Using diagrams created in drawing tools; Issue #205 March 9, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Using diagrams created in drawing tools

In the last couple of months I’ve seen some new drawing tools come out that allow you to create your own diagram or drawing and use it on your slides. One was tweeted by Johanna Rehnvall, and is a program called Simple Diagrams at The other is an online tool called Lovely Charts at that Donna Gunter wrote about in SpeakerNetNews. In both cases, you use the tool to create your diagram and then export it or output it to a graphic that you insert on your slide. Today’s tip is on what you do with that graphic to make it effective on your slide.

One challenge with a graphic file is that it comes in to your slide as a single image. You can’t animate parts of it like you could if you built the diagram in PowerPoint itself. So when you present the diagram, it comes on all at once and you have to work harder to keep the audience’s attention focused on the part of the diagram you are explaining at that moment. What can you do? There are two approaches and both are more fully explained in my latest book 102 Tips to Communicate More Effectively Using PowerPoint.

The first is to break apart the graphic in PowerPoint. One of my Creating Visuals videos shows step-by-step how to do this, but here’s the summary of the method. You copy the single image as many times as you need to create the different parts you want to build. For each separate part, use the cropping tool in PowerPoint to cut out the rest of the image, leaving only the part you want to build. Then you re-assemble the different parts and apply the animation effects.

The second way to build a single diagram is to reveal each part using exit animation. Draw a shape over each part and fill the shape with the background fill option. Then, build the diagram by having each of the shapes exit the slide, revealing what is underneath.

The second challenge with using a single graphic diagram is that it can end up being a complex diagram that is hard to explain, even using one of the two methods above. In this case, use the Break-Down and Zoom-In technique to show the diagram to give the audience context, but then show the different sub-sections that you will discuss individually. Show each sub-section on its own slide so there is less for the audience to try to understand all at once.

It is great that there are new drawing tools coming out that allow presenters to create meaningful diagrams instead of slides full of bullet paragraphs. Just be sure to use the diagram images you create wisely to help your audience understand your message.