The secret to presenting Venn diagrams effectively
Venn diagrams can be pretty tricky to present because they are packed with information.
In your most basic Venn diagram, there are at least two separate components, and then an overlap between them. That’s 3 distinct ideas on one slide, even with a “simple” Venn diagram.
That’s not a huge deal and, if done well, probably won’t cause your audience to feel too confused or overwhelmed.
But what about when there are THREE components with an overlap? Now you actually have 7 ideas on one slide!
That makes it harder for you to explain AND overwhelming for your audience. Once we get to three (or four) part Venn diagrams, then it’s not a matter of whether they’ll be overwhelmed: it’s a matter of how fast they’ll be overwhelmed.
With 7+ ideas on a single slide, all part of the same visual, it’s too easy for your audience to lose track of which components you’re referring to. That means, if you want to help your audience follow along with your multi-component Venn diagram, then you NEED to put some extra effort into your slides.
But most people only think of 2 options for presenting their Venn diagrams:
(1) find one that already exists on the internet or (2) Try to make your own directly in PowerPoint or Keynote using shapes & adjusting the opacity. But there are some downsides to these approaches, especially the first one.
Here’s why using a Venn diagram plucked from the interwebs is a bad idea:
1. Their font sizes are too small for a presentation…
2. The colors and fonts won’t match the rest of your presentation.
What’s the nicest way I can say this?
3. They’re not well-designed.
But the biggest problem with static images of Venn diagrams is this: you can’t do anything to help prevent information overload.
And NO, your laser pointer is NOT a solution. Everyone hates laser pointers, please don’t use one.
So, once you realize that an image found online isn’t a good option, your next step is probably to try to create one in PowerPoint using shapes.
Here’s the problem with trying to make Venn diagrams in PowerPoint or Keynote using shapes & adjusting the transparency:
Let’s say you have a Venn diagram with 3 components. What you can do in PowerPoint is make 3 shapes, in different colors, then adjust the opacity a little bit.
I’ve done this, and I’m pretty sure this is what you’ve done before, too. But this is not a great way to present a Venn diagram, either!
Even if you only showed 2 circles at once (and their overlap), you don’t have control over the color and can’t always make it distinct enough. Plus, you can’t control the formatting of the very center of the Venn diagram (where all three overlap).
It’s better than finding an image online, but you still don’t have full customization of each piece.
If all you do is adjust the opacity, then you can’t help your audience focus on just one piece of the Venn diagram, like this does:
ahhhhh right? Now, hopefully you see what I mean!
So, how do you make that happen?
What’s the solution?
You need to break the Venn diagram into smaller pieces, so you can fully customize each individual piece of the Venn diagram.
That way, you can change the colors as needed to help your audience focus on the component/s you’re talking about — in real time.
For example, let’s say you’re talking about the overlap of Component A and Component B. That’s a lot of information going on at once, so you should be doing something to focus their attention on that specific overlap.
But you can’t do that with a static image found online. You can’t do that in Keynote (as far as I know!). You can do it in PowerPoint…if you know how to use the feature that lets you do this. But, the #1 challenge people have is that they’re short on time, so few people have the time to DIY this.
p.s. Don’t know what feature I’m talking about? Check your inbox! If you were already signed up for the Communication Café (my email newsletter) I explain more and even give you a quick tutorial on how to create it.
Not part of the Communication Café yet? Sign up now so you don’t miss the next tip:
Missed the email or don’t want to DIY? Good thing you’ve found my blog post, friend! Because I’ve got you covered: I made you some templates.
We’ve made you 2- and 3-part Venn diagrams in professional design software (Affinity Designer, if you’re curious) and built you easy-to-edit Venn diagram templates in PowerPoint.
This template pack has everything you need to present Venn diagrams in a beautiful, engaging, and effective way. You get:
A 2-component Venn Diagram in black and white (so you can use your own colors).
A 2-component Venn Diagram in color (so you can just copy and paste, and be on your way!).
A 3-component Venn Diagram in black and white.
A 3-component Venn Diagram in color.
The 3-component Venn Diagram (color) with each overlapping “piece” in color (and the rest in gray).
And that’s just the basic components and setup. Then, I broke down the 3-component Venn diagram (in color) in several ways for you:
The 3-component Venn Diagram with two components & their overlap in color (and the remaining component in gray).
The 3-component Venn Diagram (color) showing only two components (and their overlap) one at a time.
Just the overlap section in color (everything else gray), while still showing all the center lines
Just the overlap section in color (everything else gray), without all of the center lines.
I also made some quick instructional videos on how to use the templates and change the color of pieces with ideas for how to present them.
That’s 17 slides of Venn diagram templates ready to go.
No advanced tech skills required! Even if you don’t consider yourself tech savvy and aren’t all that familiar with PowerPoint, the instructions I provide (with a couple videos) will show you what to do.
All you have to do is add your own text and/or lines so that this Venn diagram works for your topic. The reason I didn’t add text boxes or labels is because you’ll want those to match your slide style, which is unique to each person. And, if you want to add even more variations than what I provided, you can do so!
>> Use Keynote? A keynote file is also included. You can’t edit the shapes or colors (Keynote doesn’t have this feature, as far as I know). BUT, you can edit the shapes in PowerPoint and then add them to Keynote as an image (it takes 2 seconds to do that, and you get a video tutorial showing you how to do this).
Don’t want the templates, but want better Venn diagrams? You could always hire a designer to help…
In fact, I recently completed a custom Venn diagram project! A client needed help with designing a conceptual model for her dissertation. She wanted to visually combine an existing theory with technology standards of her field (social work) but had no good way to do this quickly. She had professional software, but not the time to put it all together into one seamless design.
The existing theory (SW-TPACK) is visualized as a three-component Venn diagram and she found one of the relatively well-designed ones out there, so it was very easy to work with. But, I still wanted to choose different colors that could be customized.
So we got to work and designed her full model using Affinity Designer. The final product was a Venn diagram with modern colors AND it can be broken down into smaller chunks for more effective presenting. Here is the final graphic.
Don’t want the templates and don’t want to hire a designer either? You could always DIY it!
The template we created was made partly in Affinity Designer and partly in PowerPoint.
Again, if you were already on my email list, then you have a quick tutorial waiting for you to get you started. It could also be something I train you to do during a TTA session (best option if you have other questions about how to design your presentation).
Or…Do you wish you knew how to use professional design software so you could make your own graphics for your presentations?
We switched from Adobe Illustrator to Affinity Designer and it was an EXCELLENT decision. We love it SO MUCH that we created an online course to help others learn Affinity Designer.
If you aren’t familiar with Affinity Designer, it’s a MUCH more affordable and easier to use (but just as powerful) competitor to Adobe Illustrator. I strongly recommend you switch, or choose Affinity to get started instead of Illustrator. (No, I’m not an affiliate, I just love it that much!).
Our course is currently in beta testing and will be available very soon. Learn more about that course and join the wait list now, so you’re the first to know when it’s public (and, as always, you’ll get access to sweet bonuses and/or early bird pricing).
Ok…that’s not catchy at all, but whatever. The course is sweet and has a full tutorial on making your own Venn diagrams (and, of course, much more than that!)
Additional resources to help you pick color palettes for your Venn diagrams:
Don’t need a Venn diagram right now, but want to stay in touch? Join my email list!
You’ll get exclusive tech tips, invites to training, group mentoring, and more!
Echo Rivera, PhD
p.s. just for the record — in case it isn’t clear — you should only use Venn diagrams for qualitative or categorical data. Please don’t try to use Venn diagrams for quantitative or numerical data. It doesn’t work. Ever.
Thank you, Norma, for letting me share this project on my blog.
Here’s what Norma had to say about the graphic we designed for her:
I reached out to Echo because I needed to create a model / design for my conceptual research. While I am highly tech savvy, I am not a graphic designer and do not have an “artsy” mindset. I definitely had the concept and vision in mind, even attempted at designing/drawing/building it myself. I downloaded Adobe Photoshop, did some work and it looked horrible, very sloppy and unprofessional. I was working against the clock and did not have time to invest in learning the software in the very short amount of time I had to submit the design. I felt that Echo’s prices were fair and she went above and beyond the call of duty, her turn-around time was fast and her detail in the project was meticulous. She was productive, efficient, and spot-on with enhancing my original vision. The final product was beautiful, yet appropriate for a scholarly audience. She provided many options and ways I could make my design versatile for a myriad of future scholarly projects, such as slideshows, presentations, papers, posters, etc. I will definitely be returning for future services with my creative works and also to talk with Echo for some coaching on building my dossier in the academy. Without reservation, I highly recommend Echo Rivera and CRC for all creative projects and also many other impressive and jaw-dropping professional services that she provides. Her work was better than I had anticipated and she truly saved my entire life.
Norma R. Schropshire LMSW, Part-time faculty at Wayne State University