Data Visualization: Hurricane Irene vs Katrina, Wilma, Rita

Here’s Hurricane Irene, showing wind speeds every six hours, as tracked by the National Hurricane Center. She reached Category 3 status over the Caribbean Islands – a respectable 120 mph storm – but was down to a Category 1 hurricane by the time she reached North Carolina.

How does Irene compare to Hurricanes Katrina, Wilma and Rita, the famous swarm of Category 5 hurricanes from 2005?

These slides come from my SlideShare project “50 Years of Fury”, which studies 50 years of hurricane data to answer the question: are hurricanes getting worse because of global warming. View it here. It’s a good example of many of my principles in action. 

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Find the Human Face in Your Data to Uncover the Story

You can bring your boring data to life if you’ll approach your numbers, not as an analyst, but as a journalist.

Data just counts the thousands of decisions that human beings make – products they buy, taxes they pay, homes they can no longer afford. The first step is to find a human face that represents the people hiding in that data. Who is making these decisions? Why? What does that person look like? In this video, Bloomberg News reporter Lizzy O’Leary gives you an example.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

A Handy Trick – PowerPoint Line Breaks

Skilled typographers go nuts when they see poor line breaks in text. Do you know when to add a manual line break? It will make your slides look more professional.

I’m working on my slides for my Sept 28 webinar “Storytelling Secrets for Boardroom Presentations” (Register Here). As you can see, the slide title wraps in PowerPoint, with the last word all by itself on the second line.

I see this a lot on slides, where the slide creator just types until the line wraps naturally. The second line might only be one or two words (these lonely sentence fragments are called orphans) and it looks amateurish.

It doesn’t have to be that way. One rule of good typography is to use manual line breaks to keep key phrases together. In this title, the phrases “Storytelling Secrets” and “Boardroom Presentations” should be kept together.

To add a manual line break, hold down the SHIFT + ENTER keys. This key combination will override the line-spacing and other formatting that usually comes with a manual line break to start a new paragraph. This is a handy trick I use all the time!

What about the word “for”? Does that go on the first line or the second line? The rule of thumb is to think about how you would naturally speak this phrase out loud: Storytelling Secrets for (pause) Boardroom Presentations. Ideally, it should go on the first line, as long as it still looks visually pleasing.

There are lots of reasons to add a manual line break. So keep this tip in mind when you need to:

  • Keep units of measure together, like “$100 million” or “15 miles”
  • Create space on the right for an image
  • Better balance a long line and short line of text

And remember to register for my Sept 28 webinar “Storytelling Secrets for Boardroom Presentations.” I hope to see you there!

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Say It With Charts (Gene Zelazny) Book Review

The ideas in Say It With Charts are simple. So simple, in fact, you’ll actually end up using them. And they will make a huge impact on how to choose which charts you use.

Zelazny introduces you to five different kinds of charts (column chart, line chart, bar chart, pie chart and scatterplot). Then he shows you how to choose the right chart

  1. What is the main message in your chart?
  2. What are the keywords in that message?
  3. Which chart matches those keywords? For instance, if sales are “rising” then that indicates a line chart or column chart. If students is the largest “percentage” of your sales, that suggests a pie chart. Here’s Zelazny’s chart chooser.

There are different variations on each chart. For instance, a bar chart could be a deviation bar chart, a paired bar chart, a sliding bar chart, and so on. Zelazny covers practical issues like data labels, bar colors and when to use dotted lines or arrows to reinforce the graph’s message.

The book includes practice activities and the hand-drawn graphs are a treat to look at.

The second half of the book is less valuable. It includes page after page of concept diagrams and visual metaphors that range from useful (flow charts) to pointless (drawings of office machinery?). The book was originally published in 1985, so perhaps the images are meant to be photocopied and were more relevant before the age of SmartArt. Or perhaps these are simply intended to provide inspiration.

The book actually stumbles badly in the final chapter on PowerPoint slide design, showing some of the worst-looking slides you’ll ever see (yellow text on black background!). To be fair, we’ve learned a lot about slide design since 1985 and PowerPoint’s design tools have gotten better. Perhaps it’s time to refresh this section completely.

Despite the book’s questionable second half, I strongly recommend Say It With Charts. The ideas are simple and it will drastically improve your graphing skills. Ignore the last half of the book. If you like, tear the book in half and throw the second half away. The first half of the book is worth the full price.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

5 Tips for Handling Questions During a Presentation

Questions are a normal part of any presentation, whether you’re leading a workshop, speaking at an industry conference or presenting your marketing plan to an executive.

I’ve scoured the four dusty corners of the web to assemble this awesome list of tips for handling questions like a pro:

1. Program questions into your talk

  • Don’t let questions interrupt your talk and derail you. Instead, program Q&A into your talk. As you transition from one section to the next, ask for questions.
  • With executives especially, expect questions within 5 minutes. To appear like you’re controlling the presentation, ask for questions in the first 3 minutes rather than waiting for them to interrupt you.
  • Don’t end your presentation with Q&A. You’ll end up trailing off with “Well, if there are no more questions, thanks for having me.” Instead, plan a 2 minute wrapup at the end of Q&A so you restate your main points and end with a strong close, like a story or call to action.

2. Don’t ask “Are there any questions?”. Instead ask

  • What questions do you have? “Are there any questions?” is a yes/no question and people are less likely to ask. “What questions do you have?” presumes there most certainly ARE questions to be asked – what are they?
  • Have a question in your back pocket, in case you don’t get any questions. For instance, if you’re met with silence, offer “One question I’m often asked is: how does this work in other cultures” and then answer that.

3. Don’t use the phrase “Great Question!”. It’s condescending (I know, that’s why I asked it) and insults others in the room (what was wrong with MY question?). Instead train yourself to select from this menu of delicious options:

“I am glad that you asked that question.”
“You raise an interesting point.”
“Thank you for asking”
“I wonder how many others in the room have the same question?”
“I was hoping someone would ask that question”
“Your question gives me a chance to … (clarify, emphasize, etc.)”
“Let’s talk about that!”
“That’s a good question because many people wonder if (a relevant point they might not have thought of) and the answer is…”
or my PERSONAL favorite…
“Ah! If I had a million dollars for every time I heard that question!”

 4. Manage the Q&A period well

  • When multiple hands go up, say “I’ll take you first, you second and you third”
  • Repeat the question so others in the room can hear it
  • Ask the person to confirm: is that what you wanted to know?

5. If you expect hecklers or critics

  • Audiences are less likely to be hostile if they like you. Greet them at the door, chat with audience members.
  • Hold Q&A until the end. At the start, say “I only have 30 minutes to speak. I’m going to stay within that timeline but I’ll leave 5 minutes at the end for questions.”
  • To alert hecklers they can’t monopolize the floor, open the Q&A period with “I have 5 minutes for questions. Who would like to go FIRST?”

You may also want to check out the book In the Line of Fire by Jerry Weissman, with his advice for handling questions in high-stakes presentations, like investor pitches and political speeches. I hope some of these tips pay off for you during the Q&A of your next presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.