Before and After: Data As Storytelling

"Facts are zoomed-in stories" — so says Dr. Carmen Simon, a cognitive scientist and researcher of what makes content memorable. In this before and after example, the message is lost on this financial services company's "before" slide, which suffers from too much information. How many times have we seen an Excel spreadsheet dropped into a presentation slide like this? In the "after" slide, not only do we focus on the most important data, we take the focus away from the numbers; the data becomes reframed as a gateway for storytelling. Made using Keynote.

The Process Chart and Accessibility for ColorBlind AUDIENCES

For this project, the presenters of a technical report by a large consulting firm wanted a clean “infographic” style for an on-screen presentation in a conference room setting that was designed to be shown on large HDTVs.

We took the approach of building a central process diagram over which we would add layers of animated icons that represented pressure points on the process, like cycle times and rejection rates, with descriptive text. Carefully timed and placed animations of customized icons and text were made to enter on layers on top of the chart. There would be a lot of on-screen data, and we wanted to keep the design clean and focus on readability.

Here we also show a test view of this slide for colorblindness. Up to ten percent of men and one percent of women have color vision deficiency, the most common form of which is an inability to distinguish between red and green. Here we can see that blue and orange colors retain high contrast. Are you using the right colors in your presentations? You might be missing a large part of your audience. Make sure your visualizations are colorblind friendly!

Made using Keynote and PowerPoint.

The Catalog: Layout and Timeline

Client was a luxury fashion brand that wanted its presentation slides to have the overall look and feel of its spring brand book. I was able to quickly export the original Adobe InDesign file into PowerPoint via Adobe Acrobat, a short cut the client was not aware of, which represented a huge time savings for the project. I laid out the image-heavy presentation in a structured way to facilitate visual perception by the audience. The client approved the omission of footers and page numbers; this made for a cleaner layout and allowed more content to be comfortably placed on each slide. I carefully arranged the photos on a versatile 4-column by 2-row grid built in the slide master. I maintained client’s own font pairing, and designed a light and elegant timeline in keeping with the client’s branding. In Presentation view the timeline is animated, with each of the key dates with their respective icons and event descriptions entering on to the slide in sequence to prevent the audience from reading ahead. It included “walk-in” and “walk-out” slides to accommodate the venue (not pictured here). Made using PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat, Illustrator.

A "Ten Slides" Sample Presentation, in Keynote

I work in Apple's Keynote about 15% of the time, and recently put this sample presentation deck together in Keynote using Guy Kawasaki's "The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch" approach. The 10 slides Guy recommends are:

  1. Title
  2. Problem/opportunity
  3. Value proposition
  4. Underlying magic
  5. Business model
  6. Go-to-market plan
  7. Competitive analysis
  8. Management team
  9. Financial projections and key metrics
  10. Current status, accomplishments to date, timeline, and use of funds

To be clear, I don't advocate a one-size-fits-all approach to presentations; the deck described here is for a very particular kind of client and audience, generally a start up pitching to potential investors — this is a "Shark Tank" kind of approach. This particular format might not be suitable for another kind of presenter making a talk to another kind of audience, and is much different from, say, Cliff Atkinson's "first five slides" approach. 

Generally I enjoy working in Keynote as much as I enjoy working in PowerPoint. Keynote has a great new shape library that I have used here to create icons. It also provided some nice templates, one of which I used here as a starting point for further customization. At the same time, as a practical matter, I prefer working on the same platform as my clients, generally the business development teams, and typically PowerPoint is the industry standard. Sometimes a client might ask me for Keynote, not knowing that PowerPoint also has powerful animation, hyperlink, and other features that they are looking for, and as a presentation designer I might have to advise which is the right slideware for the client.

In this sample presentation, I imagined an adventure tour company presenting on an iPad to a potential investor for financing to expand into the lodging business. I used beautiful full frame images (here from Unsplash and Pexels, two of my favorite free stock photography sites). I focused on readability, using efficient narrow letters in headlines. The map here was made using MapBox.

Made using Keynote.

The Professional Standards Group

In this project we combined and streamlined a series of sales presentations to produce a standardized 70-slide deck for the client's national sales team on a short deadline. This was a great client to work with because they were committed to having minimal text on slides so their reps could engage with their audience. Sometimes presenters try to pack way too much content on slides, and it gets in the way. In those types of cases a professional-looking leave-behind might be a better option. Made using PowerPoint. 

The Gala Event

This client, an educational foundation, held a 250-person gala event for its big annual fundraiser. We gave this presentation an elegant look and conformed it to the client’s own brand guidelines. In this table, we built animations for each row of text to enter one at a time, which keeps the audience from reading ahead of the presenter. Made in PowerPoint.