Tutorial: Mind Map: Brainstorming In PowerPoint with SmartArt

About this lesson

Create a brainstorming mind map in PowerPoint, Word, or Excel with SmartArt. Beautiful and easy to do once you learn how. This tutorial will get you up and running with ALL you NEED to KNOW! Learn the optimum size for your mind map. Deal with long text nor properly formatting. See how to transport your final project between PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. We build our first project in under 3 minutes and then go into a second more advanced mind map.


  • 00:00 Intro
  • 00:48 Which Software Versions
  • 01:00 Starter Mind Map Project Under 3 Min
  • 01:28 Using SmartArt for Brainstorming
  • 01:34 Best SmartArt Layout to Use
  • 02:02 Using Keyboard & Text
  • 03:07 Using SmartArt Action Tools
  • 03:40 Enhancing the Look with Colors
  • 04:09 The Advanced Project
  • 04:20 Why use PowerPoint? Convert to Text!
  • 06:45 Size and Number of Element Considerations
  • 06:58 Alternative Tools
  • 07:15 Impact of Long Text Strings
  • 07:29 Recommended Max Size
  • 07:40 Changing the Layout
  • 08:15 Change Color Scheme
  • 08:27 Moving To Different Program
  • 09:07 Wrap UP


Subject Microsoft PowerPoint

Software Compatibility All Versions


Course Completed

PDF Files There are not any files associated with this lesson.



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Hey, welcome to learning all about brainstorming with mind maps using Microsoft Office tools that you already own.

Hi, this is Les from Power Up Training, where I provide my decades of experience to you for free.

For all my critical, creative projects and technical people projects, I always start with a brainstorming session to capture the essence of my goals.  And the best tool for small efforts is Microsoft Office.

In this under ten-minute tutorial, I show you the ins and outs through two examples giving you valuable tips to master this simple technique.

So let’s go and Power UP to Mind Mapping in Microsoft Office.

To create our brainstorming mind map in smartart we’re going to use the latest version of office 365 on a windows pc but it’s going to work just as well on a mac or even as far back as powerpoint 2013 so let’s get started we will start in powerpoint but it could just as easily be word or excel powerpoint has a bigger canvas for me to demonstrate to you we’ll be using a blank empty presentation and i’m going to change the slide layout to title only and then we’ll label it brainstorming introduction and to maximize our working area i’m going to resize and move the title to the top left corner the foundation for our brainstorming map will be smartart so we need to go to insert on the root menu and click smartart action icon from there we need to choose from the over 200 different smartart layouts but quite honestly the best mind map tools are in the hierarchy category when we click on that we’ll see several choices here i’m going to have us choose the horizontal hierarchy list because it’s good for decision trees or in our case a mind map i’ll click on ok and it’ll drop in our starting point if you’re new to smartart look for the power up training tutorial video listed above for this example i’m wiping out all the starter text and then entering my text in the text box and you’ll see the mind map taking shape to the right the smartart text entry box is just an outline tool that drives the layout of the boxes an indent creates a child box for the text above and the enter key creates a same level child box so you could work just inside this text workspace to capture ideas as they pop into your head for a typist it is fast and easy so far we’ve created three levels without worrying about formatting and we can always go back and add more text as we shape our ideas i find it liberating not to be forced into linear thinking but to be able to quickly jump around and add ideas as they pop into my head and rearrange their order by focusing on words not complex diagramming tools this is where the simplicity of office 365 smartart shines but if you do want to use your mouse the smartart design menu provides a variety of clickable icons to provide actions such as promote or demote or even add in a new shape based off what’s selected inside your object so you have the flexibility of using the keyboard or the menu system to manage your growing mind map and another great benefit of the office smartart is the ability for the shapes to shift and match your content as you create it growing and drinking as needed once done you can position the final mind map on the slide add in some enhancements such as powerpoint colored backgrounds and even quickly add a dash of color to the map by clicking on smartart design and choosing change colors to browse and then select a color scheme fast and handsome so in under three minutes we created a mind map from scratch and have it in slideshow presentation ready mode but we can do more so let’s do an advanced version so i’m going to create a new blank slide and add in the title of smartart for brainstorming i have us working in powerpoint not just for the extra screen real estate but also there’s one fancy tool that converting text to smart art that can’t be found in excel or word let’s see this as i switch to word and copy some ready-made text that was put in bullet form and paste it back into powerpoint the ability to take existing text and use it as a jump starter for brainstorming is a great great idea but you need to bring it into powerpoint to be able to use the tool that’s found in home and convert to smartart and from the drop down list i’m going to choose one of the presented hierarchy diagrams to work from and you’ll see it converts our existing highlighted text into a smartart diagram like before we can go into the text entry box to start adding in new ideas but we can also rearrange ideas such as deciding that we should probably group the good and bad into a combined category but it requires some extra tab and shift tab to rearrange the hierarchy but powerpoint keeps right up with us by displaying our changes as we go watch as i add new entries under good and then i go back to indent the children ideas to fall underneath the good let’s change the good box to where it can hold both the good and the bad so we’ll relabel it to good and bad and then we’ll add another box underneath there to reproduce the good and then we’re going to have to end in the children items underneath good all very capable doing working within the text box now let’s move the bad towards the subordinate of good and bad but instead of using the tab key this time i’m going to go up and choose the action icon and once i click demote it goes down one level once again we could have done those with tabs but we can also use the action icons let’s go ahead and rename these to where we have the cons and the pros once again you can work out of order because we’re just brainstorming at this point as i speed up the idea creation process you should now see the advantages of smartart brainstorming this would work great in a conference room with people interacting on a projected screen is dynamic and very visual it encourages the free flow of ideas however it’s best for smaller mind maps something that might take 15 minutes in a meeting once it grows too large you may want to switch to a more professional tool you could use microsoft vizio but one of my favorite industrial tools is for mindjet but for those looking for a more cost-friendly solution you might consider x-mind do note that you should include spaces where possible as the long string of text in mind jet mine manager makes everything too small but once i add spaces it rearranges nicely our video demo project is about to reach 20 separate idea boxes and in my opinion that is close to the max that works visually and for a practical matter understood by an outsider the flexibility of smartart is not just the auto layout but also how we can go back and try on different layout templates to see if the different box types or the orientation works better vertically or horizontally with both the object and the smart design menu selected we can do the drop down box and visually browse the layout changes without clicking note the mac version does not do auto preview once we find something that we think improves on our brainstorming ideas we can click on ok and it’s instantly applied and once again one of the great benefits of smart art is the simple enhancement such as adding a different color scheme by just clicking change color and browsing the choices lastly the flexibility and portability of smartart for our video tutorial we built the brainstorming project in powerpoint for both the extra canvas space and the ability to use convert text to smartart but once built it is easy to move just click and copy and in our example we’re going to go back to microsoft word and do a simple paste to drop the smartart into our document and yes once moved it’s still a smart art object that can be edited and updated so build once in the conference room with your team and include in future emails or word documents it’s that simple and flexible

You are now ready and turn your ideas into visual concept idea maps to help you and your team better focus on success.

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