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PowerPoint Reporting: Ending “Death by PowerPoint”

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Posted on 04/20/2016

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Pundits have been predicting the death of Microsoft PowerPoint about as long as they’ve been predicting the death of Excel. Neither is anywhere near true at this point, but after sitting through the umpteenth boring PowerPoint presentation, you can end up wishing you were dead.

Part of why PowerPoint has such a bad rep is not the tool itself but how it’s used. Seeing a handful of meaningless bullet points on a screen – how often have you looked at slides after a presentation and had no freaking clue about what they’re referring to? – is enough to make anyone whimper at the prospect of another stale presentation.

So what can make a PowerPoint session worth the time for everyone involved?

The answer lies in PowerPoint reporting.

Why PowerPoint Reporting Rocks

What do I mean by PowerPoint reporting? It’s when the slides carry information you care about in the form of real-time data.

Charts and tables include up-to-the-minute facts and figures. Relevant data is presented in striking infographics. Or even plain old text is live-streamed, such as that in an RSS feed.

Here’s an example of a presentation containing live data:

PowerPoint reporting slide example

You can get this sort of info in other reporting interfaces, such as Excel or Word (and of course, Windward’s AutoTag is an add-in for all three of these programs). But when you’re presenting a report to a group, PowerPoint has some advantages over these other tools, such as the abilities to flip between slides, use fun animations and smooth transitions (which can be awesome when done well), and create a unified look and feel.

You can accomplish this by using a reporting tool specifically designed to generate reports in the PowerPoint interface. The tool allows for real-time data insertion into a slideshow and may use PowerPoint as the template design interface as well.

How Windward Works With PowerPoint

The Windward Solution is one such app that does this. Our AutoTag Template Design tool is an add-in for Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint that lets you design, format and edit reports within the familiar interfaces of Microsoft Office.

You design the presentation in PowerPoint, connect the presentation to your data source(s), and use AutoTag to add data placeholders (known as tags). When the report is generated, the tags are replaced with real-time data.

AutoTag has stuff like:

  • Slide break handling for tables. Sometimes not all your data can fit on a single slide, and breaking that data to be printed on a new slide solves the issue. (NOTE: We have taken a pretty unique approach to this problem and you will have to see it firsthand to understand how we did it.)
  • Table Header Row Repeat across slide breaks. A sub-feature of the above, you can repeat a header row or rows on continuing slides where your data appears.
  • Chart and bitmap tags. Native Microsoft support for charts and images is fully featured in PowerPoint.
  • Tag tree. View your data structure and access each Windward tag quickly in PowerPoint.
  • Static Shapes and SmartArt support. Use Shapes and SmartArt wherever desired.
  • Footers support. Automatically apply page numbers, footer text, contact info, company logos and more to the bottom of each slide.
  • Slide master manipulation. The slide master is an important part of any PowerPoint slide deck. Update the look and feel of your entire document in a single place.

You can get the full scoop in our documentation wiki article Support for PowerPoint PPTX Format.

Finally, a Note of Caution

Real-time data in a PowerPoint presentation doesn’t guarantee awesomeness. There are lots of other ways you can screw up a presentation: making it way too long, too disjointed, etc. But putting the timely info your audience needs in it is a good start.

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Author: Heidi V. Anderson

Heidi has been writing professionally about computers, technology and the Internet for more than 20 years. She lives in Vermont where she taps her maple trees for syrup and most of the year wishes it was just a little bit warmer out.

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