Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Using a Graphic in Both Print and in a Presentation—by Dave Paradi

For our last e-zine, Dave Paradi contributed this article, Using a Graphic in Both Print and in a Presentation, and we wanted to share it with new readers and those not subscribed to our e-zine—it's free to subscribe to our e-zine and you'll receive quarterly design tips!

Dave Paradi has authored and co-authored seven books and his book, The Visual Slide Revolution, was selected as one of the Top 10 Business Books of 2008. His workshops and consulting help clients ranging from municipalities to Fortune 500 corporations. Learn more at www.ThinkOutsideTheSlide.com. He'll be speaking at the Presentation Summit next week in Austin, Texas.


Many of the graphics we design today must serve dual purposes. One of the purposes the graphic must serve is for a print document, whether it is a proposal or a report. The second purpose is for use in a presentation, since often we are asked to present on the topic in addition to providing the written document. We can certainly use the same graphic in each setting, but there is a technique we can apply to use a graphic more effectively in a presentation context.

When we place a graphic in a report or proposal, the graphic does not stand alone. It is on a page with explanatory text that the reader uses to gain understanding of the graphic. If there is anything they are unsure of, they can move back and forth between the graphic and the text until they understand the point being made. Even if the graphic and the text are on different pages, it is easy for the reader to flip the page to refer to either text or graphic quickly. The explanatory text and the reader's ability to refer to both at the same time allows even a complex graphic to be easily understood.

Using a graphic in a presentation is different. The graphic is placed on a slide and there is generally no explanatory text on the slide. The presenter is explaining the graphic to the audience. If the audience doesn’t understand the graphic the first time, they can’t go back and review it again, because the presenter has moved on. Most audience members also fear asking a question during the presentation, because they think they will embarrass themselves in front of peers and colleagues in the audience. So audience members can be left confused about the graphic during a presentation because they can’t review what the presenter said. This is especially true with complex graphics.

The solution to the issue of using graphics in a presentation is to break down the graphic into pieces and explain each piece to the audience one by one. This way, the graphic does not overwhelm the audience and the presenter’s explanation can be focused on only one part at a time. Audiences follow along much more easily and there is a smaller chance that someone is confused after the presenter is done. One method for breaking down the graphic into pieces is to actually create individual graphics, one for each section. This can work, but it does require more work on your part and the presenter can’t make any changes if they decide that the breakdown should be altered.

A more flexible and less time consuming method is to use a technique that our teachers employed in school when they used overhead transparencies in the classroom. They would place a piece of paper over the transparency, covering up what they didn’t want us to see, yet. They would slide the paper down to reveal each point as they spoke. This gives the same benefit to the audience as building each part of the graphic on the slide. Let’s look at how we can do this in PowerPoint.

The first step is to position the graphic on the slide. Make it as big as you need to, depending on what else you are placing on the slide.

Now, just like our teacher, we need to cover up the graphic. You can use the regular drawing tools in PowerPoint to create shapes that will cover up each piece of the graphic. Usually, you will draw a series of rectangles that will cover up two to four sections of the graphic. Make the fill and outline color of the shapes the same as the background color of the graphic, so it looks like you are building the graphic piece by piece.

The last step is to make these shapes slide off the graphic like the teacher did with the piece of paper, revealing what is underneath. To do this, select the shape and apply an Exit animation effect. I suggest the Wipe effect in the direction that makes sense. For example, if you are revealing pieces of a graphic from left to right, have the shapes wipe to the right, just like it would look like if we had a piece of paper on a transparency.

If you would like to see an example of how this looks in action, I used this technique in a slide makeover video which is shown below and available for viewing at http://my.brainshark.com/PowerPoint-Slide-Makeover-57-Revealing-infographics-one-portion-at-a-time-236541282.

By understanding the differences between using a graphic in a print and in a presentation context, and by using the exit animation reveal technique, you can save time by creating a single graphic that can serve both purposes.

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