How to Build an Interactive Infographic in PowerPoint

Lately we’ve been thinking a lot about pushing presentation software past simple slides. Keeping with the theme, we received an interesting challenge from one of our clients: an interactive infographic produced and executed in PowerPoint.

Why PowerPoint you might ask? Why not Prezi or Flash? For clients with a large sales team, introducing a new software across the board can be cost prohibitive. We needed a platform that the sales team was already comfortable with and which would allow the team to update numbers and figures on the fly.

PowerPoint was the clear answer, but since PowerPoint takes a lot of flack for its linear format, how could we make a truly interactive infographic?

We were up for the challenge. Here’s a sample of the finished product:

Interactive_PPT

Here’s how we did itand a few of the challenges we ran into along the way.

The first step was building the base infographic. The client needed to be able to edit text on the fly, so we pulled in our icons from Illustrator and built everything else natively in PowerPoint.

Interactive Infographic PowerPoint | Main Image

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To keep things easy to edit, we put the base infographic into a master slide – this way any edit to the infographic would immediately populate through the file, eliminating the need to edit the base image on every slide.

Interactive Infographic PowerPoint Expanded Data Slide

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Next we designed data detail overlays for the expanded information set to pop out from various data points. We gave the expanded information slides their own master style which included a fade effect. We designed the popouts and data visualization in the main slide editor – one slide per pop out.

Once we had all our info built out, it was time to build in some “interactivity.”

Truly, PowerPoint is built to be a linear presentation tool. The intent is that the speaker will advance one slide to the next without deviating from the plan.

There is one tool in PowerPoint that allows for some non-linear jumping: Hyperlinks (Insert > Hyperlink). The hyperlinking tool can be used to make richer and more informative presentations by linking slide elements to web pages, associated documents or slides within the presentation.

Our plan was to use inter-slide linking to create an interactive infographic piece. We wanted to link various data points to detail pop out slides so that the presenter could interact with his audience and pull up additional information. Here we ran into our first obstacle:

Obstacle #1: Hyperlinks Cannot be Applied to Groups

Our data points were all made up of a mix of design elements: icons, text boxes, lines, etc. Without group linking, we’d have had to link each element, leaving un-linked space between elements and bogging down our file. Instead, we needed a clean link that would allow the user to click anywhere over the group of elements and bring up the expanded data.

Interactive Infographic PowerPoint Hyperlinks

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To get around the issue, we created a series of invisible boxes to overlay our data facts. Before we eliminated their fill, they looked like this. We then linked these boxes to the appropriate slides and made them invisible. Now clicking over any grouping hit these invisible link boxes, which brought up additional information, creating an interactive infographic.

Obstacle #2: Slide Transition Lag

Now our file is functional, but we were experiencing a lag between clicking a data point and the new slide coming up of several seconds. A lag this severe could potentially cause the user to panic during a presentation, clicking twice and confusing the file. Even more importantly, it indicates that PowerPoint it working too hard and could quit unexpectedly.

The problem was the sheer number of design elements on each slide. The base infographic contained so many shapes and images that PPT had to redraw for each slide.

Interactive Infographic Reorder Layers

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Since the client wanted edibility, we couldn’t use a static image, so we met half way. We pulled all the text off the slide and saved out the resulting image as a hi res .png file. We than imported that to a master slide and layered all the text over the image. To keep editing easy, all the text is in one group, so it can be easily brought to the front of all the clear link box layers and edited there.

Obstacle #3: Misclicks End the File

To move from each detail slide back to the main interactive infographic, we included a “close” button on each detail pop out that linked to a slide containing the main infographic. The user could then click on another data point to bring up a new detail slide.

A little playing revealed that any misclick, whether it be missing the “close” button or clicking a spot on the main infographic that was not covered by a link box, would end the file. PowerPoint was reading that misclick as a slide advance and, because we were on the last slide, it thought the presentation had concluded.

To resolve the issue, we added another clear link box. This one was the size and shape of the entire slide and linked right back to the main interactive infographic. A misclick now hit this link box, bringing up the same slide again and giving the user another chance to correctly hit his target.

In order to keep the other links clickable, the large link layer needed to be behind any other active links and in front of any text or images. Here’s what the full slide link box looked like on the detail slides before we removed the fill. It sits behind the “close” link and in front of any other elements.

Interactive Infographic PowerPoint Link Layer

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PowerPoint is often dismissed as a necessary office evil incapable of producing attractive and unique presentations. But with a little creativity and know-how, PowerPoint can be an accessible and powerful platform to create engaging and advanced marketing pieces, including interactive infographics.

About the Author:

Bethany Auck is the founder and creative director of SlideRabbit, a presentation design boutique specializing in custom presentation development and infographics. SlideRabbit builds persuasive narratives and poignant demonstratives into powerfully-branded custom presentation layouts. The company serves an international client base and specializes in litigation presentation development, sales and marketing presentations and corporate communication presentations. For more information about SlideRabbit’s services, visit http://sliderabbit.com/

Infographic Resources Can Help Your Audiences Visualize Data

Most presentations are filled with truck loads of data, communicated through slide after slide of mind-numbing bullet points. The likelihood of your audience extracting the significant facts from this data dump is low.

Data is dry and lifeless until you make it come alive. Enter the infographic.

Wikipedia defines infographics as “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.” Infographics help an audience better understand complicated data and see patterns and trends. These graphic pictures provide context and tell a story which makes it easier for the audience to find relevance in the information.

The concept of graphically representing complicated information has been around for ages, but infographics are currently popular partly perhaps as an antidote to those bullet point-laden slides and partly because of new tools which make them easier than ever to produce.

Here are a few of the tools that will help you create infographics to make your presentations clearer and more memorable:

Easel.ly: This is a free, web-based app that creates professional-looking graphics. There are a variety of pre-existing themes where you can insert your own text and customize background colors, icons and fonts by dragging and dropping. The tool is easy to use and your infographic can be downloaded as a jpeg or png for your presentation.

Venngage: Another drag and drop tool with many templates, themes, charts and icons. You can upload data as a CSV to create your chart. The free option only allows for online viewing and sharing while the premium option [currently $19/month] enables you to export as a pdf or png.

Charteo: This takes the concept of PowerPoint templates to a whole new level. There are over 15,000 slides in this PowerPoint library in a wide variety of charts, graphs, diagrams and tables as well as background images, graphic metaphors, icons and symbols. The slides are 100% editable, including color, and can be downloaded for either Mac or PC. You can purchase an individual slide, an entire presentation or a subscription service.

With any of these tools, it’s easy to be seduced with the clever designs and cool bells and whistles. But remember that your primary job is to decide what message, story or pattern you want to communicate with your data and then…and only then…choose the appropriate tool to visualize that data for your audience.

About the Author:

Kathy Reiffenstein is the founder and president of And…Now Presenting!, a Washington DC-area business communications training firm, which offers a suite of public speaking and presentation skills programs geared to creating confident, persuasive speakers. Visit Kathy’s website at www.andnowpresenting.com to subscribe to her bi-weekly presentation tips or her blog where you’ll find fresh insights on speaking in public that are engaging, sometimes irreverent and always practical.

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