5 Tips for Building Slides to Impress Any Executive

exec meeting

An executive sponsor can make or break your project — and often your career. Impressing an exec starts with understanding how they are different: smarter, more impatient, more demanding than regular audiences.

It’s easy to drive an exec crazy with poor PowerPoint slides. But it’s equally easy to impress an exec with PowerPoint slides that respect their need for speed.

get to point fast

Here are five tips to help you make an impressive slide deck for your next executive presentation.

1. Go in with 3 points. You should be able to do your entire presentation on slide 1. What three points will you cover in today’s meeting? Expect that the executive will hijack the meeting, talk and ask questions for most of it. It doesn’t matter. You could do your entire presentation on slide 1. If the executive wants more details and evidence, move into the rest of the deck.

2. Short decks. Execs are impatient, want to get to the point quickly and are more interested in the key issues than the details. So aim to keep the deck super-short. 2-3 slides is not too short for an exec. Keep the “thunk factor” in mind: thick decks are the bane of a busy exec’s existence. Be prepared to answer any of the exec’s follow up questions with appendix material.

3. Concise text. Execs think fast, process fast, hate having their time wasted, so write text to enable speed-reading. Use short phrases and elaborate on them verbally. Don’t put full sentences on slides — it slows the exec down.

4. Diagrams. In the same way, diagrams also help execs to speed-read. Diagrams, flow charts, timelines, maps are great ways to give the exec context on the entire situation quickly. And they like that. Look for ways to convert text into diagrams that show how all the parts fit together.

5. Pay attention to slide hygiene. Executives have high standards — for themselves and others — and these things drive them absolutely crazy: spelling errors, grammatical errors, inconsistent punctuation (periods at the end of sentences or not? Pick ONE), Inconsistent capitalization in Slide titles, different bullets points on different slides, random fonts. Pay attention to these little details because the exec is.

The regular rules for building slides go out the window when you’re presenting to execs. Keep in mind their unique need for speed and build slides that will impress them. It will pay off in turning an executive into a sponsor who can have a significant impact on the success of your project — and your career.

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.

Trump or Cruz: Who Will Win the GOP Nomination? Graphs Tell the Story.

After Super Tuesday 2.0, Trump looks like the runaway leader with 673 delegates – 260 more than his closest rival Cruz. Does this mean Trump is the most likely nominee? Or does Rubio’s exit from the race now make Cruz the most likely nominee?

Interestingly enough, there’s a higher chance Cruz will end up with more delegates than Trump at this point. But it all hinges on what happens in Arizona and Utah on March 22.

Utah: Cruz May Take it All
Utah will be a closed caucus, where Trump tends to lose. February polls show Trump with only 18% support behind Cruz (22%) and Rubio (24%). If the caucus winner gets more than 50% they will win all of Utah’s delegates. Utah also has a large Mormon population and is a big Romney supporter, and Utah is where Romney announced his anti-Trump campaign.

The polls were taken way back in Feb 10-15, when Carson, Bush and Fiorina were still in the race, and a lot has changed since then, but the writing is clearly on the wall: Utah is no fan of Trump. All indications are Cruz will win Utah, and may even pass the 50% hurdle and take home all 40 delegates.

Arizona: Could Go Either Way
In Arizona, Trump leads the polls with 31% vs 19% for Cruz, 10% for Rubio, 10% for Kasich and 30% undecided. Looks like a sure Trump route, right? But 10% of voters supported Rubio. Where will they vote now? Two studies found that about 50% of Rubio’s supporters would vote for Cruz and 13% would vote for Trump. If we re-allocate Rubio’s supporters, the polls are more like 32% Trump, 24% Cruz and 13% Kasich. So Rubio dropping out will help Cruz more than Trump.

30% are undecided. But from exit polls we know that late-deciders generally don’t go for Trump. On average, 25% go for Trump and about 50% go for Cruz. That means the polls will be 39% Trump, 39% Cruz. It will be a hotly contested contest in Arizona and could go either way.

New Delegate Math
If Cruz wins both Arizona and Utah, the delegate counts will be Trump 673, Cruz 509. With 969 delegates remaining, Trump will need to win 58% and Cruz will need to win 75% to amass 1,237 delegates. Both will be a stretch. Kasich is the wild card, siphoning off the anti-Trump supporters.

Now, there’s still some wiggle room because there will be about 150 delegates from various state conventions and caucuses who are “unbound” and able to vote for any delegate, so Cruz and Trump will be angling for them to help them over the finish line. And even among the delegates each candidate has won, many of those candidates are “unbound” and don’t have to vote for the candidate who won them. We also don’t yet have all the delegates counted from Missouri and Illinois.

But here’s the fun part – Cruz doesn’t have to get 1,237 delegates. He just needs to get more than Trump, or close enough to make the argument. For instance, if Trump finishes with 1,050 delegates and Cruz finishes with 1,010, Trump can’t really argue that he deserves the nomination because he has the most delegates. Both candidates fell short but they were basically tied.

Let’s assume Kasich wins 50 of the remaining 969 delegates (5%). If Trump and Cruz split the remaining delegates, Trump will end with 1,100 delegates and Cruz with 920. If Cruz wins 56% of the remaining delegates, he and Trump will tie at 1,049 delegates.

Anything over 56% and Cruz will have more delegates than Trump. And 56% is not a stretch if you assume Trump’s support is capped at about 40% and Cruz can win most of the remaining winner-take-all and winner-take-most states.

Rubio and Kasich Delegates
If Cruz and Trump enter the convention about 200 delegates short of the majority, now they can start negotiating with the unbound delegates, which may or may not be enough.

Rubio and Kasich delegates are bound to them for the first round, but not the second round. If they still can’t get to a majority in the first round, in the second round they can look for Rubio or Kasich to support their candidacy and encourage their delegates to vote for one of them. Look for Kasich or Rubio to use their delegates as leverage for the vice president nomination.

And if you like my graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” due out later 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.

Does Trump have Enough Momentum after Super Tuesday? Graphs Tell the Story

Trump is on a high after winning 7 states on Super Tuesday and now leads the GOP race. But does he have enough momentum to win 1,237 delegates?

Actually, he doesn’t. Look, he only won 42% of the delegates on Super Tuesday while Cruz won 37% – pretty close. In 2012, Romney won 54% of the Super Tuesday delegates. In 2008, McCain won 57% of them. In fact, Trump only won 34% of the popular vote compared to Romney’s 41% in 2008. So Trump doesn’t stack up too well with recent history.

Slide2And Trump currently has 46% of all delegates, still shy of the 50%  he needs to clinch the nomination. But in 2012, Romney held 50% of all delegates by Super Tuesday, and in 2008 McCain held 54%. Trump does not have the same momentum Romney and McCain had with GOP voters.

Slide3In fact, Trump has proven to be very beatable. He does well in states that hold open primaries, where Independents and Democrats are allowed to vote in the GOP race. He’s won 10 of 11 times there (4 by just a few percentage points). But in states that hold closed primaries or caucuses, where only registered Republicans can vote, Trump is only 1 for 5.

Slide5There are 1,682 delegates left in 8 caucuses, 17 closed primaries and 14 open primaries. If Trump continues to do well in open primaries, including winning key winner-take-all states, but not in closed primaries or caucuses (even winning Florida and Ohio), I project he will fall short of the 1,237 goal. In fact, 3 delegates from each state are “unbound” and can elect to vote for whichever candidate they want at the Republican convention.


So, it appears Trump simply doesn’t have enough momentum to propel him over the 50% goal line. This will end up a brokered convention and we might even see Jeb! Bush and Scott Walker back in play. Tune in to see if my projections were right.

And if you like my graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” due out later 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.

Who are the Internet Bandwidth Hogs? Graphs Tell the Story on #MakeoverMonday

The latest #MakeoverMonday challenges us to visualize this data, showing who is using up all the internet bandwidth. I teach storytelling with graphs in my full-day workshop, and will be releasing a book soon sharing all my secrets for creating clearer and more engaging graphs. As an educational opportunity, I wanted to tackle this data set.


1. What’s the story?
The first step to visualizing data is always going to be: what’s the story? There are actually lots of options here but I’m most interested in the fact that the top two bandwidth hogs are Netflix and YouTube – video streaming services. In fact, we also see Amazon Video Services is #4 and Hulu is #7. So we can summarize the main point as “streaming video makes up 61% of internet traffic”. And we’re going to put that summary in the graph title.


2. What does this look like?
One of the questions I begin asking upfront is “what does this look like in real life?” Because that will suggest the type of graph or table that will bring the data to life. Storytelling with graphs is not about just visualizing data. It’s choosing graphs and other design elements that make the data look more like the real event being measured.

In this case, I’m already visualizing in my head an internet pipe carrying data broken into different lanes. Each lane’s width could represent each data series, showing size by the width of the lane. To finish the look, I’ll add a transmission tower on the left and a house on the right. Now we’ve peeled the lid off the data and are peering down into the actual thing being measured…internet traffic.

Slide43. Highlighting
We want to draw attention to certain parts of the graph so we use darker colors for the slices that represent streaming video services. We also use larger and bolder fonts for the largest sections. Everything else stays gray so it whispers in the background. It’s readable, but not calling attention to itself.

Slide54. Logos
We’re using the icons of the transmission tower and house. But I also want to use the logos for the video streaming services. Logos have emotional impact, especially logos we associate with fun and enjoyment. Many people feel excited when they watch Netflix start up on their TV or computer, and we can harness those emotions by using the logo. Similar feelings might be embedded in the YouTube, Amazon and Hulu logos. The logos also act like signposts, directing the reader’s attention to where we want them to look.

Slide65. Color
I could use any color for the highlighting. But I’m going to use the exact red you find in the Netflix logo. Fortunately, it also matches the YouTube logo pretty closely. How did I get the exact color match? By using a free software tool called Color Cop.

Slide76. Motion
Finally, I want to really give the impression of internet traffic flowing left to right, and not just a stacked bar chart. That reinforces the idea of bandwidth traffic. So I create an impression of the shape bending forward. I did this by adding a triangle, filling it in with white and then removing the outline, like this.

Slide8And voila! Here is our finished graph!

Slide9Storytelling with graphs is more than just visualizing data. It’s bringing the data to life in a way that engages the audience and encourages understanding and discussion. Look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” which should be released in the next few months. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get an email when it’s available.

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.

Will Trump Win GOP Primary Race? Graphs Tell the Story.

Trump was narrowly defeated in Iowa, where he was the favorite just days before the election. Cruz won (some say “stole”) and Rubio surged into a breathing-down-your-neck third place. The actual vote was quite different than the polls predicted. What happened?

Iowa polls versus resultsThis is an important question because if the polls were wrong about Trump winning Iowa, could they be wrong about Trump winning in New Hampshire, and perhaps even the GOP presidential nomination?

One part of the explanation is late-deciders, those voters who don’t make a decision until the week before the vote, or even the day of the vote. Oh, if a researcher calls and asks who they favor, they will give an answer. But some are not committed to that answer all the way through to the voting booth. They change their minds.

Surveys find anywhere from 25% to 45% of voters are still undecided a week before they vote. In 2012 entrance/exit polls (NY Times, CNN), researchers asked people as they were going into the vote (or leaving) “when did you make your decision?”. On average, 32% of voters made their decision THAT WEEK.


Yikes! So there are a lot of people who answer polls months before they vote, but don’t stick with their choice on election day. They don’t decide until the last minute.

In Iowa, we see that nearly ONE HALF of voters didn’t make their choice until the week before the election. And the later they decided, the less likely they were to vote for Trump. Instead, they tended to favor Rubio (28%) and Cruz (22%). Of those who decided in the last week, only 15% selected Trump.


That makes sense, doesn’t it? Many studies found the people who supported Trump were also the most convicted. Trump recently bragged he could shoot someone and not lose his supporters. One CNN reporter quipped “If Donald Trump punched a baby in the face, Trump’s supporters would say that baby had it coming.” But that also means if you weren’t swept up in Trumpomania three months ago, you aren’t likely to be swept up on voting day.

We saw the same thing in 2012. Ten days before the Iowa caucus, polls had Rick Santorum at just 8%. But he surprised with 25% of the vote! That’s, in part, because 39% of voters were undecided until the last minute. And among those undecided voters, 35% chose Santorum.


The undecided voter will play a bigger part in the Republican race than in the Democratic race. We see that the polls were very accurate for Bernie and Hillary. But we also see that only 20% of voters were undecided heading into the Democratic caucuses. Again, this makes perfect sense. There are only two candidates, so it’s easier to differentiate their personalities and policies. And they are relatively divisive personalities. You either love or hate Bernie’s socialist ideas. And you either love or hate Hillary’s brash style. Nearly 60% had made up their minds several months ago!


But it’s different for the Republicans. There are still 8 strong candidates duking it out, and it’s not so easy to distinguish their differences. You are likely to stay undecided longer and vacillate up to voting day. But as candidates drop out and it’s easier to distinguish the remaining candidates, voters will rally behind Cruz and Rubio – not Trump.

A Feb 4, 2016 survey by Public Policy Polling found that in a 3-candidate or 4-candidate race (Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush – strangely, they didn’t include Carson) voters rally behind Marco Rubio and vault him ahead of Trump.

Slide7And that’s one problem with the polls over the past several months: asking someone to choose among 14 candidates. That’s not how the primaries will play out in the coming months. Candidates will drop and we’ll be asked to choose from three or four candidates, not 14. Of the 8 remaining candidates, we’ll see more drop out after disappointing results in New Hampshire — probably Fiorina and Christie.

Those who remain will face a budget crisis – it’s expensive to keep campaigning beyond New Hampshire. Christie and Kasich each have less than $5 million in the bank (compared to $50 million for Cruz and $25 million for Rubio). Ben Carson recently slashed half his staff because of dwindling funds. Donors don’t like to keep spending money on a long shot. By mid-March we’ll be down to three or four candidates.

What does this mean? It means the January polls are not going to be good predictors of the Republican primary results. There will be a lot of people deciding on the last day. And those people not already committed to Trump won’t be easily swayed on the day of voting.

As the field winnows down, voters will migrate to the remaining candidates – likely Rubio and Cruz – and not the Donald.

New Hampshire will be a critical battleground. Trump has a commanding lead in the polls (29% vs 12% for both Rubio and Cruz). But in 2012, 46% of voters decided the week before the primary elections and all indications are that it will be similar this year.

Paul, Huckabee and Santorum have already dropped out, thinning the field – where will their supporters go?  Independent voters in New Hampshire can choose to vote in the Democratic or the Republican contest, further clouding where the votes will land. Strong showings by Cruz and Rubio in Iowa are likely to sway undecided GOP voters to put their votes “where they will count”. In fact the latest poll shows Rubio is up to 19% (Trump is still at 29%), illustrating the effect of the late deciders.

Trump will still be a formidable candidate throughout these primaries. But I expect undecided voters will put their weight behind Rubio and Cruz, especially as the field thins, and Trump’s results will be lower than the polls predict in most states. Come back later to see if I’m right.

And if you like my graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs”, which shares all my secrets for analyzing data, choosing and designing graphs, and even using storytelling principles to make graphs more engaging. It should be released early 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.