How to Make Project Plan Presentations for Clients and Execs

Project presentation is a critical part of project management.  Whether gaining stakeholder commitment or updating clients and executives on progress, success depends on a your ability to effectively present the project plan. This article reviews approaches and techniques for creating an impressive project review that non-project people can quickly understand.

Project Plan Slide - How To Make Them

Avoid complex project documentation when presenting projects

Project visuals for clients and executives should be kept at a high level to avoid losing your audience in too much complexity. Rather than re-using detailed project documentation, quickly create project visuals that are easy for non-project audiences to understand. Presenting a simpler project review to clients and executives will help you stay on message and it will provide them the opportunity to drill down for details when they need to.

Most often project planning is done with specialized tools like Microsoft Project. This software is perfect for managing the complexity of many interrelated tasks and events, and for creating detailed project documentation, however, it falls short in generating high-level charts. The visuals, like the example below, are not well suited for client and executive reviews. An exec-level project review should summarize the plan and it’s progress in graphically appealing way, making it easier for your audience to quickly digest the information and understand implications to the business.

Creating a graphical project presentation

The best technique for presenting a project plan, is to make chart that visually relates the  tasks (activities) of a project and with the project's critical milestones , as shown in the example at the top of this page. Presenting your project plan in this way helps clients and managers quickly see the scheduled tasks, the duration for each task, the sequence of the tasks and their dependency on preceding tasks (critical path). Showing the project’s tasks alongside the critical milestones of the plan makes it easier for audiences to connect your project activities with important events.

Techniques for creating visual project charts

The easiest and most familiar way for creating a graphical project presentation is to make it in PowerPoint or Excel.  There are two charting techniques for presenting project plans.

  1. The first is to show the tasks and how they are scheduled. This is typically done with a Gantt chart.
  2. The second technique is to present the milestones of a project. This is done with a timeline chart.

Since the intention of an executive project review is to connect both the critical tasks with the important milestones on a single timescale, your presentation should include both a Gantt chart and a timeline on a single unified chart.

Below we will show you easy alternatives for creating project charts with Excel and with PowerPoint. We will explain how to make a Gantt chart in Excel using a bar graph, and how to make a Excel timeline using a scatter graph. Also we will show how to quickly make a single, unified Gantt chart + Timeline presentation in PowerPoint by using an add-in for PowerPoint.

Organize your project schedule in Excel

A good first step in building your project’s schedule is to draft it in Excel first. To do this you will need to breakdown your plan into smaller pieces of work, called tasks. Project management in excel typically means listing each of those tasks on a table and placing them in the right sequence. These tasks will form your Gantt chart, and the order of these tasks will form your project schedule. 

In addition to tasks you will also need to have an Excel table that lists the critical milestones and deadlines your plan must achieve. These milestones and deadlines will form your timeline presentation. I have included a simple example of my project schedule below.

As discussed above you will want to limit it to the right amount of detail for an executive level review, so it is not over complex. If your project schedule has more than 20 tasks and 20 milestones, you may want to trim it down so it will be easier for your audiences to understand.

Project Plan Schedule

Presenting a project plan with PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a good tool for building project presentations. Since it is a graphical application, it is designed for creating and communicating charts in a visual way. Additionally, since it is pervasive throughout enterprises PowerPoint is familiar to audiences, and slides can be easily shared. There are three ways to build project slides in PowerPoint:

  1. Use a timeline maker to automatically create native PowerPoint charts (like the example at the top) by importing and synchronizing your Excel table.
  2. Use a PowerPoint timeline template and manually customize it with the data from your project schedule.
  3. Create PowerPoint slides by building a timeline and a Gantt chart in Excel and paste those images onto a static PowerPoint slide

Create your project presentations natively in PowerPoint

Option 1: Use a PowerPoint timeline maker

The easiest way to turn your project data into a presentation, is to use a timeline maker. Office Timeline is a timeline maker that plugs into PowerPoint and automatically turns project plans into graphical slides which can be easily shared and edited. You can enter data into Office Timeline directly or you can import your data from Excel or Microsoft Project. 

To import the project schedule you created in Excel, use the Office Timeline Plus import wizard which will link to your project spreadsheet (or a Microsoft Project file) and instantly create a PowerPoint slide that includes both a Gantt chart and a timeline. Since the slide is linked to a worksheet it can be synchronized and updated with the click of a button when data changes.

  • To begin with you will need to install Office Timeline Plus, which will add a new project schedule tab to the PowerPoint ribbon. Open it and select new to add your data into PowerPoint or import to import it from Excel.  Watch this video tutorial to see how Office Timeline creates project slides.

Project Plan Slide - How To Make Them

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Option 2: Use a timeline template.

An alternative to using a timeline maker for creating your project plan, is to download and edit a free timeline template. These are PowerPoint templates that have been graphically designed and are made available for free. The benefit of using a timeline template is that they are pre-formatted, however, unlike the automation of a timeline maker, they require manual editing which can become tedious particularly as things change.

  • Download a timeline template from a PowerPoint template collection and customize it by entering your project’s tasks and milestones. Do this by manually aligning the milestone and task objects on the template slide so the dates of your project schedule are properly aligned with the timescale. You can find a variety of PowerPoint project templates from this  free timeline template collection .

Project Presentation Collection

Make project presentation charts with Excel

Option 3: Build a timeline and a Gantt chart in Excel


Excel is not as graphical as PowerPoint is. Because of this, project presentations built with Excel charts will tend to look more graph-like. Also, Excel does not combine a Gantt (tasks) with a timeline (milestones) in one chart, so you will need to create two separate visuals and combine them on one slide or present them individually. To do that you will first need to make a Gantt chart showing the tasks of your project plan, and then make a timeline with your project milestones. Here’s how:

Step 1: Make a Gantt chart in Excel with the stacked bar chart function

  • Once you have your project schedule in Excel you will add the task data into an Excel stacked bar graph and then follow approximately 20+ formatting steps to transform it from a stacked bar chart into an Excel Gantt chart, which will end up looking something like the chart below. You can see a video tutorial and a visual guide of all the formatting steps required to create an Excel Gantt chart here:

Excel Gantt Chart

Step 2: Make a timeline in Excel using the scatter chart function.

  • To make a timeline in Excel you will use a scatter chart. Add your data to the scatter chart then follow approximately 25 steps to format it so it looks like a timeline presentation, as shown below. You can see an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide and a how-to video tutorial here:

Excel Timeline Project Plan

Excel is familiar and accessible however there are limitations for a creating project presentations with it.

  • You can’t combine a Gantt chart with a Timeline. Executives and clients want to see both a Gantt chart and a timeline simultaneously. They want visibility into the critical milestones and important tasks of a plan. This can’t be easily done with Excel.
  • To make a timeline presentation or Gantt chart in Excel requires advanced skill. Converting Excel’s stacked and scatter charts into Gantt charts and timelines depends on properly following a specific sequence of formatting steps. This requires Excel proficiency.
  • Excel charts don’t look as appealing as PowerPoint slides and are more difficult to share.

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Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

Project Scorecard for Executive Review

How to Create a Graphical Project Scorecard for Management Reviews.

Customers and Executives love to see a project scorecard as part of a project review.  This most often means it is presented on a PowerPoint slide in a dashboard format.   This article and video discusses how to quickly build a PowerPoint project scorecard around your project timeline as shown below.

Project Scorecard - how to make quickly make them in PowerPoint.,Why PowerPoint?

Executives and customers are most familiar with project reviews presented in PowerPoint.  They are experienced in reading these presentations, and know PowerPoint will force presenters into condensing their content into the most relevant information.  So they get a high-level summary of the business which enables them to make decisions quickly.

Why a Project Scorecard?

Since executive level presentations do not require deeply detailed project reports, they should be no more than 2-3 slides per project. Using a project scorecard is the most effective way to summarize project status at a high level to audiences such as project stakeholders, sponsors, clients and management.  Typically project scorecards are made up of metrics and commentary on various things like budget, accomplishments, risks and future actions, and all of these are anchored around a clear, up-to-date project timeline.

How to Make a Project Scorecard Easily in PowerPoint

Creating fresh and appealing visual project status reports or project presentations in PowerPoint is a time consuming effort for any project manager. Additionally, these presentations often need to be re-created, updated or edited on a weekly, or monthly rhythm, so finding tools that can quickly and easily create and manage this work saves time.

Office Timeline is a free timeline maker that creates and manages PowerPoint timelines for executive and customer project status meetings.  These timelines are created natively in PowerPoint so they can easily be integrated with a project status slide or pasted onto and existing project scorecard template.

The video below demonstrates how to quickly build the timeline and scorecard slide in the image above with Office Timeline.  It also demonstrates how to update your project timeline dashboard instantly and automatically with new information as your project progresses.  This makes updating the slide for reoccurring project reviews and executive presentations automatic.

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Suggested Reading
Pasting timelines
Exceptional PowerPoint Add-Ons
How to quickly make a timeline


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

Quickly Build Gantt Charts in Excel

Project plans, reviews, and proposals often need to be presented to team, clients and executives.  Gantt charts and timelines are the proper way to communicate to these audiences.  Clients and executives, in particular, expect these Gantt charts and timelines to be graphical, visually appealing and easy to understand.  However, creating a Gantt chart in Excel has been challenging and time consuming.

This post and video will show you how to quickly turn timeline Excel data into a professional looking chart, like the one below, with the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in.Turn a Gantt chart in Excel into a PowerPoint slide

Using existing tools to create professional looking Gantt chart and timeline presentations has not been easy.  Project tools, like Microsoft Project, are intended for large scale project management.  They are complicated to learn and they produce overly complex Gantt charts and timelines which are not suited for high level customer and management presentations.

Unlike heavy-weight project tools, visual tools like Visio are better at creating graphical images like Gantt charts and timelines.  However, they are painful to use and lack “smarts” which automatically adjust images when project schedules need updating.

Excel is often the place that project plans and schedules are created.  Most professionals and project workers find it easy to do this.  Once they have their project planned or tracked, they then need to quickly turn that Excel data into a graphical chart that can presented as a project status report, proposal summary or action plan.  This work is automated by the light-weight timeline maker from Office Timeline.

Office Timeline will immediately turn a Gantt chart in Excel into a professional looking PowerPoint slide that is easy to share and present.  It automatically manages updates, so if plans or project schedules change you can quickly update your Gantt chart or timeline without having to make major edits.

How to quickly build a Gantt chart with Excel

Once you have your timeline in Excel or Gantt chart in Excel simply cut and paste it’s data into the Office Timeline PowerPoint add-in.  This video shows how to do that.

Since PowerPoint has size limitations Office Timeline also provides the ability to customize spacing and sizing to maximize the space of your slide.  This is useful for a  Gantt chart in excel that has a long list of action items (tasks).  The video below shows how you can optimize your project slide if you need to present more.

Suggested Reading
Tutorial for making a Gantt chart with Excel 
Using Gantt diagrams for business planning
How to paste Excel schedules into PowerPoint
 

Steps for creating a Timeline in Excel

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Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

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Make a “Diagramme de Gantt” in PowerPoint

Clearly communicating your project timeline to international teams, managers and partners is critical when working across cultures.  Doing so requires project presentation tools that are flexible enough to accommodate the local language of your audience.  In the example below we created a Diagramme de Gantt and selected French as the local language setting in Office Timeline.  For enterprises engaged in cross-border collaboration or cross-border selling, adjusting to the native language will create a good first impression.  This rule is important for any Gantt chart timeline presentation.   The steps below explain how you can quickly make a Diagramme de Gantt in PowerPoint using the light-weight add-in for PowerPoint – Office Timeline 2013.Diagramme de Gantt

Office Timeline 2013 provides two easy ways to localize the language of your Diagramme de Gantt or any other timeline presentation.  Download Office Timeline Free Edition

Step 1: First, while you are in the Wizard, choose the native language for timeband on your Gantt diagram . This is easy to do and makes a terrific first impression.  Simply set the Timeband Language from the Language drop-down menu on the Scale tab of the Office Timeline Wizard.

Step 2: Next, adjust the date format in your Gantt diagram, from US to International.  This is done from the Office Timeline ribbon in PowerPoint by using either the Task or Milestone date format.

Using these two simple steps to localize your Diagramme de Gantt will distinguish you and your work among your cross border clients, colleagues and managers. A Gantt chart template will help speed the process as you develop the Ganttproject presentation.

Download Office Timeline Free Edition

Suggested Reading
Using Gantt diagrams for business planning
Tutorial for making a Gantt chart with Excel
Simplifying Gantts for important presentations


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL

How to make a timeline easily

Timeline makers are powerful visual tools for presenting project or planning information clearly.  This post will show you how to easily make a timeline slide for client or management presentations, with a simple template driven timeline maker that plugs into PowerPoint. 

In the past it has been difficult to create a timeline that is graphically appealing or to make a timeline that is appropriate for presentations to staff, clients or managers.  Free timeline makers, also called timeline creators or timeline generators, are a category of software tools that make this task much easier. This post shows how to make a timeline easily with a free timeline creator that builds professional timelines quickly, right inside PowerPoint.    Timeline template made with timeline generator Office Timeline

Office tools do not manage timeline data or automate timelines.

To create a timeline with Visio or make a timeline with Excel is painful because neither are automated for this work like a timeline creator is.   A timeline creator or timeline generator is specifically set-up to create graphical images and to manage project schedules.  (project schedules are the dates and events that make up your project).  A timeline creator or timeline generator simplifies how this project schedule is used to make a timeline and how to update it easily.

The ability to continually make changes is important because project schedules frequently change.  For example if any of your milestones slip the timeline creator would automatically update the entire timeline.   Without the automation of a timeline creator, making even simple changes like this would require painful manual editing of the graphics for each Excel data point or Visio object.Project Schedule for timeline creator

Project tools are too complicated for presentations to clients and managers.

Heavy-weight project tools such as Microsoft Project, like a timeline creator, are also equipped to make a timeline or Gantt chart.  Although these tools are automated to manage project schedules elegantly, they are complicated to learn and too heavy for high-level presentations.  Since project software is not designed to be graphical, it is difficult to make timeline presentations that are suitable for reviews with staff, customers and executives.  These audiences expect a PowerPoint presentation.

Office Timeline is a free timeline creator that solves these problems.

The best solution for project presentations is a light-weight timeline generator that integrates into a familiar presentation tool like PowerPoint.  It should create a timeline template or Gantt chart natively in PowerPoint so it can be updated, shared and modified simply by any PowerPoint user.  The post below shows how to easily build a timeline, right from PowerPoint, with a free timeline creator called Office Timeline.

Follow these steps to make a timeline quickly. 

Download and install Office Timeline.  Once installed it will add an Office Timeline tab to your PowerPoint ribbon.

Step 1: From the ribbon click New to launch the timeline creator wizard which will guide you through easy set-up and design steps.Timeline creator ribbon in PowerPoint

Step 2: Browse through styles of timelines, Gantt charts and templates.   Select the style you would like to build, then click the Next arrow to style your timeline.Make a timeline in PowerPoint

Step 3:  Enter the key project milestones and tasks and set their dates or durations (in the Office Timeline Plus edition you can paste schedules directly from Excel).  Make some optional style choices such as changing the color or shape for each item.  When you have finished click the Next arrow to create a timeline.Timeline creator milestone wizardTimeline generator task wizard

Step 4: Choose how you want milestones, tasks, timeband, and scaling to be presented.Make a timeline in PowerPoint _Style WizardMake a timeline in PowerPoint _Scale Wizard

Step 5: Done, just click the green Check in the timeline creator to make a timeline slide that looks like this.Make a timeline template in PowerPoint with add-in from Office Timeline

You now have a professional looking timeline slide that will stand out in high-level presentations. At any time, you can make changes to the slide by simply clicking on the Milestone, Task or Style buttons on the timeline generator ribbon. This will re-access the wizards so you can quickly update your timeline, and easily change any of the design choices you made. Office Timeline will instantly rebuild your slide with those changes.

See a this short video of how it works.

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Suggested Reading
Using timelines for IT projects
Exceptional PowerPoint Add-Ons
Steps for creating a Gantt chart in Excel

Steps for creating a Timeline in Excel 


Quickly turn project data into professional timelines

Build stunning, uncomplicated timelines and Gantt charts that are easy to make and simple to communicate. Get the advanced features of Office Timeline Plus free for 14 days.

GET FREE TRIAL