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Primp Your Slide Vol. 1: Makeovers for Your Slides and Charts [Video]



Today’s special video episode kicks off a new podcast series I’ve created called “Primp Your Slide”. I’ll be making over crappy charts and stinky slides that you, my listener, will be sending in to me!

When I was starting out as a digital analyst and marketer, I didn’t have a set of tools at my disposal to help me ensure my data story was getting heard loud and clear.

My goal is to empower you with an approachable, repeatable framework to apply best practice design principles, bring thoughtful context and purpose to your visuals.

I’ll take you through the methodology I’ve created to help me create data visualizations and presentation slides that communicate my insights quickly, easily and accurately.

And now, it’s your turn. Click the link in the Resources section to submit your crappy chart or stinky slide for a free video makeover!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • How I define the P.I.C.A. methodology of impactful, effective data visuals
  • The right questions to ask to make sure your visual actually has a purpose
  • Approaches for surfacing and insight and applying context and aesthetics to your work
  • How you can assess your own charts or slides for alignment with the methodology
  • How you can submit your own troublesome charts and sneaky slides for a free video podcast visualization renovation!

People, Resources and Links Mentioned In This Episode:

Upgrade Tip of the Day:

Have you ever needed to format a number of objects on different slides the same way, but keep having to repeat the same series of actions over and over? Like, changing multiple text boxes’ font and size, or similar shapes’ color?

You can quickly repeat the last action you took on an Excel or PowerPoint object using CTRL-Y on PC, or CMD-Y on Mac. It’s the shortcut for redo (opposite of undo, which is CTRL-Z).

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share? Leave a note in the comments below, and I’ll be sure to get back to you!

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And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.


Click here to view the transcript for this episode.

Lea: Hey guys. Welcome to the 4th episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show. This is the first volume in the new video series I’m trying out called Primp Your Slide. Free online makeovers of your charts and slides. So, the reason I’m doing this is because of slides like this. I presented a slide just like this in a past life, well before I went on my journey to what I call presentation enlightenment. It’s not the worst but it definitely is not the best, but it represents a time in my life before I had a keen understanding of the the brain’s comprehension of data and it really didn’t do anything for me or my meeting audience.

And one of the most common requests I get from you guys is for step-by-step makeovers of slides and charts. Now, I recognize it’s really hard sometimes to think of new ways to visualize your data without outside guidance or inspiration, which is why I’m always on the lookout for inspiration myself, and this is also something my good friend Laura M. Foley of Foley Designs does on her website. That’s for more general presentation and powerpoint questions but if you’re interested in that definitely check her out as well. She‘s going to be on my show notes page at

So I decided to add this kind of format to my podcasts to change things up a little bit and see a more practical application of some of the principles that I will be talking about on this show in the future. So to put all of these principles into practice I’m going to use a methodology I call P.I.C.A.

Why P.I.C.A? Well, I’m not terribly good at creating witty acronyms and I swear this is not self serving. The words happen to fit the methodology really well. But selfishly I really, really want to give my married name a meaning other than a psychological disorder that makes you want to eat non-food items like paint and dirt. Yep – dirt.

(That guy looks way too much like my Greek third cousin. But I digress….)

So let’s get started. So to give you some background, this is actually a version of the slide I presented at a meeting many years ago. I’ve obscured the data of course. Now, quick thing if you’re listening to this in your car, through itunes, there is a video that accompanies this but you’ll still get a lot of value if you’re just listening. You can always visit the show notes page to watch the actual video. So I’ve obscured the data from this of course and I’m pretty sure this was my executive’s reaction when I presented it. So let’s go through the methodology to kinda whip this guy into shape.

We’re going to start with P which is Purpose. When I see graphs like this, and I see them a lot, I try to think to myself, “Why does this exist? Does it answer a burning question that my executives or clients have?” It may answer a question they asked you. You know executives are always begging for visits, just counts of visits or even worse, hits. Huh huh. But you know what happens, when executives see a slide like this? They may nod enthusiastically but what they’re really thinking is, “So what?”

So that’s why this part of the methodology doesn’t actually involve primping anything on the slide or the chart. It’s about asking this very important question – “What are my stakeholders really asking me for? Why are they asking me for this data? What decision can my data help them inform?” And in this context, here is an answer that is getting a little closer to the heart of what they actually wanted, “How do our marketing channels compare in share of sales?”

Ok, now we have something we can work toward that’s a little more actionable. But we’re going to have to change the data a bit now. Back to the slide. I’ll tell you first what doesn’t have a purpose here, and that’s the pie chart. For many reasons I won’t get into here and now, I don’t ever, ever use these. A table is actually a better option here so we’re going to start with that, but we’re not going to finish with that. Little more on that later.

First, we’re going to need to change the actual data into percent share of sales. So the presentation of this data still isn’t doing it for me. We’re going to go to the second step of the P.I.C.A. methodology and that is I for Insight. A lot of graphs that I see are just statements about something. Conversion rate by channel. Media spend by quarter. These are just statements, but as Avinash Kaushik mentioned on a recent thought leader conversation with the Digital Analytics Association, and I’ll put a link to that on my show notes page as well, he said something really interesting. He said, “Analysts need to be able to distinguish between data and insights.” So what does he mean by that exactly? By definition, an insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or a thing, and that’s not what this slide achieves for us. Maybe everyone on your team is always talking about how great email is and it’s what the company spends a lot of time and resources on. But here it may be pointing out that email is only third on this list but we really wouldn’t be doing our team a favor if we just stopped here.

This isn’t the whole story and that is the next stop in our methodology which is C is for Context. You have your share of sales. Is that good? Is it different than last month? Last year? How does that line up with our targets? How does that play into the context of our business? Having that metric alone really doesn’t allow us to understand what is actually going on here. So here’s a question that we can apply some context. Is there a better metric or second metric that can help us understand our performance? In this case how about we add in “How do our channel conversion rates compare?” Volume alone really doesn’t tell the whole data story. Here we’re going to add a second table that has conversion rates and Whoah!… that’s an interesting story now. Email converts way higher than any other channel. This is starting to flesh out an understanding of our marketing portfolio that’s well beyond a count of visits, right?

OK, so now, the title of our slide here is still just a statement about what the slide is showing. This does nothing for your audience. So I’m going to swap it out with an observation or an assessment of what the data actually means. This is called a McKinsey Title, and it will help guarantee that no matter how your audience has interpreted your chart, the meaning of your data is clear. The first part is a meaningful assessment of the data. It’s your power statement.

And underneath you have a smaller statement of what the data represents just in case people aren’t sure what it is. This is also really helpful for when someone might take things out of context or forward someone a screenshot of just this slide to someone else on your team without you there to guide them. Now I realize you’re probably forwarding your presentation slides as is to your team afterwards, and in a few episodes I’m actually going to be talking about why there is a better way to deliver that information, but that’s for another day.

So for now we’re going to bring this all home with our last step in the methodology which is A for Aesthetics. Before you present your next chart or slide, I’d like for you to ask yourself, “Is this chart easy to understand? Will my audience get it? Does you viz follow best practice guidelines for data visualization? Does the color palette compliment my brand, help deliver my information, or does it create interference with my message like radio static?”

Something I found pretty shocking during my journey was that a few years ago the ICIA did a study and found that of professionals who count presentation as part of their jobs, only 7% of them had any experience in visual design and yet I would argue that this is a pretty critical skill to apply if you want your information understood quickly and effectively.

On a recent webinar I did with the Digital Analytics Association I talked about how I kept saying the word “viz” and “mistake” over and over again while I was creating it and I accidently coined the term “viz-take,” [laugh] meaning a data visualization that fails in communicating its key message accurately, quickly and easily, which is what every slide and chart should aspire to do. So common use for this might be, “Wow, I’ll never get my life back after trying to understand that viz-take.” So, you kinda get where I’m going with that and if you have any examples of terrible viz-takes definitely tweet it out and #Viz-take. Let’s see where that goes.

So learning to avoid some of the viz-takes that we saw in our earlier chart includes first detoxing your slide and chart of clutters like company logos, template bars, page numbers and all other kinds of doodads that just add noise to your visual. Changing the tables to a bar chart, and this is much easier to read and rank the data, but you’re going to want to sort that bar and also detox your default charts settings of legends, gridlines and axis and things like that.

You’re going to want to select a more impactful font. The default font is Calibri. I think we can go beyond that to set ourselves apart with a different font. Increase the size for readability. Select a more neutral color for your baseline data and finally, use a standout color to highlight your key insight. I’m going to be talking a lot more about the impact color has on the brain and how to use it in your data in a few episodes when we go through detoxing and powering up your charts so stay tuned for that.

But for now, let’s take a look at this slide before where we started, huh huh. And where we landed after applying the P.I.C.A. methodology. Hopefully you agree that this will work a lot better to communicate my information and I wish I had presented it that way but hindsight is always 20/20 and if you agree or don’t, please let me know.

Now if you’re new to data viz like this but you want to avoid making some common viz-takes

there are a couple great ways to learn more about these principles. If you’re a member of the DAA, and you didn’t catch my webinar on data visualization in July definitely check that out. The link to the recording for that is and that link will also be on the show notes page for this episode at

Some other great resources you can check out are the Wall Street Journal Guide To Information Graphics by Dona M. Wong. Fantastic starter book to this. Sort of the gateway book to this whole field. Also Show Me The Numbers by Stephen Few this is a compendium of these principles. Both of those will extremely elevate your graphics to a new level. So those will also be on my show notes page.

So let’s take a minute to quickly recap the P.I.C.A. methodology. First, Purpose. Ask yourself – “Why does this exist? Why am I showing this? Is it just to serve an ask or is there a real reason?” Insight – beyond just stating what the chart says, what does it actually mean?

Context – Am I showing the full story or is there other information that’s going to complete the picture and help better informed decisions? And last but certainly not least, Aesthetics. It is SO important to learn data visualization best practices so that your audience can quickly grasp your information and focus their attention on your insights.

So, we just went through my P.I.C.A. methodology and primped my own slide, but now it’s your turn. I would love to see your naughty charts or slides and help you figure out how to tune them up and make them hum. It’s completely free and your question or challenge may actually help others in the measure and marketing community too. So to submit your own work for a tune up please visit and upload your files via the cute little form there.

Just a couple of ground rules when you’re submitting to the Primp Your Slide segment. First, I’ll accept files with up to three slides or charts. Nothing more than that, or else you’ll have to hire me. When you do, please give a very detailed description of what your file represents, who your target audience is and what it is you’re struggling with. I want to make sure I thoroughly understand your goals when I take a crack at fixing up your stuff. Now I won’t be going through every step of the methodology for every makeover, some will maybe only need one or two steps applied, but over time we’re going to start to see how you can view all of your visualizations and slides through this lens.

OK, now this is extremely important. Please, please DO NOT submit files with proprietary or confidential data. I really don’t want to accidentally broadcast your company's annual earnings before they do so please make sure to scrub your files for any sensitive information. And if you want to submit a general question without a slide for the show that’s totally fine too. I would like to be able to do regular Q&A episodes as well to address what it is you need help with the most.

Or if you want to come up with a better name for the methodology and submit that I am totally open to suggestions. And the last thing I’ll say is, please don’t be shy. We all have struggles to communicate our information. I still do on a daily basis. Please make sure to comment on these episodes with any thoughts or approaches that you have as well. Sharing our challenges and coming up with solutions together are what’s going to take all of us and learn and grow as practitioners, right? Nice.

The Upgrade

And now we’ve reached the segment I call the upgrade – some kind of power tip for powerpoint, excel, taplow – something to supercharge your work and get things done faster and better.

Have you ever needed to format a number of objects on different slides the same way but keep having to repeat the same series of actions over and over, like changing text boxes or the font and their size or a shape’s color? Did you know that you can quickly repeat the last action you took on an excel or powerpoint object? All you have to do is hit control-Y on a PC or command-Y on Mac. This is the shortcut for redo. The opposite of undo, which is control-X, and this is SO fast when you have to make a lot of the same changes on multiple slides. So thanks so much to Tim Wilson of Analytics Demystified for cluing me in to that trick. It has saved me tons of time.

Alright. That’s all I’ve got for you today. Thank you so much for listening to this special edition of the Present Beyond Measure Show. If you like what you’ve heard, please hop on over to itunes to subscribe, leave a rating or review. Ratings and reviews are extremely appreciated because they affect the rankings of the show and I will be reading out all my favorite ones on future episodes so just click that ratings and reviews tab right in itunes.

And if you want to continue the conversation and see the show notes for this episode you can visit me at LeaPica/004 to review the show notes and find all the resources I’ve mentioned today. You can also sign up for my newsletter which has tons of exclusive tips and techniques for presenting your data. You can find one at the bottom of my page, at the top, all over the place. And when you sign up, you’ll also never miss an episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show.

So I would love if you can leave me a comment or suggestion because I want to hear about the challenges that you face when you are presenting information or doing visualizations quickly or anything you’d like me to talk about here, or you can tweet me a question for this show by including my twitter handle which is @leapica and including the hashtag #PBM as in Present Beyond Measure.

By the way, you might be wondering why I had an entire bottle of olive oil in my purse to begin with and I think I’m going to let you fill in the blanks here and let that marinate a bit. Oooh. [laugh] I’ll be here all night. Seriously though. Since I’m on a fairly restricted version of the Paleo diet I always have to be ready with organic olive oil and sea salt, and all other kinds of crazy seasonings I keep in my bag when I go out to eat. But next time maybe finding a bottle with a more secure cap would be good.

So I’ll leave you today with today’s presentation inspiration which is from the magical Stephen Few and that is, “Give a clear voice to the numbers that tell the story of your organization and clear visibility to the opportunities those numbers reveal.”

Let’s look at these slides and charts as opportunities. Not just slides and charts. Til next time. Namaste.

Do you have a crappy chart or stinky like you’d like me to makeover? 

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