• Graph Makeover: Dealing with Crossing Lines in Line Graph

  • Posted on February 3, 2016
  • I just learned about #MakeoverMonday, an informal challenge and fun weekly event run by Andy Kriebel and Andy Cotgreave, where people do a graph makeover. This week, they asked, how can we improve this graph (raw data here)? As an educational opportunity, here’s how I approach it.

    Hotel Revenue vs Travel Agents

    1.Crossing lines

    First, we have to be careful about letting lines cross on a dual-axis line graph. Research finds it’s more difficult to understand line graphs when the lines cross over.

    The other problem is that when lines cross, it sends an unintended message that something has shifted. Something that used to be larger is now smaller. That’s not what we’re saying, and yet there is that subtle message out there. And in fact, there is no reason the lines have to cross. Think about it. They are only crossing because of the arbitrary choice of scales. We can change the crossover point by changing the scale.

     

    Slide3

    So, generally avoid having lines that criss-cross like this. Instead, change the scale so the lines never criss-cross, or use a combination bar/line graph, or use two different graphs.

    Slide4

    2. Graph title

    Whatever point you are trying to make, write it out as the graph title. Right now, the graph title tells you what data is being measured, but not what conclusions you should draw. When you leave the point unstated, people may not get it, or may get the wrong idea. So spell it out clearly.

    Slide5

    3. Cause and Effect

    I’m going to use two different graphs. Which one comes first? If you are making a cause-effect statement, as we are, put the cause first and the effect second.

    Slide6

    4. Graph choice

    Now, I could use a line graph because nothing says TREND like a line graph. But I’m actually going to use a bar chart instead. Because I want you to get a sense of something DWINDLING down to nothing so I want there to be substance in the graph.

    Slide75. Color

    With bar graphs, use a soft color for the bars. When you use a dark color, it looks like zebra stripes and creates a moire effect, which is uncomfortable on the eyes. I’m also going to use a positive color for the growth of the online hotel booking revenues and a more negative color for the decline of the travel agents population.

    Slide8

    6. Pictures

    No matter how hard you try, graphs will lack a lot of emotional impact. That’s because they are abstract, and appealing to people emotionally requires something more concrete. Pictures is the missing ingredient.

    In particular, pictures of people give you the most emotional impact. And whenever I create a graph I want to ask myself “Are we talking about people right now?” Because if we’re talking about people, and the impact on people, I want to add pictures of those people.

    In this case, we’re talking about the decline of travel agents (people!). We’re also talking about rising online hotel bookings. But hotel bookings don’t rise by themselves. They rise because someone is doing something (more people!). So I’m going to reflect that through pictures.

    Slide9

    7. Contrast

    One last thing. Storytelling is about contrast. Good versus evil. Life versus death. Loneliness versus love. So if there’s contrast in the story we’re telling, we want to emphasize that. We’ve done that through the use of color (positive green versus negative red) and choice of pictures (happy older couple versus unhappy younger male). I’m going to punctuate that point with arrows (up versus down).

    One blog visitor, Sheila B Robinson, pointed out in the comments section another reason for the arrows: some audience members are color-blind and cannot see certain shades of green and red. The arrows are another cue.

    Another blog visitor, Andy Cotgreave who helps run #MakeoverMonday, also posted a helpful comment that the arrows I originally used are too large (see original here). I agree. I like adding annotations to graphs, like arrows, because they quickly summarize data. But the rule is to make them only as large as they need to be, and no more. And I agree the original arrows were like throwing one too many persons into the lifeboat, so here’s my revised final with smaller arrows. (I’ve also used one of my favorite techniques for titles: using ellipses to join two different graph titles into a coherent story.)

    CrossingLines Final

    Storytelling with graphs is not about accurately visualizing the data. It’s about determining the story in the graphs and then intelligently using design principles to bring that story into our minds and straight through to our hearts. If you want all my techniques for creating clearer, more engaging and more persuasive graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” which I’m hoping to release this year.

    Storytelling with Graphs cover

    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.

  • Could Donald Trump Ever Be President? Graphs Tell the Story.

  • Posted on August 26, 2015
  • Could Donald Trump ever be president of the United States? Recent polls have him the #1 candidate for the Republican party at 22%, 12 points ahead of his closest rival Jeb Bush. Pretty scary.

    The answer is an unqualified no, he’ll never be president. Here’s why.

    When the party chooses a presidential candidate, they want someone with the best chance of winning the election. Hard-core Republicans will vote for any reasonable Republican candidate. And hard-core Democrats will vote against them. So to start, they want a candidate who is popular in the party.

    The more important battle is over independent voters, who make up 43% of all voters. But it’s not favorability they are concerned about, because independents tend to be moderate, easily swayed by good arguments that appeal to their self-interests. No, it’s their level of unfavorability. Which candidates do independent voters hate? Which ones will they oppose and never ever under any circumstances vote for?

    If we look at a history of U.S. presidential elections, we see that the candidates most likely selected to represent their parties are rated high on FAVORABLE by their own party’s voters, and low on UNFAVORABLE by independent voters.

    2008

    In 2008, both the Republicans and Democrats were looking for presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton had the most support from Republican voters. But that didn’t earn her the nomination because she also had the least support among independent voters. And both parties chose the candidate favorable to their own party, and low on unfavorable with independent voters: Obama and McCain. (source)

    2012

    In April 2011, there were 16 presidential candidates. Trump was rated favorable by 58% of Republicans. But he was rated unfavorable by 57% of independents – not electable. Mike Huckabee had the most support from Republican voters, but Mitt Romney had less opposition from independents and was chosen the Republican presidential candidate. (source)

    2016

    And how about this year? Well, the numbers may change as we learn more about the candidates. But as of August 2015, Trump is once again in that quadrant with high Republican support but high opposition among independent voters. In fact, Jeb Bush is in that same quadrant! Even though Trump and Bush are the front-runners right now to get the Republican presidential nomination, it’s very likely that neither one has enough support to win an election.

    So who are the candidates with high Republican support and little objection from independents? They are Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Rand Paul is in the hunt as well. Carly Fiorina could also be a contender if she could get more Republican support; independents have little objection to her. (source)

    And what about the Democratic party? Well, Hillary Clinton is considered the front-runner. But 60% of independent are opposed to her so she may be unelectable. The one with the right balance of support from Democrats and lack of opposition from independent voters is Bernie Sanders. (source) But he’s not a strong candidate, just outside of that magic quadrant. In fact, the Dems don’t seem to have any candidates with the right mix of high party support and low independent voter opposition.

    Things are likely to change before the election. But at this point, my prediction is Bernie Sanders will be selected for the Democrats although he’s not super-popular among Dems. And notorious Tea Party trouble-maker Ted Cruz may actually be popular enough to get the Republican nod. But Trump has virtually no chance of representing the GOP. Check back in 2016 to see if I was right.

    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.

     

  • 6 Steps to a Snazzier Title Slide

  • Posted on June 15, 2015
  • I was watching a YouTube video recently on nutritional supplements (long story!) and saw the speaker had used this title slide. I immediately knew what was wrong with it and how to fix it. So as an educational opportunity, I wanted to share my step-by-step process.

    These types of title slides are common among non-professional designers:

    • Lengthy title that is center-aligned
    • Lengthy speaker biography that is crowded and hard to read
    • Clip art photo slapped artlessly on the page
    • Gradient background (or some template background) for that extra pop!

    It looks amateurish, doesn’t it? And yet, it could look very professional if you know what to look for and how to fix it. Let’s go step-by-step fixing this title slide.

    1. Alignment
    Always pay attention to alignment. That means everything on your slide should share an invisible border with at least one other thing on your slide. Center alignment is a killer because it destroys your alignment. On this slide, nothing really lines up and so everything seems to be slapped on messily.

    I’m always going to align my text on the left. There are some times you can break this rule, but most of the time your slides will immediately look better with left alignment. I’m going to place the picture off to the side for now (we’ll deal with it later).

    2. Text Variety
    Right now the text looks overwhelming to read. That’s because it’s all the same size, so the eye doesn’t know where to land. Instead, we want to give the eye clear landing spots by using variety and contrast in text treatment.

    In the title, for instance, we have four lines of text with no contrast. We can introduce contrast by 1) bolding some keywords and 2) italicizing the emotional words.

    In the biography, we can bold the speaker’s name and make the font larger. The rest of the text we can make smaller, and white, so it whispers.

    There are several calls-to-action in the biography, including two URL’s and a Facebook page. I 0nly want to highlight one of them. Otherwise, they are all competing for attention. I’m going to use a technique where the last line (call-to-action) has the same text treatment as the first line (speaker’s name) like a set of bookends. Finally, we don’t intuitively know what “FB” means, so I’m going to replace that with a Facebook icon.

    Do you see how adding variety to the text treatment makes it easier to read and more visually interesting?

    3. Integrate the Picture
    The presenter is on the right track to add a picture to the title slide. Pictures engage audiences, and especially pictures of people. But its placement is awkward, just wherever there is some blank space on the slide. It looks “bolted on”. Instead, I want it to be integrated more naturally with the page.

    The rule of thumb is I want people to see the picture before looking at the text. There’s a ton of brain research behind this but basically we want to engage people emotionally (picture) before engaging them logically (text). The eye naturally starts in the upper left, so I’m going to place the picture in the upper left. Then it will naturally read left to right to the title.

    I’m also going to rework the title a bit more, adding even more contrast, by making the emotional words smaller and adding some color. See how things really start to pop when you have contrast and variety in your text? See why it’s such a mistake to have all the text the same size and color?

    4. Gradient Box
    There’s a bit of a hard border between the picture and the text. The picture has a white background that ends suddenly. It feels like a harsh transition. One handy tip I like to use is a semi-transparent box that goes from fully transparent on the left to fully dark on the right. I’ve created a video showing how you can make these.

    The effect is to marry the text and picture better. You also have a darker background for the text to stand up against (I turned the larger title text white).

    5. Color
    The layout is better. But now I’m thinking about color. Right now we have a gray background. Gray can be used artfully but it also tends to be a somewhat depressing color. Maybe that’s the mood this speaker wants to set. But since she’s talking about anxiety, worry and food cravings, depressing doesn’t seem to capture it.

    There is a ton of research showing that different colors subtly create different moods in the audience. I want to be more purposeful here. What mood do I want in my audience, and what color can help to set that? You can see how different colors convey different moods:

    Any of these colors creates more of a mood than the gray, and makes the slide look more professional. Any of these colors makes the slide “prettier”. But the choice comes down to: what mood do you want to set?

    • Blue makes you feel calm and that’s not what we’re trying to say.
    • Purple conveys prestige or luxury, again not what we want.
    • Green is also a calming color, and suggests health and growth and vitality. It’s a reasonable choice for a talk about health.
    • Orange makes you feel a bit fidgety, and maybe even a little hungry. Bingo! Anxious and hungry is the topic of our talk, so let’s go with that!

    6. Textured Background
    Most slides have a solid color background, and that’s fine. Some use a gradient fill to add some more polish. Still others go for a template background, which can often be too much.

    But I like to add textured backgrounds. Gradients seem a bit artificial, while textures feel more organic. Gradients seem like you’ve seen them before, while textures feel new and creative.

    There are lots of places to find textures and I created this video showing how to make textured backgrounds. But just go to sites like Pixabay.com or Compfight.com and search for “texture”. Or use a search term like “cloud” or “paint” or “sand” or “water” to get some interesting photos with texture.

    I found this texture at Pixabay.com and just recolored it using Picture Tools > Format > Color in PowerPoint. There’s a sense of chaos in the randomness that reinforces the idea of anxiety, panic and worry that complements this presentation’s topic.

    By the way, Pixabay is my favorite new site for finding pictures because they have lots of high-quality pictures, you can use them free even for commercial purposes and — best of all — you don’t even have to add the author’s attribution. You do have the option to pay the author, but it’s voluntary.

    Good luck with your presentations and check out my book Speaking PowerPoint if you found this useful! Or, if you want your staff to learn to use PowerPoint this well, consider having me in to conduct an onsite workshop.

    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.

  • Does the NFL Have a Concussion Problem? Graphs Tell the Story.

  • Posted on March 23, 2015
  • Chris Borland made headlines last week when he announced, after one year in the NFL, he was retiring because the risk of concussions was too great. It was especially pertinent given March 2105 is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The NFL responded that “football has never been safer“.

    And that got me thinking. How BAD is the concussion problem in the NFL? Is the risk too great, as Borland says? Or is it relatively safe, as the NFL wants us to believe?

    But first, let’s appreciate what it means to suffer a concussion.

     

    The long-term complications from concussions can include chronic migraines,  fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, seizures, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and depression, often leading to suicidal thoughts. One of the example is Andre Waters, a safety with the Philadelphia Eagles known for his punishing tackles, who shot himself at the age of 44, a few years after retiring from the NFL. Examiners studied his brain tissue and found it was like that of an 85 year-old dementia patient. Other studies have found that 76 of 79 brains of deceased NFL players also showed signs of the same degeneration. However, the NFL has always denied there is a proven connection between concussions and later brain degeneration.

    Let’s start with the NFL’s position. They say that over the past three years, the number of concussions has been decreasing. And the data show they are right.

    NFL Concussions are declining since 2012 But hold on. Whenever you look at timeline data, always be skeptical of the starting date. Because the story can change based on your starting date. If we go back to 2009, the first year PBS Concussion Watch started tracking official injury reports, we see that the concussion problem got progressively worse until 2012, and it is now abating. So, the NFL’s story is true, but only half of the story. (note: NFL reports different numbers than Concussion Watch).

    NFL concussions 2009-2014

    But are these numbers good? Is 111 concussions in the NFL too high? Or “safe”? There are 32 teams and 53 players per team, for a total of 1,696 players. If 111 get a concussion, that’s 6.5%. That seems pretty low, I guess.

    But it turns out that the chances of getting a concussion are different based on your position. In 2014, only 2% of quarterbacks got a concussion. But 14% of cornerbacks. 2% seems pretty low. 14% seems kinda high to me.

    In fact, if you look at the trends by position, you see the percentage has decreased for offensive players, especially running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. That’s in part because of the NFL’s new rules protecting ball carriers from vicious tackles, especially helmet-to-helmet. But they have stayed stubbornly high for defensive players, especially cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.

    NFL concussions, by position 2012-2014

    This shows the percentage chance of getting a concussion in a single season. But what if you have a 10-year career? Clearly, the chances of getting a concussion sometime during your career will be higher the longer you play.

    Chance of NFL concussion, by length of career

    Most players don’t last 10 years. According to the NFL, the average NFL career is 6 years. So, assuming you are a rookie starting in the NFL, what is the chance you will get a concussion sometime during your 6-year career? The numbers are more sobering.

    Chance of concussion during 6-year NFL career

    Now we see the true extent of the NFL’s concussion problem. For the “speed positions” (the fastest players on the field), and especially those involved in the passing game, at least one-in-three will get a concussion during their career. If you are brave enough to be a cornerback or safety, one of every two players will get at least one concussion during their career.

    So does the NFL have a concussion problem? That’s a normative question, based on what you think is “normal”.

    But put the question this way: imagine there was a paint, and if you were exposed to it long enough there’s a 35% chance that the rest of your life will be complicated by depression, early-onset Alzheimer’s and suicidal thoughts. Would the government allow you to pain the walls of your workplace with this stuff?

    Not likely. I’d say the NFL does have a concussion problem.

     

    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.

  • PowerPoint Clip Art is Dead. Now What?

  • Posted on February 16, 2015
  • In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery. Now when you insert clip art in PowerPoint, the program searches Bing Images and delivers pictures that have been tagged with a creative commons license.

    There is some upside. Bing Images can find hundreds of thousands of pictures for any search term, dwarfing the size of the clip art gallery. And the internet adds a bazillion new pictures every day while the clip art gallery grows stale. So the thinking was good.

    But there’s several problems, which will change how we insert clip art forever

    1. You mostly get photographs, even if you try to filer on just “Illustrations”. Try it. Search “handshake” and limit to Illustrations only. You’ll primarily get photographs.
    2. There are no vector images in Bing Image search. Vector images are made up of many shapes (lines, squares, circles) that are grouped together. If you want to edit an image, you can’t do it with the Bing Image results.
    3. It’s a lot more work to verify the license for each picture. Now when you insert an image, you need to go back to the source website to verify the license. Do you need to add attribution? Who gets the attribution? Can you use it commercially? Every image becomes a fact-checker’s nightmare.

    So this means we need to have some new habits when we insert images in PowerPoint.

    1. Add “clip art” to your search term. If you search “shaking hands” you’ll get mostly photographs, even if you filter on Illustrations. That’s because Bing Images doesn’t know how to recognize PowerPoint’s filters yet. So if you want to limit to just Illustrations, search “shaking hands clip art” and Bing will look for images tagged as clip art.

     

    2. Find other sources for clip art. There are lots of sites that give free clip art. Just search “free clip art” and you’ll find sites like ClipArts 101 and Clipart.co, which might be free but don’t have the highest quality images to choose from. Noun Project is a favorite of many designers for its extensive set of high quality and free icons.

     

    3. Use installed fonts instead of pictures. There are lots of fonts built into PowerPoint that will give you small images. Check out this blog post on how to use the Wingdings and Webdings fonts to make small icons.

     

    4. Install free symbol fonts. Search any font website for free symbol fonts and install them on your computer. Some of my favorite sites for free fonts are DaFont, Font Squirrel and Font Space.

     

    5. Unclick “Include Office.com Content”. In my version of PowerPoint 2010, I can still access a small portion of the clip art gallery. But I need to unclick “Include Office.com Content” or else it will search Bing Images. If I unclick it, Bing Images doesn’t get searched and I can scrape around in what remains of the clip art gallery.

     

    6. Quick – hoard all your vectors! Scrounge around in the remaining clip art gallery and save those vectors. They may be gone soon. In addition, go through all your existing PowerPoint decks and save all your vectors into a central place. Pillage any deck you receive and loot all the vectors. You may need them some day!

     

    7. Download this set of vectors. I did steps #5 and #6 and saved 150 pieces of vector clip art. Enjoy!

     

    8. Search for WMF files. WFM (Windows MetaFile) files are one easy-to-use format for vector images. So add “WMF” to your search terms. For instance, “shaking hands WMF” will return tons of editable vector images on Google Images. You’ll have to download the images to your desktop and then insert them as pictures (not clip art) so it’s a laborious multi-step process. Add them to your master deck!

     

    Verifying the license is the biggest problem of all. Who wants to snoop around a poorly constructed website looking in vain for clear license rights, and clear attribution instructions. Sheesh!

    Perhaps Microsoft can work on fixing these problems to truly make the clip art feature more valuable by connecting it to Bing Images, and not less.

    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.

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I just learned about #MakeoverMonday, an informal challenge and fun weekly event run by Andy Kriebel and Andy Cotgreave, where people do a graph makeover. This week, they asked, how can we improve this graph (raw data here)? As an educational opportunity, here’s how I approach it.

Hotel Revenue vs Travel Agents

1.Crossing lines

First, we have to be careful about letting lines cross on a dual-axis line graph. Research finds it’s more difficult to understand line graphs when the lines cross over.

The other problem is that when lines cross, it sends an unintended message that something has shifted. Something that used to be larger is now smaller. That’s not what we’re saying, and yet there is that subtle message out there. And in fact, there is no reason the lines have to cross. Think about it. They are only crossing because of the arbitrary choice of scales. We can change the crossover point by changing the scale.

 

Slide3

So, generally avoid having lines that criss-cross like this. Instead, change the scale so the lines never criss-cross, or use a combination bar/line graph, or use two different graphs.

Slide4

2. Graph title

Whatever point you are trying to make, write it out as the graph title. Right now, the graph title tells you what data is being measured, but not what conclusions you should draw. When you leave the point unstated, people may not get it, or may get the wrong idea. So spell it out clearly.

Slide5

3. Cause and Effect

I’m going to use two different graphs. Which one comes first? If you are making a cause-effect statement, as we are, put the cause first and the effect second.

Slide6

4. Graph choice

Now, I could use a line graph because nothing says TREND like a line graph. But I’m actually going to use a bar chart instead. Because I want you to get a sense of something DWINDLING down to nothing so I want there to be substance in the graph.

Slide75. Color

With bar graphs, use a soft color for the bars. When you use a dark color, it looks like zebra stripes and creates a moire effect, which is uncomfortable on the eyes. I’m also going to use a positive color for the growth of the online hotel booking revenues and a more negative color for the decline of the travel agents population.

Slide8

6. Pictures

No matter how hard you try, graphs will lack a lot of emotional impact. That’s because they are abstract, and appealing to people emotionally requires something more concrete. Pictures is the missing ingredient.

In particular, pictures of people give you the most emotional impact. And whenever I create a graph I want to ask myself “Are we talking about people right now?” Because if we’re talking about people, and the impact on people, I want to add pictures of those people.

In this case, we’re talking about the decline of travel agents (people!). We’re also talking about rising online hotel bookings. But hotel bookings don’t rise by themselves. They rise because someone is doing something (more people!). So I’m going to reflect that through pictures.

Slide9

7. Contrast

One last thing. Storytelling is about contrast. Good versus evil. Life versus death. Loneliness versus love. So if there’s contrast in the story we’re telling, we want to emphasize that. We’ve done that through the use of color (positive green versus negative red) and choice of pictures (happy older couple versus unhappy younger male). I’m going to punctuate that point with arrows (up versus down).

One blog visitor, Sheila B Robinson, pointed out in the comments section another reason for the arrows: some audience members are color-blind and cannot see certain shades of green and red. The arrows are another cue.

Another blog visitor, Andy Cotgreave who helps run #MakeoverMonday, also posted a helpful comment that the arrows I originally used are too large (see original here). I agree. I like adding annotations to graphs, like arrows, because they quickly summarize data. But the rule is to make them only as large as they need to be, and no more. And I agree the original arrows were like throwing one too many persons into the lifeboat, so here’s my revised final with smaller arrows. (I’ve also used one of my favorite techniques for titles: using ellipses to join two different graph titles into a coherent story.)

CrossingLines Final

Storytelling with graphs is not about accurately visualizing the data. It’s about determining the story in the graphs and then intelligently using design principles to bring that story into our minds and straight through to our hearts. If you want all my techniques for creating clearer, more engaging and more persuasive graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” which I’m hoping to release this year.

Storytelling with Graphs cover

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.

Could Donald Trump ever be president of the United States? Recent polls have him the #1 candidate for the Republican party at 22%, 12 points ahead of his closest rival Jeb Bush. Pretty scary.

The answer is an unqualified no, he’ll never be president. Here’s why.

When the party chooses a presidential candidate, they want someone with the best chance of winning the election. Hard-core Republicans will vote for any reasonable Republican candidate. And hard-core Democrats will vote against them. So to start, they want a candidate who is popular in the party.

The more important battle is over independent voters, who make up 43% of all voters. But it’s not favorability they are concerned about, because independents tend to be moderate, easily swayed by good arguments that appeal to their self-interests. No, it’s their level of unfavorability. Which candidates do independent voters hate? Which ones will they oppose and never ever under any circumstances vote for?

If we look at a history of U.S. presidential elections, we see that the candidates most likely selected to represent their parties are rated high on FAVORABLE by their own party’s voters, and low on UNFAVORABLE by independent voters.

2008

In 2008, both the Republicans and Democrats were looking for presidential candidates. Hillary Clinton had the most support from Republican voters. But that didn’t earn her the nomination because she also had the least support among independent voters. And both parties chose the candidate favorable to their own party, and low on unfavorable with independent voters: Obama and McCain. (source)

2012

In April 2011, there were 16 presidential candidates. Trump was rated favorable by 58% of Republicans. But he was rated unfavorable by 57% of independents – not electable. Mike Huckabee had the most support from Republican voters, but Mitt Romney had less opposition from independents and was chosen the Republican presidential candidate. (source)

2016

And how about this year? Well, the numbers may change as we learn more about the candidates. But as of August 2015, Trump is once again in that quadrant with high Republican support but high opposition among independent voters. In fact, Jeb Bush is in that same quadrant! Even though Trump and Bush are the front-runners right now to get the Republican presidential nomination, it’s very likely that neither one has enough support to win an election.

So who are the candidates with high Republican support and little objection from independents? They are Ted Cruz, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio. Rand Paul is in the hunt as well. Carly Fiorina could also be a contender if she could get more Republican support; independents have little objection to her. (source)

And what about the Democratic party? Well, Hillary Clinton is considered the front-runner. But 60% of independent are opposed to her so she may be unelectable. The one with the right balance of support from Democrats and lack of opposition from independent voters is Bernie Sanders. (source) But he’s not a strong candidate, just outside of that magic quadrant. In fact, the Dems don’t seem to have any candidates with the right mix of high party support and low independent voter opposition.

Things are likely to change before the election. But at this point, my prediction is Bernie Sanders will be selected for the Democrats although he’s not super-popular among Dems. And notorious Tea Party trouble-maker Ted Cruz may actually be popular enough to get the Republican nod. But Trump has virtually no chance of representing the GOP. Check back in 2016 to see if I was right.

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.

 

I was watching a YouTube video recently on nutritional supplements (long story!) and saw the speaker had used this title slide. I immediately knew what was wrong with it and how to fix it. So as an educational opportunity, I wanted to share my step-by-step process.

These types of title slides are common among non-professional designers:

  • Lengthy title that is center-aligned
  • Lengthy speaker biography that is crowded and hard to read
  • Clip art photo slapped artlessly on the page
  • Gradient background (or some template background) for that extra pop!

It looks amateurish, doesn’t it? And yet, it could look very professional if you know what to look for and how to fix it. Let’s go step-by-step fixing this title slide.

1. Alignment
Always pay attention to alignment. That means everything on your slide should share an invisible border with at least one other thing on your slide. Center alignment is a killer because it destroys your alignment. On this slide, nothing really lines up and so everything seems to be slapped on messily.

I’m always going to align my text on the left. There are some times you can break this rule, but most of the time your slides will immediately look better with left alignment. I’m going to place the picture off to the side for now (we’ll deal with it later).

2. Text Variety
Right now the text looks overwhelming to read. That’s because it’s all the same size, so the eye doesn’t know where to land. Instead, we want to give the eye clear landing spots by using variety and contrast in text treatment.

In the title, for instance, we have four lines of text with no contrast. We can introduce contrast by 1) bolding some keywords and 2) italicizing the emotional words.

In the biography, we can bold the speaker’s name and make the font larger. The rest of the text we can make smaller, and white, so it whispers.

There are several calls-to-action in the biography, including two URL’s and a Facebook page. I 0nly want to highlight one of them. Otherwise, they are all competing for attention. I’m going to use a technique where the last line (call-to-action) has the same text treatment as the first line (speaker’s name) like a set of bookends. Finally, we don’t intuitively know what “FB” means, so I’m going to replace that with a Facebook icon.

Do you see how adding variety to the text treatment makes it easier to read and more visually interesting?

3. Integrate the Picture
The presenter is on the right track to add a picture to the title slide. Pictures engage audiences, and especially pictures of people. But its placement is awkward, just wherever there is some blank space on the slide. It looks “bolted on”. Instead, I want it to be integrated more naturally with the page.

The rule of thumb is I want people to see the picture before looking at the text. There’s a ton of brain research behind this but basically we want to engage people emotionally (picture) before engaging them logically (text). The eye naturally starts in the upper left, so I’m going to place the picture in the upper left. Then it will naturally read left to right to the title.

I’m also going to rework the title a bit more, adding even more contrast, by making the emotional words smaller and adding some color. See how things really start to pop when you have contrast and variety in your text? See why it’s such a mistake to have all the text the same size and color?

4. Gradient Box
There’s a bit of a hard border between the picture and the text. The picture has a white background that ends suddenly. It feels like a harsh transition. One handy tip I like to use is a semi-transparent box that goes from fully transparent on the left to fully dark on the right. I’ve created a video showing how you can make these.

The effect is to marry the text and picture better. You also have a darker background for the text to stand up against (I turned the larger title text white).

5. Color
The layout is better. But now I’m thinking about color. Right now we have a gray background. Gray can be used artfully but it also tends to be a somewhat depressing color. Maybe that’s the mood this speaker wants to set. But since she’s talking about anxiety, worry and food cravings, depressing doesn’t seem to capture it.

There is a ton of research showing that different colors subtly create different moods in the audience. I want to be more purposeful here. What mood do I want in my audience, and what color can help to set that? You can see how different colors convey different moods:

Any of these colors creates more of a mood than the gray, and makes the slide look more professional. Any of these colors makes the slide “prettier”. But the choice comes down to: what mood do you want to set?

  • Blue makes you feel calm and that’s not what we’re trying to say.
  • Purple conveys prestige or luxury, again not what we want.
  • Green is also a calming color, and suggests health and growth and vitality. It’s a reasonable choice for a talk about health.
  • Orange makes you feel a bit fidgety, and maybe even a little hungry. Bingo! Anxious and hungry is the topic of our talk, so let’s go with that!

6. Textured Background
Most slides have a solid color background, and that’s fine. Some use a gradient fill to add some more polish. Still others go for a template background, which can often be too much.

But I like to add textured backgrounds. Gradients seem a bit artificial, while textures feel more organic. Gradients seem like you’ve seen them before, while textures feel new and creative.

There are lots of places to find textures and I created this video showing how to make textured backgrounds. But just go to sites like Pixabay.com or Compfight.com and search for “texture”. Or use a search term like “cloud” or “paint” or “sand” or “water” to get some interesting photos with texture.

I found this texture at Pixabay.com and just recolored it using Picture Tools > Format > Color in PowerPoint. There’s a sense of chaos in the randomness that reinforces the idea of anxiety, panic and worry that complements this presentation’s topic.

By the way, Pixabay is my favorite new site for finding pictures because they have lots of high-quality pictures, you can use them free even for commercial purposes and — best of all — you don’t even have to add the author’s attribution. You do have the option to pay the author, but it’s voluntary.

Good luck with your presentations and check out my book Speaking PowerPoint if you found this useful! Or, if you want your staff to learn to use PowerPoint this well, consider having me in to conduct an onsite workshop.

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.

Chris Borland made headlines last week when he announced, after one year in the NFL, he was retiring because the risk of concussions was too great. It was especially pertinent given March 2105 is Brain Injury Awareness Month. The NFL responded that “football has never been safer“.

And that got me thinking. How BAD is the concussion problem in the NFL? Is the risk too great, as Borland says? Or is it relatively safe, as the NFL wants us to believe?

But first, let’s appreciate what it means to suffer a concussion.

 

The long-term complications from concussions can include chronic migraines,  fuzzy thinking, forgetfulness, seizures, early-onset Alzheimer’s, and depression, often leading to suicidal thoughts. One of the example is Andre Waters, a safety with the Philadelphia Eagles known for his punishing tackles, who shot himself at the age of 44, a few years after retiring from the NFL. Examiners studied his brain tissue and found it was like that of an 85 year-old dementia patient. Other studies have found that 76 of 79 brains of deceased NFL players also showed signs of the same degeneration. However, the NFL has always denied there is a proven connection between concussions and later brain degeneration.

Let’s start with the NFL’s position. They say that over the past three years, the number of concussions has been decreasing. And the data show they are right.

NFL Concussions are declining since 2012 But hold on. Whenever you look at timeline data, always be skeptical of the starting date. Because the story can change based on your starting date. If we go back to 2009, the first year PBS Concussion Watch started tracking official injury reports, we see that the concussion problem got progressively worse until 2012, and it is now abating. So, the NFL’s story is true, but only half of the story. (note: NFL reports different numbers than Concussion Watch).

NFL concussions 2009-2014

But are these numbers good? Is 111 concussions in the NFL too high? Or “safe”? There are 32 teams and 53 players per team, for a total of 1,696 players. If 111 get a concussion, that’s 6.5%. That seems pretty low, I guess.

But it turns out that the chances of getting a concussion are different based on your position. In 2014, only 2% of quarterbacks got a concussion. But 14% of cornerbacks. 2% seems pretty low. 14% seems kinda high to me.

In fact, if you look at the trends by position, you see the percentage has decreased for offensive players, especially running backs, tight ends and wide receivers. That’s in part because of the NFL’s new rules protecting ball carriers from vicious tackles, especially helmet-to-helmet. But they have stayed stubbornly high for defensive players, especially cornerbacks, safeties and linebackers.

NFL concussions, by position 2012-2014

This shows the percentage chance of getting a concussion in a single season. But what if you have a 10-year career? Clearly, the chances of getting a concussion sometime during your career will be higher the longer you play.

Chance of NFL concussion, by length of career

Most players don’t last 10 years. According to the NFL, the average NFL career is 6 years. So, assuming you are a rookie starting in the NFL, what is the chance you will get a concussion sometime during your 6-year career? The numbers are more sobering.

Chance of concussion during 6-year NFL career

Now we see the true extent of the NFL’s concussion problem. For the “speed positions” (the fastest players on the field), and especially those involved in the passing game, at least one-in-three will get a concussion during their career. If you are brave enough to be a cornerback or safety, one of every two players will get at least one concussion during their career.

So does the NFL have a concussion problem? That’s a normative question, based on what you think is “normal”.

But put the question this way: imagine there was a paint, and if you were exposed to it long enough there’s a 35% chance that the rest of your life will be complicated by depression, early-onset Alzheimer’s and suicidal thoughts. Would the government allow you to pain the walls of your workplace with this stuff?

Not likely. I’d say the NFL does have a concussion problem.

 

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.

In December 2014, Microsoft retired its clip art gallery. Now when you insert clip art in PowerPoint, the program searches Bing Images and delivers pictures that have been tagged with a creative commons license.

There is some upside. Bing Images can find hundreds of thousands of pictures for any search term, dwarfing the size of the clip art gallery. And the internet adds a bazillion new pictures every day while the clip art gallery grows stale. So the thinking was good.

But there’s several problems, which will change how we insert clip art forever

  1. You mostly get photographs, even if you try to filer on just “Illustrations”. Try it. Search “handshake” and limit to Illustrations only. You’ll primarily get photographs.
  2. There are no vector images in Bing Image search. Vector images are made up of many shapes (lines, squares, circles) that are grouped together. If you want to edit an image, you can’t do it with the Bing Image results.
  3. It’s a lot more work to verify the license for each picture. Now when you insert an image, you need to go back to the source website to verify the license. Do you need to add attribution? Who gets the attribution? Can you use it commercially? Every image becomes a fact-checker’s nightmare.

So this means we need to have some new habits when we insert images in PowerPoint.

1. Add “clip art” to your search term. If you search “shaking hands” you’ll get mostly photographs, even if you filter on Illustrations. That’s because Bing Images doesn’t know how to recognize PowerPoint’s filters yet. So if you want to limit to just Illustrations, search “shaking hands clip art” and Bing will look for images tagged as clip art.

 

2. Find other sources for clip art. There are lots of sites that give free clip art. Just search “free clip art” and you’ll find sites like ClipArts 101 and Clipart.co, which might be free but don’t have the highest quality images to choose from. Noun Project is a favorite of many designers for its extensive set of high quality and free icons.

 

3. Use installed fonts instead of pictures. There are lots of fonts built into PowerPoint that will give you small images. Check out this blog post on how to use the Wingdings and Webdings fonts to make small icons.

 

4. Install free symbol fonts. Search any font website for free symbol fonts and install them on your computer. Some of my favorite sites for free fonts are DaFont, Font Squirrel and Font Space.

 

5. Unclick “Include Office.com Content”. In my version of PowerPoint 2010, I can still access a small portion of the clip art gallery. But I need to unclick “Include Office.com Content” or else it will search Bing Images. If I unclick it, Bing Images doesn’t get searched and I can scrape around in what remains of the clip art gallery.

 

6. Quick – hoard all your vectors! Scrounge around in the remaining clip art gallery and save those vectors. They may be gone soon. In addition, go through all your existing PowerPoint decks and save all your vectors into a central place. Pillage any deck you receive and loot all the vectors. You may need them some day!

 

7. Download this set of vectors. I did steps #5 and #6 and saved 150 pieces of vector clip art. Enjoy!

 

8. Search for WMF files. WFM (Windows MetaFile) files are one easy-to-use format for vector images. So add “WMF” to your search terms. For instance, “shaking hands WMF” will return tons of editable vector images on Google Images. You’ll have to download the images to your desktop and then insert them as pictures (not clip art) so it’s a laborious multi-step process. Add them to your master deck!

 

Verifying the license is the biggest problem of all. Who wants to snoop around a poorly constructed website looking in vain for clear license rights, and clear attribution instructions. Sheesh!

Perhaps Microsoft can work on fixing these problems to truly make the clip art feature more valuable by connecting it to Bing Images, and not less.

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.