Monday, December 15, 2014

8 Techniques that Make Designing Your Slides EASY! Guest Post by MVP Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen Finkelstein, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, shares some of her extensive slide design wisdom on our blog today. Subscribe to her newsletter for more tips and resources from an expert with almost 20 years of presentation experience.


In working with clients, I’ve seen certain issues come up repeatedly and have come up with 13 easy-to-use techniques that look great. In this article, I’ll cover 8 of those techniques to help you deal with slide layout, images, and text.

1-4. 4 layouts that always look good

One problem many non-designers have is how to lay out their slides. The more components you have on a slide, the harder it is to design a clear, coherent slide. There isn’t room in this post for a full coverage of design concepts and most people want a shortcut, anyway. So I came up with 4 layouts that always look good. These layouts work when you have a small amount of text and an image:
  • (1) Half-vertical: This layout puts the text on one side and a vertical image on the other. The image does have to be exactly half of the slide. The image should be up against the edges of the slide. 
  • (2) Full slide: In this layout, the image covers the entire slide. The slide title is on top of the image. You’ll often need to put a semi-transparent rectangle between the text and the image so that the text is easily readable. 
  • (3) Title & image: This layout solves the problem of illegible text because the image goes below it. The image is still up against the slide edges. 
  • (4) Diagonal: Here, you put the text at the top left and the image at the bottom right. This works best when the image’s background matches that of the slide or when you remove the image’s background. 

In most cases, you’ll need to crop the image to fit the layout. Cropping is a good thing, as it often lets you cut out some of the background and focus on what’s important.

5-6. Image treatments

Techniques 5-6 help you format images. You can make your images look a lot more polished using these techniques. Just placing a plain image on a slide looks boring. 
  • (5) Use the snapshot look: By adding a border and rotating the image, you get an informal snapshot look. Luckily, this is easy! Select the photo, click the Format tab, click the More down arrow to the right of the Picture Styles thumbnails, and choose “Rotated, White.”
  • (6) Remove the image background: The background of an image is often irrelevant and distracting. To remove a complex background, you need PowerPoint 2010 or later. Select the image and display the Format tab. Click Remove Background. A rectangle appears; everything outside that rectangle is magenta and will be removed. Drag the corners of the rectangle (usually outward) to include everything you want to keep. Then use the Mark Areas to Keep and Mark Areas to Remove buttons to drag across areas that need to be adjusted. When you’re done, click Keep Changes.

Here you see a slide before and after removing the image’s background. Doesn’t the after example look cleaner? 

7-8: Manage that pesky text!

You’ve probably heard that presentations should be as visual as possible, but my guess is that in practice, you still have a fair amount of text left on some of your slides. These techniques help you manage that text, making it easier to understand and more visual.
  • (7) Reduce the levels of text: I often see 3 or 4 levels of text. For example, there will be a slide title, a sub-heading, and bulleted text. Instead, incorporate the sub-heading into the slide title – make your slide titles more meaningful – and you’ll see that your slides are clearer. 

Here you see a before and after example. The bulleted text is exactly the same, but by moving the subheading to the title, the slide is much easier to understand.
  • (8) Separate out important text: When you have a lot of text on a slide, separating out a word or two can make all the difference. And easy way to do this is with the Tab List SmartArt design, but you can also use the Vertical Block List. Set up your text so that your main text is first-level text and the rest is tabbed in, as you see in this before and after example. Then click Convert to SmartArt on the Home tab, choose More SmartArt Graphics, and choose Tab List or Vertical Block List. 

Here you see the result using the Tab List design. Can you see how this technique will help your audience understand and remember your points more clearly?

Spend less time and get better results

When you have a repertoire of techniques, you spend less time fiddling with your slides, so you save time. In addition, you get slides that are clear, powerful, professional-looking, and persuasive. Take the time to try these out and see what results you get!


Ellen Finkelstein trains clients who are not designers to design their own powerful, professional, persuasive slides. She is a Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, one of only 11 in the United States. She has been writing about PowerPoint and presenting since 1995. Her popular website ( and newsletter (PowerPoint Tips Newsletter) reach a large audience of presenters around the world. She invites you to subscribe at and watch her 22-minute training video, “13 Techniques that Make Designing Your Slides EASY!”

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Proposal Development – Beyond the Ordinary!

Attention Proposal Professionals in the Maryland/DC/Virginia Area

Create extraordinary bids after attending this two-day proposal development workshop, Proposal Development—Beyond the Ordinary!, sponsored by TargetGov. Join Dr. Robert Frey, Principal and Co-Owner in the consultancy, Successful Proposal Strategies, LLC, and me for an intense, high-energy and interactive workshop.

This business class will be held December 10–11, 2014, at bwtech@UMBC Research and Technology Park.

We will discuss conceptualizing proposal graphics along with many other topics to teach you how to achieve greater success with your bids:
  • Maximizing Evidence of STRENGTHS in your proposals—and related actions to do tomorrow in your own organization. 
  • What it takes to increase Pwin. 
  • Proposal Readiness—Doing the thinking and the illustrating before beginning the writing. 
  • Developing clear, communicative, and compelling graphics for your next proposal. 
  • Understanding and Approach—Yes, they’re that important! 
  • Power of validated stories in proposals. 
  • Proposal writing best practices. 
  • Balancing proposal content and proposal production issues. 
  • Identifying cross-cutting elements to build time-saving templates. 
  • Developing engaging proposal résumés. 
  • Crafting on-target Past Performance citations. 
  • Knowledge Management (KM) as a proposal Critical Success Factor—applying KM at your work beginning tomorrow. 
This workshop will be offered next week, so don't delay. Create better proposals and make an early New Year's resolution to improve your success rate now.

Click here to learn more about this workshop and to register.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

New PowerPoint Graphics Added in November

We added new PowerPoint icons to Get My Graphic this month. Discover different ways to visually communicate your ideas with these graphics.

Use an image of the solar system, sun, and planets for presentations about science or space travel. It can also be used as a visual metaphor for comparing distances, product or project sizes, or the structure of an organization. The planets are raster but you can remove them from the background and paste the planets or the sun on other slides and graphics.


Our new target icons are fully editable in PowerPoint. The marks on the target can be moved to different bands or deleted. Use these icons to represent how your team is staying on target or to make a point about how a service or process missed the mark.


Create a game within your presentation or training session to engage your audience. Animate the marks hitting the target to reveal what is underneath: the next topic, prizes, or answers to workshop questions.


Want more ideas? Search through our latest graphics here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

New Look for Get My Graphic

Get My Graphic has a new look. We've flattened the background elements to make our thousands of editable PowerPoint graphics stand out. We've added steps at the top to make it easier to find what you need.

Using Get My Graphic is easy as 1, 2, 3 ...

You can now scroll over graphic images and see the description and credit amount. Descriptions give suggestions for graphic usage and let you know whether a graphic is data driven, editable, vector-based, or raster (photograph).

Thanks to Outerbox for helping with our redesign.

Give Get My Graphic's new site a test drive and let us know what you think. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

New Category on GMG: Infographics

At the Presentation Summit this month, several Get My Graphic users offered the same suggestion for new graphics.

Can you add infographics to your site? 

This suggestion got our attention, since we consider most of our graphics to be information graphics according to the Oxford Dictionaries definition:

A visual image such as a chart or diagram used to represent information or data.

By this definition, an area chart, looping graphic, or a pyramid graphic—to name a few of our categories—could be considered an infographic. However, our users perceive infographics as a collection of visuals that come together to tell a story about related data for a concept, theory or process.

You can use Get My Graphic visuals to piece together an infographic, as we've done below with a spiral development graphic: Spiral_0145. We added bar and flow charts and a photo to a spiral graphic to tell a story about a company's process.

To offer new ways to visualize information, we've added a dedicated infographic category and created graphics based on user feedback. Below are a sampling of our new infographics and ways to tailor these editable PowerPoint graphics to display your information.

The icons on these graphics are vector based. Colors can be changed, text updated, and pieces removed for use on other slides or in other graphics.

Highlight countries to talk about population growth, industry trends, disease rates, education, technology, or telecommunications across the world and how it relates to energy consumption, business startups, policy changes, or global warming.


Compare percentages of social media, technology, elearning, or video streaming used across a population of a specific city, state, or country.


Use a central timeline for your company's milestones. Show how the milestones relate to awards, implementing new tools, and creating new processes and how these tie into actionable data gathered on the cloud through a gauge graphic or in a bar chart.


This timeline combined with icons of prescription pills, thermometer, and a laboratory flask can display information related to medical evaluations, disease treatment and containment, or research developments.


A spiral bound notebook opened to drawings of a globe, map, house, and building can describe moving employees or businesses, expanding companies, shipping logistics, globalization, or household versus business expenses.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Experience Trumps Advice: My Keynote at the Presentation Summit 2014

How can your experiences and experiences of others help you become a better presenter?

Geetesh Bajaj of gives an overview of my keynote address at the Presentation Summit 2014. Click on the link below to learn more:

Mike Parkinson at the Presentation Summit 2014

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Having Graphic Block? Use a Graphic Metaphor from Get My Graphic

On Get My Graphic, we want to push presenters and designers to find different ways to showcase ideas and capture an audience's attention. Here are new graphics recently uploaded to Get My Graphic and how you can use these visual metaphors for your concepts.

Funnel Graphics
Communication travels through filters in different stages within an organization to a desired output.


Actions within steps in a process are funneled down to the final stage.


Information is sorted through zones in an organization so the right information is received by the correct zone.



A speeding bullet icon on a slide can represent taking a shot at a goal or comparing your processing speed to bullet.


A bullet can showcase elements in an organization that come together to hit a target.


This laptop can be used as an icon for uploading or downloading data from the cloud.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

New Process Ideas on Get My Graphic

Get My Graphic has added more fully editable PowerPoint graphics to their online database. Here are several new process graphics and how you can make your ideas more memorable with these visuals.

Process Graphics
Show two separate processes merging to create a more robust process.

Show two elements being uploaded into the cloud and then viewed on a tablet computer.

Show two cogs in an application being downloaded to a computer and creating a new system.

Show two elements—an organization and recycled ideas—combining to form results to reach a desired output.

To view more process graphics like these, click here.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Learn How to Be a Better Presenter at the Presentation Summit 2014

We are just seven weeks away from the 2014 rendition of the greatest conference in the universe for presentation professionals, and for the next 14 days, we will offer a most extraordinary promotion:
  • Register for the conference before Sep 8.
  • Designate a second person to go at half-price.
All of our amazing seminars, fabulous keynote addresses, awesome technical support, and phenomenal community building—available to two from a company at the lowest price ever offered. (If you have already registered for the conference, you can add a second person at half-price.)
Join Mike Parkinson as he presents five presentation silver bullets and gives a keynote on how to listen, learn, share, and succeed. Our staff will be at the expo to demonstrate Get My Graphic with fun prizes and specials just for Summit attendees.

Make your plans now to join us...with a friend. (And if you choose to come by yourself, that's okay, too!)

The Presentation Summit
Oct 12-15 • San Diego CA

Friday, August 1, 2014

New Graphics on Get My Graphic and How to Use Them

This July we added 175 new graphics to Get My Graphic. Below is a sampling of these new visuals, editable in PowerPoint 2007 or newer, and hints for how you can use them in your next presentation or marketing materials. 

Bridge Graphic
Use a bridge graphic as a memorable visual metaphor to show a transition from a past to a future state or how separate phases flow together.


A mix of icons with bands of colors help highlight chapters or sections within your presentation, web page, or marketing brochure.

These editable icons can be used a word balloons or to highlight a benefit or description within a graphic.
Place these pin graphics throughout your presentation to highlight features of your product or process. Place the icons on your overview slide and then use the pins to call attention to different sections.

This table graphic acts as a slide rule that you can animate by sliding across rows to highlight relationships between variables and parameters.


Venn Diagram
Venn diagrams are the best way to show synergy. Our new graphics put a twist on Venn diagrams. Adding icons calls out your information so readers instantly see your point.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Presentation Toolbox: Make AMAZING Slides Fast

As the saying goes, “Use the right tool(s) for the job.” It’s commonsense advice that is often ignored. Imagine building a house without the right tools. More money and time is spent trying to get it right using the wrong tools, and the outcome is inferior.

Your Presentation Toolbox should include the following shown in this graphic. (Your goals and challenges will determine the specific solutions you choose.)

First and foremost, select the right presentation software. When in doubt, use ubiquitous software to ensure easy file sharing and easier problem solving. (During a recent webinar, I polled the audience about their presentation software, and 98% of the attendees said they use PowerPoint.)


Make a Presentation Asset Library (PAL). This library should include the following:
  1. Content that speeds development. I pull from the following:

  2. Ideas that stimulate creativity. I keep a folder filled with images of great graphics, slides, designs, layouts, and photographs for inspiration. 
  3. Graphics that can be tailored for each presentation. Typically, I create and save my graphics in the presentation software to make customization fast and easy. 
  4. Articles that explain, clarify, and educate. I save articles related to the topics I help present. At times, I need to pull content immediately, so it helps to have quick access to these pieces. I also keep how-to articles from past projects to save time if I forget the steps to create a unique graphic effect or animation, export slides into other software packages, or any other specialized task I don’t use often. 
Tips and Tricks 
I have frequently needed tips and tricks at my disposal. I organize them into the following three categories:
  1. Content tricks and tips. If a slide or presentation frequently changes, there is probably something wrong with the Content Ladder. We are either misunderstanding the audience, the message is unclear, or there is no story or flow.

  2. Design tips and tricks are tools and techniques that I use often to speed development. Rather than spend hours developing graphics, I go to Get My Graphic ( or similar websites to find PowerPoint graphics. These sites are fast, low-cost and I can reuse the graphics in future presentations. (Make a Graphic Asset Library from the graphics you download and those you create.) I also use a Graphic Cheat Sheet to help me pick the right graphics to communicate my ideas ( 
  3. Editing tips and tricks allow me work fast. Most of my content remains editable in my presentation software. I use the software’s procedural features to fly through inevitable changes. For example, double-clicking on the “Format” paintbrush in PowerPoint holds the formatting of a selected object until you release it (e.g., by selecting “esc” and clicking another object to capture its style). 
I suspect you have had some success integrating components of a Presentation Toolbox. My company and clients regularly see exponential improvements when building or buying new tools. Unfortunately, organizations may expect one solution to solve all challenges, which often results in inaction and no solution is implemented. Do not wait for the perfect solution. It does not exist. Instead, build or buy a solution that solves more than 50% of your challenges. Other processes, tools, or periodic updates can offset a solution’s deficiencies. Make or expand your Presentation Toolbox today and stop losing time (and money) doing things the hard way with the wrong tools.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Be Inpsired by These New Visual Metaphors

Every month, we add new graphics to Get My Graphic. For June, we created several graphics based on suggestions from our users. Here are a sampling of these images and how you can use them to communicate your ideas visually. Download them at Get My Graphic or be inspired by these ideas to create your own visual metaphors.

Bar Charts


What better way to depict the quickness of your service than with a rocket? A bar chart is used to compare amounts, and adding a rocket icon to a bar chart that depicts process or service speeds will communicate the value of each option or element. Use this graphic to compare internet, download and upload, data, or assembly speeds.

If your new process works faster than the older one, then visually show how much faster. Using a turtle to represent a slower option and a rocket for the faster version will instantly communicate the benefit for switching or upgrading to a new service or process. Consider animating the icons to make the graphic more memorable and keep your audience's attention.

Gauge Graphic
A gauge graphic is a perfect visual metaphor to compare elements and their importance. Animate the equalizers to show changes over time or as milestones occur.


A rocket soaring into space is a visual metaphor for reaching goals, exploration, and pushing an organization's limits and boundaries (i.e., reaching for the stars).

Road Graphics


A highway or road can visually represent many types of processes or systems: the internet, data servers, intranets, web servers, corporate communications, call centers, computer networks, etc. Use the road graphics to compare system speeds, inputs, data processing, and downloading and uploading files to a network.