Automated Presentations (Slide Factory 2.0)

Much has changed since our original post in 2009, yet much remains the same.  There's been a variety of solutions, like Prezi, SlideRocket and even some home grown Python integrations, aimed at improving PowerPoint and presentation automation. However, its still challenging for a non-developer to produce a good-looking, effective PowerPoint deck with automatically updated charts.

The best way to tackle this challenge -- for the moment -- is to simplify the problem. While a utopian solution may not be available (sorry),  here's a way to break down the problem and get a partial win.

Think of the presentation automation challenge as one of three distinct challenges. 

  1. Delivering Presentations @ Scale
  2. Automating Chart Updates
  3. Improving PowerPoint Chart Availability

Delivering Presentations Scale

When you want to deliver high-quality slides or share information as a story for a large audience, like all your customers, this is what Juice refers to as Presentations @ Scale.   It manifests itself in organizations when there are multiple dedicated resources manually producing PowerPoint slides for clients. This is because a report doesn’t provide enough contextual information and narrative structure (flow) as can be delivered through slides. Some examples where organizations deliver Presentations @ Scale are:

  1. Quarterly account reviews produced by ad agencies;
  2. SLA reviews by technology providers;
  3. Quarterly reviews by insurance providers to human resources leadership.

While customers value the effort and details, the energy to produce these documents is expensive. Its not uncommon for Juice to hear about organizations with teams of 5 to 10 people dedicated to creating customer PowerPoint slides.

The opportunity to improve frequency and reduce the cost associated with delivering Presentations @ Scale lies in web-based solutions where customers can consume the information as an interactive web page vs. static slides. Here’s an recent example from the New York Times that offers a taste of a scrolling presentation or story.

It offers the easy to consume format, valuable data displays with a lot of descriptive text. Juicebox, is intended to solve exactly this kind of problem. Click here to see a quick video of Juicebox in action to get a flavor of delivering slide quality information across many customers.

Automating Chart Updates

The most popular or frequent PowerPoint automation challenge is automatic chart updates. There are an increasing amount of programatic solutions for this problem; however the options below require decent technical skills to set up and maintain. It's still a surprise that no solution has come to the forefront or solved this yet. Here are some of the technical options to check out, which require VBA skills at a minimum to automate chart updates. In addition to the ones below, Lea Pica has some product and tools on her resource page worth checking out.

  1.  Microsoft PowerPoint VBA - Some guidelines and tips for Office 2013 
  2. PowerPoint VBA FAQs - Some helpful tips on PowerPoint VBA (a little dated).
  3. PowerPoint 2010 Chart Programming - Registration required, but some good VBA answers here.

Improving PowerPoint Chart Availability

Probably the option least talked about or referred to directly are PowerPoint’s chart limitations.   Prior to 2011 the chart options were very limited. In most cases now, this represents enterprises that are still behind on their Microsoft Office upgrades and are limited by the few chart options in these earlier versions. There are some really elaborate integrations of PowerPoint using Python available now. Just search YouTube and you'll find a bunch.

Please share any other solutions that are out there in the market place that solve one or more of the presentation automation challenges. In the meantime, check out the Juicebox demo or request a personal demonstration by clicking here.