What is the 7×7 Rule in PowerPoint?

What is the 7×7 Rule in PowerPoint?

Despite its reputation for dry content delivery across virtual and in-person meetings alike, PowerPoint remains the go-to choice for many professionals, even as other options emerge that offer greater usability and flexibility outside of the Microsoft ecosystem.

Part of the presentation platform’s popularity stems from its familiarity — many organizations still run Microsoft-first IT software environments, making PowerPoint the obvious choice for straightforward presentation design. Simplicity provides the second part of this popularity permutation since creating a basic PowerPoint presentation on a single topic requires minimal time and effort.

→ Free Download: 4 PowerPoint Presentation Templates [Access Now]

The problem? “Simple” doesn’t always mean “effective”. Staff across markets, industries, and verticals worldwide have stories about unbearably long and boring PowerPoint presentations that were long on details but short on value. The 7×7 rule offers a framework to help boost PowerPoint form and function by reducing text volume and improving information impact.

In this piece, we’ll break down the 7×7 rule in PowerPoint, best practices, and offer some actionable examples of seven-by-seven solutions in-situ.

The PowerPoint Problem

To put it simply, most viewers don’t like PowerPoint. While the format has the benefit of speed and convenience — and can conceivably be used to communicate information quickly and concisely — many presentations are overlong and overwrought with bonanzas of bullet points that seem relevant but are really just digital hot air.

In most cases, the disconnect between appearance and action is boring at best and irritating at worst. As noted by the BBC, however, in extreme cases — such as NASA’s Challenger shuttle disaster — overlooked information in an overstuffed presentation can have significant real-world consequences.

Best bet? To avoid PowerPoint frustration and fatigue, it’s time for a new framework: The 7×7 rule.

What is the 7×7 rule in PowerPoint?

The 7×7 rule is simple: For every slide, use no more than seven lines of text — or seven bullet points — and no more than seven words per line. Slide titles aren’t included in the count.

There’s no specific data supporting the 7×7 model as the ideal; some PointPower proselytizers consider 8×8 good enough while others say 6×6 is more streamlined. The point here isn’t the hard-and-fast number but the underlying idea: Cut out extraneous information to improve presentation uptake.

Slides can still contain images — and should, wherever possible — but sticking to the 7×7 rule helps cut down on excess data that might be better-shared in follow-up emails or one-on-one discussions. In effect, the 7×7 rule is a way to reduce the amount of time staff spend pretending to care about PowerPoints and instead help them focus on slide information that’s relevant, contextual, and actionable.

Best Practices for the 7×7 Rule in PowerPoint

Building a typical PowerPoint slide is straightforward. Like any business practice, however, it can be improved with a standardized set of rules designed to limit waste and improve efficiency. And when it comes to most PowerPoint presentations, almost any change makes a positive impact.

Let’s break down some of the best practices for building PowerPoint slides with the 7×7 rule.

1. Single slide, single concept.

Each slide should address a single concept rather than trying to connect the dots across multiple data points, trends or ideas. While it’s fine to build on previous slide data as your presentation progresses the single slide, single concept approach helps focus presentation efforts from the word go.

2. Images increase impact.

As noted above images are a welcome addition to slides, so long as they’re relevant. If you find yourself adding unrelated stock photos just to add some color — don’t. Keep slides, text, and images on-track.

4. Forget the funny.

Almost everyone has a story about a “funny” PowerPoint joke that was nothing of the sort. In most cases, these heavy-handed humor efforts are shoehorned in ostensibly to help viewers better remember slide data. In fact, they shift the focus away from your primary objective.

5. Plan it out.

Before creating your presentation, create a basic outline that highlights your primary concept, how you plan to get it across, and how many slides in total it should take. Then, draft your slides. Take a break, review them, and cut back wherever possible.

6. Consider the 7x7x7.

If you really want to go all-in on the 7×7 rule, consider adding another 7 and aiming for no more than 7 words in each line, no more than 7 lines on each slide, and no more than 7 slides in total. It’s not easy — but offers a much better chance of getting your point across.

7×7 Rule in Powerpoint Examples

So what does the 7×7 rule look like in practice? It’s one thing to talk about building a better slide, but it’s easy to fall back into bad habits when it’s time to put together a presentation. It makes sense; content creators are often trying to convey a significant amount of information in a short period of time, and it’s easy to get sidetracked by the notion that every piece of data must be included to make the meeting a success.

Let’s start with a slide that’s substantially removed from the 7×7 rule:

bad example of the 7x7-rule in powerpoint

There’s a lot to unpack here. We’re using too many lines and too many words per line. Lines are complex without saying much, and the attempt at humor doesn’t add anything.

Let’s try again:

example of the 7x7-rule in powerpoint that still needs some improvement

This one is better — we’ve reduced the number of lines to 7 and lost the joke, but most of the lines still have more than 7 words and the text is overly convoluted.

Let’s try one more time:

GREAT example of the 7x7-rule in powerpoint

This slide is clear and concise, and most lines have less than 7 characters. It offers the same information as the first two versions — it’s just more effective and efficient.

The 7×7 Solution

While using 7 lines of text with 7 words or less isn’t a silver bullet for all PowerPoint-related problems, it’s a good place to begin if you’re looking to boost viewer engagement and limit fatigue.

Bottom line? PowerPoint isn’t always the ideal format for getting your point across, but if you need to create a quick-hitter presentation that lands well with your audience, start with the 7×7 solution.

powerpoint slides

6 Ways to Use Icons in Your Infographics [+ Where to Find Free Icons]

6 Ways to Use Icons in Your Infographics [+ Where to Find Free Icons]

Whether it’s an explainer on solar panels or the farm-to-cup process of making your favorite coffee, infographics compress a world of information into one simple, digestible format.

But designing an infographic that successfully communicates a lot of information in a simple visual format requires more than a quick idea and a template.

Fortunately, there’s one design element that the best infographics all have in common, and it can help you build a professional infographic that gets your point across and looks good doing it.

Icons are the secret tool that designers use to take your eye from one point to another so that all that information comes to you in just the right order.

Icons form the secret language of infographics, and once you learn how to speak it, yours will be more effective and (hopefully) widely shared by your audience.

→ Download Now: 15 Free Infographic Templates

Why Do You Need Infographic Icons?

Infographics can be a great source of information when you’re introducing a complex topic to an unfamiliar audience. People love sharing them because they can communicate a vast quantity of information in an elegant, easy-to-digest format.

However, it’s easy to create an infographic that is overwhelming or which simply falls flat. Icons streamline the process of creating the infographic and ensure that it effectively communicates the information it’s meant to share.

Infographic icons give structure to your infographic and can be used to highlight key pieces of information. They can also efficiently explain what happens at important junctures of the process without relying on words. You have a limited amount of space on an infographic, and icons help you say more with fewer words.

6 Reasons To Use Icons in an Infographic

1. They help your audience focus.

A good infographic is a buffet for the eyes, and your readers could have trouble focusing on just one part of it at a time. Icons provide a much-needed sense of structure to the information in your infographic and create a guided experience for the viewer. Good icon placement makes navigating your infographic a more intuitive experience for your audience.

In the excerpt of an infographic from Infographic Journal that covers the entire history of currency from 9000 BC to the present, the author uses icons to mark key events and add interest to what could have easily been a boring timeline. Small (but important) arrow icons along the timeline also keep the reader moving along in the right direction.

2. They make the words you use count more.

Want to make your text stand out on your infographic? Try pairing it with an icon. It’s easy for your words to get lost among the visuals of your infographic.

Icons can bring attention to specific words or charts, and help the viewer leave with clearer, more memorable takeaways. They can also tip off the reader what to expect from each section, allowing them to focus on the subjects that interest them first.

In this excerpt of an infographic from Futurism.com, complex concepts (that could have each required a lot of text to explain) are accompanied by custom icons that help reinforce the titles of each section with fewer words.

You might not immediately know what “ingestible robots” means, but when you see the image of the robot popping out of a pill capsule, you get a better grasp on it immediately.

3. They make data easier to understand.

Graphs displaying complex information can be challenging for many people to grasp at first, but a simple icon can prime your audience to understand the data it presents and why it matters to them.

For complex graphs, multiple icons can break down individual sections and allow the audience to derive more value from it, making it more likely they share it with their networks. You can also use icons to represent amounts in a graph instead of raw numbers to make them easier for your audience to grasp.

In this excerpted screenshot of an infographic from USC Marshall School of business, icons are used to convey data in place of a more traditional graph:

4. They can help you say more with less.

Icons are an ideal medium for telling a simple story that hits on the main theme of your infographic. This can form a unifying message that allows your target audience to connect with the information presented.

Your infographic’s data tells a story, and icons can show it to your audience immediately. From cave paintings to fire exit signs, icons can be used to create powerful, engaging stories with the simplest of shapes.

You can get a feel for how icons can effectively communicate complex pieces of information in the except of an infographic from USC Rossier on the science of classroom design. Describing each of these classroom formats would have been cumbersome and required a lot of text, but with icons, a lot of information can be condensed in a simple visual.

5. They tap into shared meanings.

The best thing about icons is they often mean the same thing in every context they’re used. This allows you to introduce meaning into your infographic without having to explain it to your audience directly (and take up valuable space on your design). This ultimately makes your infographic more accessible and easier for your audience to understand.

In the infographic excerpt from Daily Infographic below, the designer makes excellent use of two instantly recognizable symbols — money and people — to explain the evolution of crowdfunding.

6. They contribute to your brand’s personality and voice.

The icons you choose can add personality to your infographic and are an excellent opportunity to showcase your branding.

What do cute, fun, icons, or hand-drawn ones say about your brand or the information you’re providing? What about sleek, polished ones? The aesthetic you choose for your icons is just as important as any other piece of information you choose to include in our infographic.

In the example below from Printsome, a company that specializes in printing and design, it makes sense that the creator chose to use a clean, consistent icon aesthetic that fits in neatly with the branding of their website.

 

The Best Free (and Almost Free) Resources for Infographic Icons

There’s a wide variety of free and nearly-free sources for infographic icons and elements online. We’ve listed some of them here for your next project.

Flaticon

Looking for free vector icons created by a wide variety of designers? Flaticon is a great place to begin your search. With 3,641,000 (and growing) free vector icons available on the site, this site is a solid option if you have a specific design in mind and a limited budget.

Icons8

If you’re looking for a more curated selection of options, Icons8 offers free icons that are designed entirely by a single team. This is a great option if you have plans to create a series of infographics and want a consistent look between all of them, regardless of the subject matter.

Noun Project

Noun Project believes icons help create an important global language, and their unique (and extensive) collection includes more specific options — we’re talking everything from icons representing abstract artificial intelligence concepts to Beyoncé — that you likely won’t find anywhere else on the web.

DaFont

If you’ve ever sought out free fonts on the web, you’ve probably encountered DaFont — but did you know they also have a solid selection of icons? If you’d prefer to use icons in custom font format instead of downloading them as images, DaFont is a good free option.

Iconshock

Most of Iconshock’s library is free to use for noncommercial purposes. If your infographic is for commercial use, you’ll pay a one-time fee for most icons here, which is a budget-friendly option if you’re still testing out infographics as a marketing strategy.

Iconfinder

Iconfinder offers a nice balance of extensive options with some expert curation — which is a bonus if you’re not interested in filtering through hundreds of pages to find icons that fit your ideal aesthetic. Most icons featured here are available for free for personal use, while pricing plans are available if you plan on using any of the icons commercially.

Behance

Behance is a platform where designers around the world can showcase and sell their design work and connect with potential clients — but many generous designers also offer some design goodies for free. If you’re willing to spend some time searching, there are certainly some hidden gems on Behance that are worth the search.

Icons give your infographics shape.

Icons are vital tools that can bring meaning and structure to your infographic while enabling greater word economy in your overall design.

They can help to orient the viewer to the information and provide cues that indicate the flow of the infographic. Even if your viewer is completely unfamiliar with the information in your infographic, icons with a widely-recognized meaning can help to improve their understanding of it.

Ultimately, the icons you choose for your infographic and the way you use them can improve its overall utility for your viewer.

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How to Make a Timeline Graphic in Google Docs, Word, Excel, Google Sheets, and PowerPoint

How to Make a Timeline Graphic in Google Docs, Word, Excel, Google Sheets, and PowerPoint

Infographics are a great way to capture user attention and communicate key concepts. Why? Because they combine relevant information with graphic impact to increase retention and engagement.

Data backs up this common-sense assertion: Research found that people retain 65% of the information they see — but only 10% of the information they hear — and spend 39% less time searching for the content they need when it’s displayed in infographic format.

→ Download Now: 15 Free Infographic Templates

One of the most compelling uses for this functional format? Timeline graphics. These date and data delivery vehicles offer a way to quickly communicate important information — from key dates in your company’s history to upcoming project milestones or predicted market trends.

Of course, it’s one thing to see the value in timeline graphics and another to actually create attractive and effective visuals. In this piece, we’ll tackle timeline tactics for familiar applications including Google Docs, Word, Excel, Google Sheets, and Powerpoint.

3…2…1…let’s go!

What is a timeline graphic?

While there’s no single format for timeline graphics, the most common composition uses four parts:

  • Data
  • Visual
  • Header
  • Description

Each timeline element contains all four parts, and elements are then arranged in left-to-right order of oldest-to-newest events. This format offers simplicity of form and function — elements are easy to read and identify, and the “flow” of time is simple to spot.

Let’s say you’re creating a timeline of key events in your corporate history using this framework. It might look something like this:

an example of a timeline graphic made in google docs

This (very basic) example was made in Google Docs and uses an arrow to denote the passage of time. Dates above the line are paired with brief details below. Some timelines will include both a header — such as merger — with a longer description below. How much information is worth including depends on the complexity of the topic at hand, who’s going to be using the chart, and its overall purpose. In this case, our graphic element is the line itself but you can also insert relevant images of people or places associated with the event to increase user engagement.

Another common graphic timeline format runs top-to-bottom with earlier dates at the top of the page and later dates further down. To maximize space many of these top-to-bottom templates alternate information left-and-right down the line.

How to Make a Timeline on Google Docs

So how do you make a timeline graphic?

1. Create a picture.

Head to “Insert”, then select “Drawing” and “+ New”. This will bring up a new window that looks like a checkerboard.

2. Start drawing.

Select the “Line” button from the top menu and choose “Arrow”. Then, draw a line across the screen. To make sure it’s straight, look at the left-hand side — if you only see one line, it’s level. If you see more than one, it’s at an angle.

3. Enter your text.

Click on the Text Box tool — represented as a T surrounded by a box — and create a box above or below your line to start adding details. You can either copy and paste multiple boxes to ensure consistent sizing and spacing or use a single, giant text box. While the latter option is quicker to create (we used it) the natural left-to-right format of the box means you’re limited in how information appears.

4. Save and close.

When you’ve entered all of your timeline data, click “Save and Close” and the image will be automatically added to your Google Doc.

How to Make a Timeline in Word

Maybe you don’t like Google Docs, maybe your company uses Microsoft Office exclusively, or maybe you don’t like the idea of potentially shared timelines. Whatever the case, it’s also possible to create a timeline graphic in Word.

1. Insert SmartArt

Open a new Word document and head to the “Insert” tab, then select “SmartArt”.

2. Find your timeline.

From the new menu that appears, select “Process”. This will bring up a host of potential timeline graphic options, everything from single, large arrows to connected text boxes to linked circles. The simplest option is the “Basic Timeline” which contains dots embedded in a large, transparent arrow.

3. Enter your data.

Use the text pane located on the left-hand side to enter your timeline data. Pressing “Enter” creates a new timeline entry — if you need to add more information to a specific timeline item, press Shift+Enter to create a line break.

4. Customize your timeline.

Customize your timeline dots and arrow with shapes or colors to achieve your desired look.

Word does not automatically calculate time between events; as a result, all items on your timeline will be equidistant from one another. If you need to communicate a larger span of time, you can drag events further apart manually, but this will eventually distort the graphic.

How to Make a Timeline in Excel

If you enjoy using Microsoft Office for creating timelines but want to make things more difficult for yourself, try building an Excel timeline. While the finished product offers easily-accessible data in a familiar format, the effort required is significantly more substantial.

1. Create a data table.

Create a three-column table in Excel that contains your timeline data. Use the first column for dates and the second for event titles. In the last column, enter a series of numbers — these numbers will determine the height of your timeline plots. You can set them all to the same height with the same number or different heights in a repeating pattern depending on your preference.

2. Insert a scatter chart.

Select “Insert” from the top Excel menu, then “Charts”, then select a Scatter chart.

3. Import your data.

Right-click the chart that appears and choose “Select Data Source.” Select the “Add” button in the “Legend Entries (Series)” menu that appears. Click on the small spreadsheet image that appears next to the “Series X values” box, then choose the column of dates you created.

Then, select the small spreadsheet next to the “Series Y values” box and choose the data in your timeline height column. Click “OK” and you’ll create a scatter chart with dates at the bottom and dots at varying heights.

4. Eliminate gridlines, add error bars.

Select your chart and find the “+” in the upper-right to bring up the Chart Elements menu. Uncheck “Chart Title” and “Gridlines”, then check “Data Labels” and “Error Bars”

5. Connect the dots.

Head to the “Error Bars” menu option and select “No Line” for your Series X Error Bars — this will remove the horizontal lines on each side of your data points. For your Series Y Error Bars, set the direction to “Minus” and the Error Amount to “100%”. This will create vertical lines between your dates and your data points.

6. Insert event titles.

In the “Format Axis” menu, select “Series 1 Data Labels”, uncheck “Y Value”, and select “Value from Cells.” Then, click the small spreadsheet icon. Select your event titles column and then click “OK”.

This should create a basic timeline with dates along the bottom and data points at varying height, each with a small description above. If desired, you can add extra formatting and color options from the Format Data Series menu.

How to Make a Timeline in Google Sheets

The polar opposite of Excel, Google Sheets makes it easy to create project timeline.

1. Create a new timeline.

Open Google Sheets and select the “Project Timeline” option.

2. Customize.

Edit your timeline. Change any text box, add colors, and modify dates as required. While customization is bounded by the basic format of this Gantt chart, Google Sheets offers one of the easiest ways to create and share a timeline.

How to Make a Timeline in PowerPoint

Making a timeline in PowerPoint is almost identical to the process used in Word.

1. Select your design.

Head to the “Design” tab and select your theme.

2. Insert SmartArt.

Click on “Insert”, then “SmartArt”.

3. Choose and fill your timeline graphic.

Select the timeline you prefer and it will be created with three elements. Add text to the elements directly, and use “Add Bullets” to add bullet points below. Select “Add Shape” to additional timeline sections.

Timing is Everything

Timeline graphics add convenient context to otherwise dry data points. From details about your company from inception to current interaction to in-depth project milestone markers, visual timelines in Google Docs or Sheets, or Microsoft Word, Excel, or PowerPoint offer a way to capture critical data while simultaneously boosting viewer interest and bolstering information retention.

Infographic design