In my workshops, we often discuss the challenge that arises when the communication you're creating is meant to be both 1) projected or handed out in a live presentation, as well as 2) sent as a follow up for those who attended to refer back to, or to fill in those who weren't able to attend the presentation. In an ideal world, these would be two separate work products. In reality, however, this often gives rise to what Nancy Duarte calls the slideument, a single document that is meant to address both needs.

The problem, of course, is that by trying to meet too many needs at once, the slideument doesn't address any of them perfectly. If you're interested in my further pontification on the topic and some thoughts on how to address the challenges that arise with the slideument, you check out this blog post.

My interest was piqued when I saw that Nancy Duarte recently introduced a new concept for using slides, which she has termed Slidedocs. The description on her site describes slidedocs as "a visual document, developed in presentation software, that is intended to be read and referenced instead of projected." The FastCo Design article written about Duarte's slidedocs is titled "Book Written Entirely in Power Point Aims to Reinvent How Businesses Communicate" (article).

With my busy schedule this week, I haven't had a chance to give the 150 page doc more than a cursory review. But rather than wait until I have more time to consume and reflect before sharing, I figured I'd post this now and gather your inputs. What do you think? Will this revolutionize the way we communicate? Leave a comment with your thoughts. I'll add mine once I have a chance to look more closely at the detail.


We've all created a graph before and thought: Does this work? My advice when this situation arises is to seek feedback. Jon Schwabish has brought this critical feedback loop online, with his recently launched site, HelpMeViz, which was designed to "facilitate discussion, debate, and collaboration from the data visualization community." Check out this post for more info on this resource.

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slopegraph template

I've found myself increasingly using slopegraphs as of late. They can be useful when you have two time periods of data and want to quickly see increases/decreases between the two periods (example below; see second half of this post for more discussion and another example).

From a formatting standpoint, however, they are annoying. They take a lot of time to set up because basically everything is different from graphing application defaults. I realized as I was making a recent one that I make the exact same changes every single time and may actually leverage a template for this (I say "may actually" because I thought that would be the case once before, but it didn't happen, though I've heard from others that they do use it).

In case you find yourself wanting to use a slopegraph (or quickly see whether one will work given the specifics of your data), you can download the Excel template I created here (screenshot below).

evaluating word clouds

Word clouds created a bit of buzz when they first became popular. However, I often find that upon further evaluation they tend to be a letdown—full of fluff without so much informative value. Check out this post for my discussion on why and a word cloud makeover.

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no more excuses for bad simple charts: here's a template

If you're using Excel to try to tell a story with data, plotting the data in this application should be the first step in your data visualization process, not your last. It takes time, iterations, and sometimes some brute force to get from the graphing application's defaults to a visual that you're proud to present.

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how to do it in Excel

One common piece of feedback I get after presenting on the topic of data visualization goes something like this:  Wow, that was super useful. I'm never going to use pie charts again. But when it comes to the graphs, how do you actually make them look like that? I'm not! Let me take a few minutes to walk step-by-step through an example to expose those who question their Excel expertise to some of my tricks.

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