares characteristics with a transition plan (see graphic below). Explaining a complex idea through a visual will improve retention and adoption rates.

visual metaphot-bridge

Slide courtesy of Get My Graphic (http://www.getmygraphic.com)

Verdict

Popular books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational help presenters apply behavioral psychology and learning theory to evolve best practices in our industry. We will see more sophisticated visual metaphors, similes and analogies as presentation design matures.

Conclusion

Because they are stylistic trends, expect the popularity of infographics and flat design to wane over time. However, these graphic styles will continue to influence future presentation trends.

Presenters will continue to use sophisticated photographs, images, icons, and graphics. Sites like Get My Graphic (http://www.getmygraphic.com), Fotolia (http://fotolia.com) and iStockPhoto (http://www.istockphoto.com) make it easier to add professional clear, compelling graphics and photographs to slides. The more these approaches are proven effective, the more presenters will employ them to create successful presentations.

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What presentation design trends are you seeing these days? In your opinion, which will stay and which will pass?

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