Tag Archives: Design

Interview with PowerPoint MVP Ellen Finkelstein

Ellen Finkelstein webiste

What is your background and why did you decide to enter the presentation space?
I entered the world of presenting as an author, and it happened by accident. My contact at my editor asked me to write a teacher’s manual for a textbook on PowerPoint. It all started from there. Over the years, I’ve learned so much more by attending conferences, reading books, studying award-winning presentations, and working with my clients.

How did you become a PowerPoint MVP?
I met the other MVPs at that presentation conference and I think one of them recommended me. But mostly it was the fact that I’d been blogging for a long time. An important requirement to be an MVP is to freely give to the user/technical community and my blog does that. There are 13 of us in the United States now. Microsoft reviews our contributions each year.

As you’ve worked with your clients, what are some common issues you’ve seen?
Death by PowerPoint is rampant. But it’s more than that. Presenters have a hard time clearly visualizing their ideas. I see confusion in both content and design. When I work with clients, we reorganize, edit, add images, and reformat the slides.

What advice would you have for those looking to brush up on their presentation skills?
I work with presenters 1-on-1 to makeover their presentations. This is an unusual service; when we finish, they have a clear and powerful presentation and have also learned a lot about creating presentations. It’s a combination of a service and training. My clients have found this a very effective way to improve their skills.

What type of training courses do you offer? What elements make them effective?
I offer a number of video training courses on specific topics as well as a live weekly training program called Power Pointers Quarter Hour for people who really want to stay up to date on presentation and PowerPoint best practices. Everything I have is listed on my estore. I also offer customized training.

What’s uniquely effective about my training is that it applies specific PowerPoint and presentation techniques to essential communication principles. My goal is always to help presenters present clearly, powerfully, and persuasively.


Slide design is a critical component of effective messaging

Aploris users know that creating clean, visually pleasing charts helps better convey the insights of any data set. As we look beyond the chart, however, the slide and the presentation itself are also important tools to effectively convey the key messages.

Thanks to vast improvements in desktop computing and software, building presentations has become a quick task. However, carefully crafting the visuals behind a slide or presentation takes thought and time.  Is there a better way to tell your story than just using bullets? What style and palette would best match your brand and the presenter, are the messages clear and right for the purpose?

We were recently introduced to Neil Tomlinson, CEO of a UK based presentation firm, Neil was one of the first to become a professional PowerPoint designer with a ton of experience building high impact presentations. Over the years, Neil’s business has helped organizations around the world across all industries and size improve their presentation design and better communicate – to which his impressive client list is a testament to. In our conversations with Neil we learned:

  • Presentation design is a critical part of your marketing effort along with your websites, videos, logos, and brochures
  • Outstanding visuals can help your audience remember your key messages
  • Audiences now expect to see professional high quality presentations
  • A poorly designed presentation can actually work against you with an audience

For more advice and information on presentations visit www.neiltomlinson.com

Flat design

Flat design, a simple design approach that focuses on usability and readability, has seen increasing popularity recently with Microsoft, Facebook, and Apple amongst others choosing to adopt it. The hallmarks of flat design include two-dimensional illustrations (no shadows) with simple geometry and solid colors.

While Microsoft is often credited to be among the first to apply flat design to its interface, their charts have not been updated yet. In the example below, we compare a simple pie chart with default settings in Aploris (1) and with PowerPoint’s native graphing tool (2):

Pie chart in flat design vs. 3D view

You will notice that the PowerPoint version has a shadow and all the colors seem to have a gradient. Under the flat design doctrine we would argue that these embellishments do not add any information and therefore serve to distract the reader. In addition, Microsoft’s native charts support 3-D graphs which typically have no place in business presentations and also serve to confuse the reader.

At Aploris, we hope to continue improving our aesthetics but not at the cost of usability and readability.