Diagrams and representing complex info in Powerpoint
February 17, 2017 2:33 AM   Subscribe

What are some good resources for Powerpoint that will help me convey complex information?

I work in IT Services and Consulting in a Technical Sales role. A major part of my work is making proposals to prospective customers (strategy, plan/approach etc), technical collateral, status reports and Evaluative reports.

While the principles of Presentation design state that the Presenter is the presentation, it does not seem to resonate with my audiences (multiple orgs across the globe!). They want to see complex information represented in the slides, be able to read it on their own without my voice, be able to share with others within their company.

I looked at Powerpoint templates from Envato, GraphicRiver and other sources, but they are almost always focused on a startup-type company - headshots of management, Social media, maps etc.

I also have read through Edward Tufte's books for an understanding of how to accurately represent information.

Are there any elegant themes, graphic elements, diagrams or even examples on how to best represent information that is communicated in large organizations?
posted by theobserver to Work & Money (6 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Presentation is not about the presenter but the message with the presenter amplifying or downtuning the message. I would suggest looking at Duarte's work with Slideology and Resonate. Her blog was a good pointer to resources in the world of presentation.

There are tools that let you have a well constructed diagram and the drill down to the data that is the basis. I liked them because it allowed for those seeking concrete data behind the roll up or generalization.

Each organization has a culture of presentation with some digging the wall of text while others with heroic, cryptic image and text overlay. You know your group the best.

Here are two resources: Canva for templates (very down, very dirty) and the best free, high quality repository of images is Unsplashed.
posted by jadepearl at 3:19 AM on February 17, 2017

One thing that I do to present complex information is build up to the full diagram or concept from something simple and common.
A lot of where people get lost is in not having the context, so it helps to start with something everybody in your audience will understand.

I also find that once people understand the story -- once they can explain what's actually going on -- reports are a lot easier for them to grasp.

So I take one simple piece:
A block of time (like 10 hours)
A user's need
A location

I explain that thing. And then I add on things that relate to it.

A block of time gets bigger or smaller
A user's need is responded to by something and then by something else.
A location is zoomed into or out of.

I love this explanation of The Cloud:
The Cloud has long been touted as the cure-all for your digital pain points. Out of storage space? Send it to The Cloud. Don’t know where to back up your data? The Cloud is the perfect place. Want to share your vacation pictures? Put them on The Cloud!

But just what is “The Cloud” and how in the world does it work?
There is not just one cloud; there are many clouds. Inside each cloud are computers just like yours, except they’re usually much bigger and faster, and they are always connected to the Internet. Those computers are called servers and those servers exist in a building someplace alongside many others. So really, a “cloud” is just a room of powerful computers connected to the Internet. When you save data to The Cloud, you are simply sending your files to another computer for safe keeping.
Pictorially, you would begin with a cartoon graphic of a cloud.
Next many clouds.
then the clouds would be filled with laptops
then big computers (racks)
then the computers might be hidden by buildings

SO in that example, you start with a context or an idea that everyone is familiar with - a laptop. In a way, The Cloud is like your laptop, but here is how it is very different....
posted by jander03 at 4:47 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

@jadepearl: I am of the school that the presenter must be there to make the presentation, but alas, I am in the minority. I did look at slideology before, but my chief difficulty is to create effective AND stunningly elegant diagrams.

@jander03: Yes, I would achieve this to transitions/animations, but there needs to be a final "info map" to build towards.

As an example, please see the type of visual elements in this link - https://www.fotolia.com/tag/diagrams

Are there any cheaper sources, since this seems to be pretty expensive when I need a hundred of them?
posted by theobserver at 5:00 AM on February 17, 2017

I think that what you may be looking for is infographics. Try Piktochart or Venngage. Piktochart is probably better for you.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:09 AM on February 17, 2017

I agree with your intuition. It's not difficult, it's impossible to tell even a moderately complex narrative without the presentation. A slide deck without a presenter is like a silent movie. The audience sort-of gets what's happening, but misses almost all the nuance. Details, at least the important ones, are what a technical presentation are about.

Two suggestions that I like as a buyer on the other side of the conference table:

Record a presentation for distribution to your clients. You can go as cheap as do-it-yourself in Skype or something, or as far as ponying up some real resources and hire a videography company to help make some good-quality sales materials. There's a range of options here.

Write a white paper, with some modest page limit. Aim roughly for a reading time equivalent to your presentation, or shorter, if possible. Typically, 1000-2000 words. Use the same graphics you use in the powerpoint, make the same points. Again, you can do it yourself in Word, or pay for professional editing and layout. As a bonus, a whitepaper is quite a bit easier than a presentation to make multi-lingual, if that matters.

You can, of course, do both, if you have the resources. Either is much more valuable to me than a slide deck with no accompanying notes. That's a minimal third option: a deck with accompanying speakers notes. This is like a bad, low effort version of a white paper, but it's better than nothing.

Personally, I ask every salescritter for whitepapers/technical notes or whatever you call them on the technologies I'm interested in from them. Presentations are all very nice, but having a good technical note (w case studies, if possible) when deciding between vendors is extremely valuable for us. We have a lot of issues with vendors promising capability then not being able to fully follow through. A technical note goes a long way to assuring us that someone in the company takes these issues seriously.
posted by bonehead at 9:23 AM on February 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you looked at slidedocs which has a diagram function? Located here And has ppt. Free templates?
posted by jadepearl at 5:20 PM on February 17, 2017

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