Just in Time for Tornado Season......

Hello everyone!  It has been a whirlwind few weeks returning from a year long deployment abroad and being thrown into the middle of a busy semester teaching a new course back at the "home 'drome."

In between adjusting to being back with family and working around dozens of projects I had put on hold for the deployment, I managed to complete one of my goals from 2015; becoming a trained SKYWARN weather spotter for the National Weather Service!

Latest Map Created Entirely in Microsoft Powerpoint: "The Northlands"

Hi everyone!  I've returned from a long deployment overseas and am enjoying some R&R.  Here is my latest cartographic creation.  I'm slowly adding in more content on each map as I develop my skills. "The Northlands" is my first attempt at adding hills and creating a monolithic ruins.  As always, feedback appreciated!

Everything in this map is created entirely within Microsoft Powerpoint; no clip art!  Most of the map is created using the shapes tools.

Creating Detailed Map Icons

Hello everyone.  I decided to see if I could create detailed map icons inside Powerpoint using just the basic shapes tools.  The "Royal Lighthouse" and "The Citadel" on this map are the products of that effort.  Both are modeled after internet finds and recreating them from scratch in Powerpoint was painstaking, but doable.  As always, thanks for visiting and I hope you find my work here inspiring for your own presentation work and creative endeavors!

Latest Map Created Entirely in Microsoft Powerpoint

Created inside Powerpoint without any clip art and using just the basic shapes tools.  Most people have no idea how easy it is to do serious artwork inside Microsoft's premier presentation software.  One of my goals with this website is to showcase just how versatile Powerpoint can be when you get away from templates and clip art.

Showcasing Creativity is the Goal

What is the purpose of this website?  I'm using it for a variety of reasons that all fall under a general goal of showcasing creativity and changing perceptions people have about presentations.

Firstly, I wanted to change perceptions about Microsoft's Powerpoint software.  It is actually incredibly versatile, and remains the benchmark presentation tool for many good reasons. Always the scapegoat for every bad presentation, the truth is usually that the presentation was bad simply because the presenter and the material they put together was bad.  In short, Microsoft makes a great product and takes the blame, when the presenter is usually the one at fault.

I'm currently a military briefer for senior and mid-level military leaders, forced to employ the absolute, most hideous slides anyone has ever seen.  Think about a Steve Jobs presentation and his supporting graphics......and then realize I brief the exact opposite of those design principles and what you see in those presentations; daily.  It hurts my soul.

What do these slides I labor under look like?  Is there text filling all available white space on the slide?  Check.  Font size 10 for an older audience wearing glasses sitting up to 50 feet away?  Check.  Tables, Charts, maps and graphs strewn about the slide in an unorganized manner with the only logic being to cram as much as humanly possible on one slide?  Check.  Color palettes that resemble a Rainbow Bright vomitorium?  Check.  You've seen it yourself wherever you work.  It is painful.  We can often do better.  When we can't, or aren't permitted to do so, then we can do the next best thing and at least show the world it doesn't really have to be that way.  That's what this website does.  Call it an outlet for some of my workplace frustrations.

A second goal for me here at powerpointparade.com is that I wanted people to think differently about default templates, and other pre-canned layouts within presentation software.  Making your own graphics is actually quite simple and allows you to truly customize a presentation exactly the way you want it.  I'm a jack-of-all trades Air Force navigator who has been an aviator, a military aviation instructor, an executive officer (a glorified secretary), a Space wargame director, and a geography college teacher.  I also have seven years in the grocery industry and picked up a smattering of insider advertising tips occasionally helping build the weekly full-page newspaper ads.  I have no formal training in art or graphic design though, and my academic degrees are in history, political science and geography.  So, if I can do it, so can you.

Third, I'm a meticulous borderline workaholic.  Despite all my hobbies from cycling to numismatics, this is a genuinely fun and satisfying outlet for me.  I just enjoy working hard, and relish the focus that comes with crafting creative projects.  For me, creating something elegant, appealing, and useful is a reward in and of itself.  The cynic in me realizes that art is really exactly the same thing as a military strategy called deception; (all art is an illusion getting you to see something that isn't really there; and this is a very useful military skill for survival).  But the goal here isn't victory; just the satisfaction that comes from creativity and educating people.

Lastly, I'm approaching the end of my military career.  I have no idea what's next.  But after a lot of disappointment in the Air Force, I'd like to return to the civilian world and corporate America; perhaps designing education materials or working in advertising or some other graphic design venue.  I have a solid ten years of public speaking for audiences ranging from classrooms to large auditoriums of mid-level and senior government and industry leaders at home and abroad, and would consider that as a gig, (as long as I had control over the presentation material.)  I'm hoping potential employers see this website and are intrigued with my work, my unusually broad background, and my "talent stack," as Dilbert creator Scott Adams calls it.  What say you?

Fantasy Map Created in Powerpoint

Happy 2017 everyone!  Work and the holidays have been busy, and my aggressive agenda to learn a bunch of new map making skills in the early part of the year has been pushed back UFN.  In the meantime, please enjoy this simple fantasy map created in Microsoft Powerpoint.

All elements were created using just the basic shapes tools, except the scale bar, which was pasted in to save time.

Trying a New Skill.....Hand Drawn Maps

Hello everyone!  I'm taking a break from Powerpoint for a bit to learn the art and skills associated with hand drawn cartography.  Here is the result of Day Two, after watching WASD20's excellent YouTube tutorials.  Feedback is appreciated!


Here is a quick Halloween graphic I whipped up in Powerpoint; based off a couple of Halloween illustrations found on the web.  This one is created entirely in Powerpoint using just the basic shapes tools; no clip art.  Happy Halloween everyone!  As always, thanks for visiting!

7 Reasons You Need Maps In Your Next Presentation

1) Maps are Incredibly Useful

When was the last time you considered using a map in your presentation?  Maps are so prevalent and useful in our everyday lives that odds are you’ve already examined one today as either part of a google search, or for assistance driving into work.  If they are so helpful in your daily life, then why not consider using one in your next presentation?

2) Maps Are Intelligent Visuals, Add Credibility and are a Great Reference

Remember, maps are fundamentally a representation of spatial data.  Maps are often the perfect fusion of art, design, and science.  Maps are a great example of intelligent visuals.  Don’t use mindless clip art on that Powerpoint slide!  Instead, use a captivating and proven tool; a map!  A colorful map really stands out.  And it is the ultimate visual aid adding immediate credibility to your presentation, as well as serving as a reference source.  Although using maps to deceive can be accomplished, (for example, cartographic tricks can be employed in the production of propaganda), maps and their information are generally regarded as reliable and trustworthy.  Capitalize on the enduring credence of maps.

3) Maps Tell a Story

Every map tells a spatial story.  You are telling a story to your audience with your presentation.  Why not let a map showcase your story for you and eliminate those dreaded bullet points?  Overlaying even a single arrow on a map to show direction, flow, movement, etc. makes the point in your audiences’ brain in a fraction of the time it would take them to read a bullet statement.  In addition, substituting a map in lieu of a bullet point prevents you from reading the slide and encourages a more natural, and smoother speaking flow in your storytelling.


4) Maps Link to Almost Anything

Geography is a unique academic discipline in that it is the only one that links to virtually all the others via spatial exploration and spatial relationships.  Displaying these findings and relationships is done through maps.  Just think of all the different topics you’ve seen represented on a map: animal populations, human migrations, money flows, disease outbreaks, historical changes over time, voting percentages, home prices, proximities and distances, census demographics, obesity rates, twitter heat maps, magnitudes, landmarks and chokepoints, etc.  The possibilities for information display on maps is almost endless!  It is almost a certainty you can harness the benefits of maps for the information in your presentation as well.

5) So Many Types of Maps

The types of maps available mean there is almost certainly one that fits your needs.  For example, choropleth maps are thematic maps in which areas are shaded or patterned in proportion to the measurement of the statistical variable being displayed on the map, such as population density or per-capita income. And a heat map (or heatmap) is a graphical representation of data where the individual values contained in a matrix are represented as colors.  Source: Wikipedia.  These are just two types; there are many more with all kinds of purposes.  Find the one that suits your presentation best.

6) Maps Are a Flexible Tool

Maps can display a large amount of information, or be a minimalist creation.  Often they can display a large volume of data without overwhelming an audience; quite an achievement when you consider how fast just a few wordy bullet points put your audience in snooze mode!  Also, maps lend themselves well to the animations and slide building tools available in Powerpoint.  Consider that with just one map and the animation tools in Powerpoint, you can cycle through a vast amount of information and potentially avoid bullet points altogether in your presentation!  

7) Maps Provide Accelerated Learning and Improved Memory Retention

Dr. Haig Kouyoumdjian notes in his Pyschology Today article, “Learning Through Visuals,” that a large body of research indicates that visual cues help us to better retrieve and remember information. The research outcomes on visual learning make complete sense when you consider that our brain is mainly an image processor (much of our sensory cortex is devoted to vision), not a word processor. In fact, the part of the brain used to process words is quite small in comparison to the part that processes visual images.  He also points out how abstract and difficult words are for the human brain to process and that countless studies have confirmed the power of visual learning.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201207/learning-through-visuals

Still not convinced?  When was the last time you encountered a textbook that was all text?  Use a map, and ditch those awful bullet points!

Hopefully these seven reasons have shown you the power and utility of maps and you will employ them in future presentations.  Remember, according to the founder of TED Talks, Dr. Saul Wurman, and his now famous LATCH acronym (Location, Alphabetically, Time, Category, Hierarchy), humans only have five ways to organize information.  Location (maps) are the first part of the LATCH acronym.  There are a lot of good reasons spatial representation, (aka maps), are indispensable and will always be with us!  So harness their utility in your next presentation!