When you’re assembling a presentation to deliver news or information about the structure of your company, an org chart can help you convey the big picture. If that structure is vast or labyrinthine, you might be better served by creating a chart in Visio or some other dedicated diagramming tool. But if the structure is relatively flat (or lends itself to being split into discrete modules, which can be placed on a series of slides), you can quickly put something together within PowerPoint. The tools and options are straightforward, and the chart you create will blend in with the formatting of the presentation, saving you from having to modify a mismatched chart created outside PowerPoint.

Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.

The basics

PowerPoint lets you define the org chart structure according to four roles. At the top, you have a leader. Below the leader are his or her subordinates (who may in turn have subordinates of their own). People who appear on the same tier as a subordinate are coworkers. You’ll also find a spot for assistants, who branch off from the person they’re assisting. Figure A shows this scheme in its most rudimentary form.

Figure A

The process of creating this type of org chart really just boils down to adding and arranging shapes that represent the relationships of employees. To demonstrate, let’s create a simple chart. Then, we’ll consider various ways to tweak it. Start by creating a slide for the org chart:

  1. Press Ctrl + M to insert a new slide.
  2. Choose Format | Slide Layout to display the Slide Layout pane, if necessary.
  3. Under Content Layouts, click on the Title And Content option.
  4. Click Insert Diagram Or Organization Chart in the icon that appears in the middle of the new slide. PowerPoint will open the dialog box shown in Figure B. (Note: You can also access this dialog box regardless of slide layout by going to Insert | Diagram or clicking the Insert Diagram Or Organization Chart button on the Drawing toolbar.)

Figure B

Organization Chart is the default option, so just click OK. PowerPoint will insert a diagram on the slide and display the Organization Chart toolbar, as shown in Figure C. You’ll notice the chart is surrounded by a dotted gray border, which defines the chart area (or canvas). You can drag a handle on this border to change the dimensions of the area. By default, PowerPoint will resize the chart contents accordingly. You can also double-click on the canvas border to open the Format Organization Chart dialog box.

Figure C

After you’ve inserted a chart, the basic tasks required to set it up consist of adding shapes, adding names or labels to each shape, and setting the layout and formatting of the chart elements so they’re attractive (or at least easy to read and understand).

Adding shapes

Adding shapes is simply a matter of selecting an existing shape, clicking Insert Shape on the Organization Chart toolbar, and choosing the appropriate position. You can also right-click on a shape and choose the position from a shortcut menu.

In Figure D, for example, we selected a subordinate and clicked Insert Shape. As you can see, our choices are to insert a subordinate, a coworker, or an assistant. Figure E shows what happened when we inserted a subordinate: The new shape was added beneath the original one, and all the shapes were scaled to make room for the addition.

Figure D

Figure E

Working with shapes

The shapes in an org chart are really just AutoShapes, which you can work with in various ways:

  • If you click on a shape and see a hatch-mark border, you can add, edit, or format text inside the shape.
  • To modify the shape itself (or add associated shapes to it), click on the border to display several small gray dots around it.
  • To select multiple shapes for modification, hold down Shift as you click on each one. (There are other selection options, which we’ll look at shortly.)
  • To quickly open the Format AutoShape dialog box, double-click on a shape.

Adding text

Adding a name or label within a shape is just like inserting text in any other AutoShape (or text box). Click inside the shape and type the desired text. You can also apply text formatting using the usual means. For instance, you could select the CEO’s name in the top shape and click the Bold button to make it stand out a little more.

Adjusting the layout

Once you have all the shapes in your chart, you can adjust the layout if necessary. The default Standard layout we’ve looked at in the previous examples may be fine. But if the chart is too crowded or you want to change how groups are represented, you can experiment with the Layout options. In Figure F, for instance, we have a lot of subordinates reporting to a couple of managers, making the structure hard to discern. To improve things, we clicked on the shape for one manager and selected Right Hanging from the Layout drop-down list on the Organization Chart toolbar. Then we did the same thing for the second manager. As Figure G shows, this vertical arrangement does a better job of showing who’s grouped under whom.

Figure F

Figure G

You can explore the Layout options to find what works best for you. One additional note here: The AutoLayout option (on the Layout drop-down list) is enabled by default. If you need to manually build or change chart elements — such as adding a second leader at the top of the hierarchy — you can deselect this option. With AutoLayout turned off, you’ll be working with AutoShapes freehand rather than being constrained by any diagramming rules. Just bear in mind that if you reactivate AutoLayout for this chart, things will snap back into the configuration the tool thinks is best, and you’ll lose your customized structure.

Formatting the chart

The easiest way to format your org chart is to let PowerPoint do it. Just click within the chart and then click Autoformat on the Organization Chart toolbar. PowerPoint will open a gallery of formatting options for you to choose from. Most of the styles adapt to the color scheme of your presentation. For example, Figure H shows how the Gradient option looks for a slide with a dark red color scheme. If you later apply a different color scheme or design template, PowerPoint will change the chart colors to match.

Figure H

If you’d rather manually format your org chart, you can work with the elements as you would any other AutoShapes — select them and apply the desired formatting. We mentioned earlier that you can hold down Shift and click to select multiple items. But a more logical scenario would be to apply the same formatting to particular items in the same category — for instance, all the shapes at a certain level, all of one manager’s reports, or all the assistants.

PowerPoint makes that process easy. Let’s say you want Bev Greene and all her reports to be, well, green. Select the shape for Bev and click Select on the Organization Chart toolbar. Choose Branch to select all of Bev’s subordinates, as shown in Figure I. (Choosing Branch would also select Bev’s assistants, if she had any.) You can then click Fill Color on the Drawing toolbar and choose green, as we’ve done in Figure J.

Figure I

Figure J

Wrap up

We’ve covered a lot of territory here, introducing the various options. But in actual practice, you can probably throw together a chart in far less time than it took to read this article. And don’t forget that you can parcel out your structure across multiple slides to keep things manageable. Just create a separate chart for each business unit, division, department, or team — whatever makes sense for your presentation. If you use Autoformat, you won’t have to worry about consistent appearance from one chart to the next.