January 23, 2015

Announcing the Slide Chooser

The most popular thing we’ve ever posted on this blog has been, without doubt, the Chart Chooser. Available in nine different languages, the Chart Chooser has been featured in numerous books on presentation and data visualisation, and continues to serve as a very simple but effective tool for choosing a good chart.

We have applied the same idea to the question of chosing different slide layouts, so here is the new Slide Chooser(tm). Try as we might, we couldn’t fit it into one 8-1/2 x 11″ (or A4) page, so we had to split it up on two pages:


It works the same way the Chart Chooser does. You begin with the question What is the main point of the slide? The Slide Chooser then helps you identify a slide layout that best communicates the main point of the slide, thus ensuring that your slide passes the squint test. You’ll use either one of the two pages above depending on whether you want to use a layout to Explain something, or else to Recommend something. Having made that binary choice, you then follow the diagram according to whether you want to Explain or Recommend Where, When, Who, How, What, or Why. Additional questions then lead to you one or more layout suggestions.

You can download the Slide Chooser here as a single, two-page pdf:  Download Slide Chooser 2 pager

Over the years I have shared these designs with my friends at Microsoft and at Powerframeworks.com, so all of the actual layouts are available either as SmartArt diagrams in PowerPoint and/or fromPowerFrameworks.com as individual .ppt and .pptx files.

An earlier version, laid out on a single, 11 x 17″ (A3) sheet, looks like this:


You can download this larger, single page version here:  Download Slide Chooser 11×17

As you can see, neither version is perfect; neither yet has the elegance of the original Chart Chooser. We’ll keep working on it, and if any of you have any suggestions, please feel free to make them in the Comments section. That said, we are planning to use the 2-page version as it is in the first edition of the Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts, because we can’t keep tinkering forever!

October 8, 2014

Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts – Announcement

Good news! After three years of hard work, the Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts is finally ready for publication.



One of the most common questions we get at our Extreme Presentation(tm) Workshops is “Can you show us some more examples of Conference room style slides?” Now our answer is “Yes,” a whole book full of them.

The Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts presents 169 examples of Conference Room style slides, used with permission, from companies like the Corporate Executive Board, McKinsey & Co., and others. These are “real world” slides, right from the front lines of visual communication. Each slide is described, explaining why and how it works, and what variations on it you might want to consider.

The book is organized according to our “Slide Chooser.” Many of you are familiar with our popular “Chart Chooser,” which helps you chose a good chart design. Well, the Slide Chooser does the same thing for slide layouts:

Slide Chooser

It’s a little hard to read there, so here’s a zoomed-in shot to give you a better idea:

slide zoom

And here’s another:

slide zoom 2

You’ll notice that the layout uses the same approach as the Chart Chooser, taking you through a series of logical choices, and terminating with one one or more suggested layouts. The book has a chapter dedicated to each layout: that’s what the page numbers are for. The Slide Chooser thus serves as a visual table of contents for the whole book.

When you turn to the relevant page, e.g. page 213 for the “Linear Process” layout, you’ll come to the “Linear Process” layout chapter, in this case chapter 27. On the first page of each chapter you’ll find a generic version of the layout (think of it as the pure, Platonic form of that layout), guidance on when and how to use that layout, and options for how to draw the layout using templates from Charteo, Duarte Design’s Diagrammer, Powerframeworks.com, or PowerPoint’s own SmartArt.

linear process

This page is then followed by several (seven in this case) examples of the slide layout in real life, such as these two:

Allocated Staged Investment

two sides of the same coin

We know that loyal followers of our blog have been awaiting for the Encyclopedia patiently, so even though we’re not quite ready for our official launch (marketing details still being finalized…), you can get hold of a copy right now, only available from here (not yet on Amazon.com or other online booksellers). The book sells for $39.99, but for our loyal blog readers we’re happy to offer, just until the official launch date, a 15% off coupon – use code 4H973NNC.

Remember that the book is entirely dedicated to examples of Conference room style slides–slides that are designed to persuade, and therefore must contain lots of relevant detail, carefully organized to pass the “squint test.” (And if you don’t know what Conference room style and squint test are, the book explains these in detail. While you’re waiting for your copy to be delivered, you can read about the squint test and about why Conference room style slides are good for Presenting to physicians, scientists, engineers… and marketers.)

Be sure to comment below and let us know what you think of our new book!

Paul & Andrew.


April 7, 2014

The Science of Presentation Impact

Belatedly, I link to a well written summary of my keynote speech at last year's annual PMRG conference: 

As market researchers, we know that enhancing the efficiency of our research insights and taking a leadership role in organizational decision making is critical to our function’s future success. That’s why PMRG brought Andrew Abela, PhD, Dean and Associate Professor of Marketing at the Catholic University of America and presentation design consultant to leading corporations, to the stage at the 2013 ANC. In what was widely hailed as the conference’s most exciting presentation, Dr. Abela provided attendees with the highly practical information and tools they need to take their research presentations to the next level—and ensure that immediate action can be taken on their insights.

More here


April 4, 2014

Coming Up for Air

Hi all.  I’ve let the Extreme Presentation blog go quiet for a while, but I’m back now and wanted to let you know what’s been happening. My new “day job” as dean of the new School of Business & Economics at The Catholic University of America has been consuming a ton of time, but it’s a good cause and I’m enjoying it tremendously.

The other thing that’s been taking up a bunch of time is working with my collaborator and co-author, Paul Radich, to finally get The Encyclopedia of Slide Layouts published.  The Encyclopedia  uses the “slide chooser” (similar to the chart chooser) to organize a couple of hundred real world slides, to give you lots of examples of ways to organize your conference room style slides. We’ve run into a last minute publication snafu, when it turned out that the publisher, after assuring us that they could handle the original format size we wanted to use, came back to us and said, oops, sorry, can’t do it. We’re working on solving that problem, and hope to be able to announce it’s publication soon.

June 20, 2013

Our first ever Extreme Presentation workshop that is open to the public! In conjunction with PMRG, the premiere global community for healthcare marketing research professionals, we will be offering the day long Extreme Presentation workshop on October 23 in Jersey City, immediately after the 2013 PMRG Institute. 

All are welcome. Capacity is limited. Details here. I look forward to meeting you there. 

June 20, 2013

Microsoft’s new design ethos

Microsoft Corporation was one of my earliest clients for the Extreme Presentation workshop, and continues to be one of my largest; I continue to teach the workshop in Redmond three or four times per year, including most recently on Tuesday of this week.

I have been delighted to observe at Microsoft a growing concern with design, the recent history of which is described in Modern Design at Microsoft, an excellent article by Steve Clayton.  Clayton notes that he

“…started from the very place I bet you are right now — disbelief that Microsoft is leading the way on design”

and he goes on to describe the journey he has observed, and participated in, towards a leading edge design focus at Microsoft.  One of the external design influences on Microsoft is the Bauhaus movement.


the heart of the Bauhaus philosophy is stripping away superfluous
decorations to focus on the essence of the functional. There are many
parallels in today’s computing world. The practice of mimicking
real-world materials such as glass, brushed metal or leather, and
effects such as drop shadows, reflections and lens flares, are an
attempt to adorn experiences without being functional. When Sam Moreau,
design director for Windows, says, ‘The content is the interface,’ he’s
channeling his inner Bauhaus.”

To my mind, the essence of the idea is this:

“A Microsoft designer’s focus is on making every element have a clear
and useful purpose. No more, no less. It helps communicate what is most
important so a person can focus on the task at hand.”

I am of course delighted, because I have been pushing this approach in presentation design for several years, at Microsoft and elsewhere, not always to a friendly audience (including at Microsoft).  There’s a brief clip from my workshop on the third video on this post (or go directly to the video here) where I argue for stripping out everything on a slide that isn’t directly communicating or reinforcing your message.

The idea is part of the Conference Room presentations style, which I argue is highly effective for persuading small groups of people, and is highlighted in points 3 (no chartjunk) and 9 (show all the relevant details and only the relevant details) in the Anatomy of a Conference Room Style Presentation.

January 14, 2013

Keeping Busy

I have not been posting much lately, because I've been keeping busy starting up a new School of Business & Economics at my university.  

I am also working on a new presentation book, and I hope to release some information about that in the next while.  

December 21, 2012

Keeping presentations about tracking study updates interesting

A common question I get is how to present a regular (monthly, quarterly) tracking study update without being excruciatingly boring.  The answer is to focus exclusively on what is new since the last update, and what audience problem this new information helps solve.  

Here's an email I received recently from someone to whom I gave this advice:

Hello Dr. Abela,

I was in your Extreme
Presentations workshop on November 14th in Arlington, Va. and I really
enjoyed the class.  I asked you a question at lunch about how to keep a
longitudinal study fresh since I have to present it every month, and you
provided me some advice and asked for feedback about how it worked.  I
have to say it worked really well.  I took a good hard look at the data
and put together a story based only on items that were new or had
changed.  Instead of looking at dozens of pages of stuff, I provided a
seriously reduced PowerPoint, and everyone seemed to love it, and it
sparked a lot of good conversation and follow-up action.  That was
really positive to me since the last few months, the meeting had become
kind of quiet and stale.

I've also had opportunity to apply Extreme Presentation techniques
to two other reports, which have met with similarly positive feedback.  I
have to say that of all of the courses I've taken professionally, this
was one of the best and most useful.

Thank you again for all of the great materials and resources.

Jeanne Williams
Research Analyst

November 10, 2012

Interesting app

Interesting app for building infographics: Piktochart.

August 21, 2012

Robin Good’s Presentation Tools

Spend some time on Robin Good's Presentation Tools site – it's worth it.