Charts, process diagrams and tables are valuable tools for conveying a number of rather complex concepts and processes. Results of analyses, projections of financials, budgets and other such items can be laid out so they’re easy for your audience to grasp – far easier than if you were to simply try to explain them, with no visual aids.
Options for Creating Charts and Diagrams
▪ Office Integration: PowerPoint is designed to allow visuals, spreadsheets and the like, created in other programs within the Microsoft Office suite, to be imported and integrated smoothly into a PowerPoint slideshow. This can be quite an advantage and a timesaver when it comes to building your presentation.
▪ Imports: Rather than building them yourself, and doing the sometimes intricate work necessary to make them integrate well, you can also download ready-made chart templates, process diagram templates, tree diagram templates and so on from an external provider. Such sites also generally offer entire presentation templates, graphics, images and other elements – all quite polished and professional-looking, and all integrated to give you a seamless and very impressive presentation. There’s usually a charge for the better templates, themes and other elements, but when you consider the value you receive – in terms of the time and effort you save, and the improved image and impact produced by the final product, for example – it’s often a wise investment.
Which Type of Chart or Diagram to Use?
Here are some tips to help in selecting which type of chart, graph or diagram to use, for the data you wish to present.
- Use a line graph to show multiple sets or series of data, when all are being plotted over the same time period.
- A column or bar graph works well for smaller data sets.
- If depicting a trend is critical, a line graph is usually the best choice.
- Use an area graph (or series of area graphs) to show the relationships of parts of a whole over time – for instance, the changing profit contributions of different divisions of a large firm.
Non Time-Sequenced Data
- Bar and column charts work well for displaying data and relationships that aren’t dependent on time – or where only two or three different time points or periods are to be shown.
- Bar and column charts also work well where statistics or other data from multiple categories or groups are to be shown.
- For a single data set, consider a pie chart – especially where proportions or percentages are to be visualized.
General Formatting Tips
No matter what type of chart, table, graph or diagram you decide to use, these rules of thumb apply:
- Keep them simple! Don’t clutter them up with needlessly detailed scales, labels, explanatory text, etc. What audience member is going to have the time (or the eyesight) to read and figure out such things while a slide is on the screen.
- Make them big! One chart, diagram, graph or table per slide is almost always the way to go. Labels, necessary text and other elements should be big and easy to read, too. Ideally, that should be “easy to read even from the seats furthest back.”
- Be smart about color use! Use sharply contrasting colors. If there are multiple, similar charts, be sure to be consistent in what each color signifies. If you’re going to be providing printouts of your presentation (especially black-and-white printouts or photocopies) be sure the difference between colors will still show up in the printed or copied version.
- Explain what you’re showing! When delivering your presentation, don’t assume the audience will understand how they’re supposed to read your charts, etc. Make your graphic elements as clear and easy to understand as you possibly can – and then go ahead and explain them when they come up on the screen, verbally drawing attention to the most important point or points, and explaining conclusions that are to be drawn.