10 Steps to Great Presentation Maps

Filed Under Mindjet

Michael Deutch

February 20, 2009

If you’re reading this blog, the odds are that you already know mind mapping is a great way to organize your thoughts to prepare presentations. While some people use MindManager it to ‘think out’ and create their PowerPoint slide decks, many others use MindManager to deliver presentations using maps. Like PowerPoint, there are many ways to screw up a map presentation! And like PowerPoint, we can learn a lot from PowerPoint presentation experts like Garr Reynolds on how to make great MindManager map presentations.

To kick off a series on making your presentations shine, I borrowed from Garr’s excellent post on his top ten slide tips. Here’s the mapping perspective:

1. Keep it Simple

Mapping is a new paradigm for many in your audience. Opening up a map may be initially distracting and you don’t want to spend a lot of time discussing mapping, taking away time from your presentation goals. Keeping it simple let’s you display information in your map that supports you, the speaker, and acts as a supplement to your presentation. Garr shares “People came to hear you and be moved or informed (or both) by you and your message. Don’t let your message and your ability to tell a story get derailed by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or full of what Edward Tufte calls “chart junk.” Nothing in your slide should be superfluous, ever.”

2. Limit Bullet Points & Text

Here’s a challenging aspect that I’ve witnessed for mappers. It’s a great relief to map out all your thoughts and the natural tendency is to want to share your brilliance with the world. Remeber, your presentation is for the benefit of the audience. It’s easy to overwhelm them with complicated maps containing all your detailed points. This will either bore them or put them in a catatonic state of overwhelm called ‘map shock’. Garr indicates that the best PowerPoint slides have no text at all. Can the same be true for map topics? This may sound crazy at first but remember that you are giving the presentation not the map. Let it support you, not the other way around.

Does your map need to be a standalone presentation that you can distribute to others if they missed the event? Worried that an image will not convey your thoughts as eloquently as all of your topics (formally known as bullets in the world of PowerPoint)? Another best practice suggested by Garr is to send a document that highlights your content. That’s easily accomplished with MindManager 8’s export to Microsoft Word.

In the following slide examples, you’ll lose your audience and the tendency would be to read these slides:

The next two slide examples allow the presenter to shine, sharing valuable stories and insights with the audience. The slides no longer compete with you or distract the audience.

3. Make Your Maps for Presentations

Garr’s original topic here is to avoid too many object builds and slide transitions in PowerPoint. While maps are visual representations of your thinking process, keep your audience in mind at all times and bridge the gap by making the content easy to view without getting lost in the layers of your beautiful, but complex thinking. The audience will get distracted if your map is constantly diving into deeper levels. Organize your content carefully, keeping your audience experience in mind. Use number of sup-topics and deeper levels of your map judiciously.

4. Use High-Quality Graphics

Map topics can contain images & text. In some cases, you may opt to use stand-alone images to convey your points. When you do so, always use high-quality graphics including photographs. Garr’s advice for slides also holds true for maps:

  • You can take your own high-quality photographs with your digital camera, purchase professional stock photography, or use the plethora of high-quality images available on line (be cautious of copyright issues, however). Never simply stretch a small, low-resolution photo to make it fit your layout – doing so will degrade the resolution even further.
  • Avoid using PowerPoint Clip Art or other cartoonish line art. Again, if it is included in the software, your audience has seen it a million times before. It may have been interesting in 1993, but today the inclusion of such clip art often undermines the professionalism of the presenter. There are exceptions, of course, and not all PowerPoint art is dreadful, but use carefully and judiciously.

One last point on using imagery within maps: map markers are great for managing content in your maps (show status, % complete, etc…) but are poor choices for graphics in map presentations. They appear too small when projected and may get lost if used on larger maps with many markers.

5. Have a Visual Theme

It doesn’t take long to create a map style that is either consistent with your branding or your client’s brand. Use it as your visual theme for your presentation instead of relying on MindManager’s default map styles. Map styles adjust your background as well as the default look and feel for map topics and fonts used throughout the map. These styles can be saved and reused for future presentations.

6. Use Appropriate Charts

Using MindManager’s embedded spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel integration or ability to cut and paste images into topics, you can display a variety of charts to support your presentation points. Here are a few tips from Garr on how to use the appropriate charts:

Pie Charts: Used to show percentages. Limit the slices to 4-6 and contrast the most important slice either with color or by exploding the slice.

Vertical Bar Charts: Used to show changes in quantity over time. Best if you limit the bars to 4-8.

Horizontal Bar Charts: Used to compare quantities. For example, comparing sales figures among the four regions of the company.

Line Charts: Used to demonstrate trends. For example, here is a simple line chart showing that our sales have gone up every year. The trend is good. The arrow comes in later to underscore the point: Our future looks good!

7. Use Color Well

Color can be a powerful part of your presentation. Colors evoke feelings and emotions. The right color choices help persuade, motivate, improve learning and retention.

Garr provides some great starter points to consider when building out your presentation map styles:

  • You do not need to be an expert in color theory, but it’s good for business professionals to know at least a bit on the subject.
  • Colors can be divided into two general categories: Cool (such as blue and green) and Warm (such as orange and red).
  • Cool colors work best for backgrounds as they appear to recede away from us into the background.
  • Warm colors generally work best for objects in the foreground (such as text) because they appear to be coming at us.
  • If you will be presenting in a dark room (such as a large hall), then a dark background (dark blue, grey, etc.) with white or light text will work fine.
  • But if you plan to keep most of the lights on (which is highly advisable) then a white background with black or dark text works much better.
  • In rooms with a good deal of ambient light, a screen image with a dark background and light text tends to washout, but dark text on a light background will maintain its visual intensity a bit better.

8. Choose Your Fonts Well

This is another great presentation lesson. I’ve seen many presentations as well as documents that are overloaded with competing fonts. Your use of fonts should be deliberate, using a consistent set of fonts throughout the entire map.

Here are some other valuable tips from Garr:

  • Serif fonts were designed to be used in documents filled with lots of text. Serif fonts are said to be easier to read at small point sizes, but for on screen presentations the serifs tend to get lost due to the relatively low resolution of projectors.
  • San-serif fonts are generally best for presentations, but try to avoid the ubiquitous Helvetica. I often choose to use Gill Sans as it is somewhere in between a serif and a sans-serif font and is professional yet friendly and “conversational.”
  • And perhaps one of my favorite font tips: Regardless of what font you choose, make sure the text can be read from the back of the room.

9. Use Video or Audio

Our CEO at Mindjet, Scott Raskin, is a huge fan of using videos to drive home key points or to kick off a presentation with a little humor. Garr recommends using video and audio when appropriate. With MindManager 8, you can use video clips without ever leaving the map. Just add a hyperlink to your video on the topic and launch it within the embedded browser. Using videos, according to Garr, not only will illustrate your point better, it will also serve as a change of pace thereby increasing the interest of your audience.

10. Spend Time in the Slide Sorter (or Better, in MindManager)

The Segmentation Principle of multimedia learning theory states that people comprehend better when information is presented in small chunks or segments. So if you’re using MindManager to plan out PowerPoint presentations or using it for presentations, you can open up your map to the various levels to see how information is presented to the audience. Verify that it flows naturally and logically. Could you reorganize your topics to make your points more persuasively? Use your map to capture the gestalt of your entire presentation — the holistic view or big picture can be best visualized with MindManager. Use this view to remove extraneous pieces of data and you’ll increase visual clarity and improve communication.

More Resources:

Here are a couple of other great resources from Chuck Frey’s mindmapping software blog to help you map out great presentations:

What presentation strategies and tips do you have to share? Add your comments below.


9 Responses to “10 Steps to Great Presentation Maps”

  1. Keith

    Why wasn’t this created in a mindmap and loaded to the Blog?

  2. Jim Finney

    To expand more on Steve Rothwell’s points… old habits die hard, even for those of us who know better! Having taken a one-day course by Edward Tufte a few years back, I am now more actutely aware of the conflict most presenters face. On one hand, they have the desire for their presentation package to stand alone, in order to minimize the misinterpretation of the intended message in the wider audience, especially those who cannot experience the live presentation. This is the factor which drives presentations towards verbose word charts, which then tend to lose the attention of the live audience. On the other hand, unless one can devise some very data-rich graphics, video, or audio, it is difficult to create a package which conveys unambiguous detail without a lot of words. The answer, and Steve hits it on the head and I think Tufte would fully agree, is that you still need to be able to provide – offline from the presentation – the detailed report and data which supports your presented message in a unambiguous manner. The presentation is just a billboard or storyboard highlighting the basic messages of the presenter. But such a presentation should rarely be intended to stand alone. Mind maps can be a better way to show high-resolution information “adjacent in space”, as Tufte promotes, rather than the typical use of PowerPoint to “stack information in time”. The other pitfall is the notion that fancy, colorful Mind maps or PowerPoint can make anyone a presenter; you also need a certain amount of salesmanship and showmanship (tailored to fit your style). To really be effective, presenters still need to have their message documented and available in unambiguous prose, thoroughly know their content and their message well, and know where all of the supporting evidence can be found. It is a two-way street, though; it doesn’t help if the audience expects and wants to digest only PowerPoint bullets.

  3. Jessica

    I have definitely mind mapped before and found that it helped me organize my thoughts into a clear message and presentation. I also found a presentation set-up that really helped improve corporate communication within my company. It’s the spyder video processing system by Vista Systems. Here is the site http://www.vistasystems.net/market_solutions/corporate.asp

  4. Steve Rothwell

    Great post, Michael. And very timely. You rightly point out that some of the bad habits of avid PowerPointers may be making the jump to MM presentations.

    I always go back to what is probably an out of date term these days – “visual aid”. Anything you use to support your presentation should help the audience get the main points you are discussing and should help them remember these. Your visuals should support your talk and help to underline key points. As Michael hints at – if you feel the need to share lots of detail then issue a report or paper before the meeting and use the presentation to debate key areas or take feedback.

    It’s also worth taking a look at some the thoughts of Edward Tufte.

  5. Robin Capper

    I’d love to see MindManager get a bit slicker in presentation model. Some thoughts;

    – Give the presentation view the same status as the map & outline views on the status bar
    – Have a the notes tooltip expand/zoom to a full screen view. I have High-Quality Graphics in the notes as large images in the map topics slow things down. To hover and have the image fill the screen (over the map).

    If your map is too complex to prresnt tag the topics you want to appear with an icon, I use the Glasses, then filter the view by that icon.


  1.  Use MindManager for Presenting – Super Post | The Mindjet Blog
  2.  How to Make a Great Presentation: Mapping Your Content | The Mindjet Blog