Data visualization is one of the most critical factors affecting the proper relaying of information. This quality is especially true when you are preparing a visual PowerPoint presentation, where a picture, or in this case, a chart, can speak a thousand words.
If you are new to graphs and charts in PowerPoint, do not stress as this is a step-by-step and detailed guide on how and why to incorporate visual data representation into your next presentation. I also elaborate in detail about the most frequently used chart types, and what data they require, so you can choose the one that best describes your data.
Why Use Charts and Graphs
Data visualization is a vital part of data analyses and can help the speaker communicate trends and patterns in the data through images. Visualization serves a dual purpose in modern life.
Firstly, it allows a better understanding of the data. Compared to row upon row of numbers in an Excel spreadsheet, images make it much easier for the human brain to understand relationships and differences between data points and categories. Whether you are in the science, tech, finance, or marketing industries, you will need to visualize data at some stage.
Secondly, visualization allows you to communicate your findings in a summarized form. Although data experts may be able to understand and see patterns and trends without a graph or chart, most other people cannot, and will need some illustration of the data to understand your findings.
Data can be visualized in several ways; most notably, people use graphs, charts, and plots.
Before you can consider using a chart in PowerPoint, you first need to ascertain which chart type is suited to your data, and will best summarize and display it.
It is, therefore, imperative that you have a basic understanding of the different types of charts and the types of data best suited to each. The section below covers the six most frequently used chart types, and will help you decide on the chart to use.
Frequently Used Charts in PowerPoint
PowerPoint adds to the luxury of data illustration by allowing you to copy your data directly from an Excel spreadsheet, thereby ensuring that the graphs and charts are always up to date. You can also alter, move, and edit headings and labels or color the charts to your heart’s desire. You can even choose to animate your displays to make the data yet more visually appealing.
PowerPoint offers a wide range of data representation in the form of more than ten types of charts, graphs, and plots to cater for most data types. Most of you probably know that certain types of data require specific types of charts or graphs, and choosing the correct display for your data is just as important as displaying it in the first place.
The following is a list of the six most used charts in PowerPoint and what types of data for which they are best. If you are unsure of which chart type to use, have a look at the list below and see which suits your data best.
These are some of the simplest, yet most useful chart types you can find in PowerPoint. They are immensely valuable for displaying changes over time, mainly because our eyes are trained to recognize higher or taller bars as indicating more growth, or success, or money.
Data arranged in columns and rows in a spreadsheet can be illustrated using a column chart. Although they are most frequently used to display changes over time, they can demonstrate the relationship between any two data points.
You can diversify with PowerPoint’s column charts to include multiple levels and colors, to explain more complex data. To expand, you can consider a:
- Clustered Column: A clustered column chart compares values between categories and displays the values in vertical rectangles. Clustered column charts are practical when you have categories that represent a range of values, a scale arrangement, or names that are in no particular order.
- Stacked Column: Stacked column charts illustrate the relationship of individual items to the whole, comparing the influence of each value to a total between categories. The results are displayed in stacked vertical columns. This chart is useful when your data has multiple data series, and you want to highlight the totals. One can also use a 100% stacked column, where the percentage that each value contributes to a total is compared between categories.
- 3-D Column: 3-D column charts have three axes that you can modify—a horizontal axis, a vertical axis, and a depth axis). They are used to compare data points along the horizontal and the depth axes. This chart is valuable for comparing data across categories and data series.
- Cylinder and Pyramid Column: These charts work in precisely the same way as the clustered, stacked, and 3-D column charts, but simply use cones or pyramids in the place of rectangles, to display the data.
A bar chart is simply a column chart with the columns on the vertical axis, extending horizontally. Bar charts are helpful when axis labels are very long, or when the data values relate to longer durations or larger volumes. In short, they illustrate the comparison between individual items.
For bar charts, the categories are typically arranged along the vertical axis, with the values arranged along the horizontal axis.
Similar to column charts, bar charts can also be expanded and elaborated on to represent more complex data. These include the clustered bar chart, the stacked, and the 3-D bar chart. Images are not shown as these looks identical to those of the column charts, but with the columns running from the vertical axis.
Line charts are designed to display continuous data over time, thus illustrating data trends over equal intervals. The category data is spread evenly along the horizontal axis, and all value data is distributed evenly along the vertical axis. Line charts are suitable for data with text category labels that represent evenly spaced values such as hours, months, or years. Line charts come with some variations, and below are some of the types you can choose from:
- Line: These are best used to illustrate trends over time, especially where there are lots of data points in a specific order. Line charts can be displayed with or without markers.
- Stacked Line: Stacked line charts show the cumulative contributions of each value over a set time interval. The lines do not overlap. They are instead used to indicate the trend of the contribution of each value over time or ordered categories. They can be shown with or without markers. Similar to column charts, a 100% stacked line chart simply displays the percentage contribution of each point, rather than actual values.
3-D line: 3-D line charts show data trends with the use of a ribbon rather than a line. A 3-D line chart has a horizontal, vertical, and depth axis that can be modified.
Pie charts are used to illustrate the percentage contribution of each point to the whole. These are useful when you have data that has only one series, so it is arranged in either one row or one column. If you can see your data points making up pieces of a whole, a pie chart is the best choice for you.
Once again, you can elaborate a bit on the complexity of your pie chart with the following subtypes:
- Pie: This is your basic pie chart, where each slice represents a value in your series. You can opt to pull out specific slices of a pie chart to highlight it.
- 3-D Pie: Here, the pie is displayed more as a cylinder, with slices colored or removed to highlight them.
- Pie of Pie Chart: Here, a typical pie chart is given, with one of the slices highlighted and illustrated as an additional but separate smaller pie chart. This chart is practical for the illustration of the sub-contribution of smaller slices in the pie, which may be challenging to see in the whole.
- Exploded Pie: Exploded pie charts illustrate the contribution of each value to the total, while still highlighting the individual values. You can change the pie’s explosion setting for all slices and single slices, but you cannot move the individual slices of an exploded pie manually.
- Exploded Pie in 3-D: This is a combination of a 3-D pie, and an exploded pie, for more dramatic illustration. See the image above.
Area charts are great for displaying the magnitude of change over time. It does this by showing the sum of the plotted values as a colored area on the graph surface, thereby highlighting the relationship of the individual values to the whole.
As with all the other chart types, there are several subtypes of area charts.
- 2-D area:This is a well-known and simple area chart. It shows the change of data values, usually over time.
- 3-D Area:This is similar to the 2-D area chart, but with an added axis—horizontal, vertical, and depth. This chart plots the change of data values with two different independent variables.
- Stacked Area:These charts show the trend of the contributions of each data value over time or other independent category data. They can be illustrated in 3-D as well, where the chart does not have an additional third axis.
- 100% Stacked Area:These charts show the trend of each data value with the independent variable but in the form of a percentage.
XY Scatter Plot Chart
Scatter plots are popular in the fields of science and engineering where it combines the x-value and y-value of each point to display it as a single reading in irregular clusters. If you have a dataset that requires an adjustable horizontal axis, or where one axis is logarithmic, then a scatter plot is for you.
They are also great for displaying the similarities between large datasets, or for the illustration of grouped sets of values.
The types of scatter plots include:
- Scatter with Markers only:This chart compares pairs of values and does not reveal any information about the connectivity of the data points. Lines do not connect the points.
- Scatter with Smooth Lines:This type of scatter plot shows the data points connected with a smooth line. This data can be displayed with or without markers, but where there are many data points, it is best to exclude the markers to make the chart easier to read.
- Scatter with Straight Lines: This type of chart connects the data points with a straight line to illustrate a trend in the data. This data can be shown with or without markers, and as with the previous chart types, no markers are best when there are many data points.
Less Frequently Used Chart Types in PowerPoint
PowerPoint and Excel offer an extended list of chart templates in their illustration arsenal. Although not all of these are used frequently, it may be valuable to know of the existence of these in case they are needed.
I will not go into detail about these, and you can find more information here.
- Doughnut Charts are like to pie charts in that they show the relationship of the parts to the whole, but they cannot have more than one data series.
- Bubble Charts are similar to scatter charts, but they have an added third column that specifies the size of the bubbles.
- Stock Charts are mainly used to illustrate the fluctuation in stock prices. They can, however, also be used to show temperature and rainfall ranges.
- Surface Charts are used to find the best combinations between two sets of data. It has a similar appearance to a topographical map and can be drawn when both categories and data series are numeric values.
- Radar Charts are used to compare the aggregated values of several data series.
How to Insert Charts in PowerPoint
Once you have chosen the type of graph that you need to illustrate your data, you can proceed to prepare your chart in PowerPoint. Although you have the option to create charts in Excel, and then copy and insert them into your presentation, you can also opt to create a chart from scratch in PowerPoint.
When datasets reach tens of columns with thousands of entries, it is best to create charts in Excel, and simply transfer the chart to your presentation. This transfer links the chart in Excel with your PowerPoint, and it will ensure your chart remains up to date if you make changes to the original data.
Creating a chart from scratch in PowerPoint is helpful for smaller and less complex datasets that require illustration. The following instructions will show you how to do this.
- Click Insert> Chart.
- Select the chart type and then double-click the chart you want. PowerPoint provides templates for more than ten kinds of charts, all of which you can see as choices with sub-categories here. If you need more information to determine the best chart type for you, peruse the previous section for frequently used chart types or visit the Microsoft office help page for all available chart types.
- Once you have selected a chart type, a worksheet with rows and columns will appear. You can now insert your dataset by copying and pasting the data from Word or Excel. If the dataset is small, you can enter it manually. In the worksheet that appears, you can simply replace the placeholder data with your information.
- Once you have recorded your data, you can close the worksheet and visualize your chart in PowerPoint.
- You can now proceed to edit the layout, colors, and labels using the Chart Elements Tab “+” that appears next to your chart in the top right corner. This tab will allow you to show, hide, and format the axis titles and the data labels.
- The Chart Styles button can be used to edit the color and style of the charts to suit the color scheme of your presentation.
How to Edit Chart Data in PowerPoint
Once you have created your chart, you may find yourself needing to update or edit the data that you have entered to build the chart. An edit often happens when new information needs to be added to update the chart.
Editing can be completed with the help of the Select Data Source dialog box to change the data in your series or reorder them on your chart. Alternatively, you can use the Chart Filters button in the top right corner of your chart to display or hide data in your chart.
How to edit or reorganize a series
- Right-click your chart, and then pick Select Data. A dialogue box like the one below will appear.
- In the Legend Entries (Series) box, select the series you want to edit. Now click Edit, and make the necessary changes. When you are done, click, OK. Be aware that the changes you make here can sever the links to the original source data in Excel, so you will have to update the data in PowerPoint from now on manually. Alternatively, you can opt to insert a whole new chart each time the data changes, or just create the chart in Excel and copy and paste it in PowerPoint. Now, if you edit the data in Excel, the chart will automatically be updated in PowerPoint.
- If you would like to rearrange a series, you can select it and then click the Move Up or Move Down buttons to change the position of the series on the list. You can also add a data series or remove one or more of them in this dialog box by clicking the Add or Remove buttons. Please remember that removing a data series deletes it from the chart—so you cannot use the chart filters button to show it again.
How to filter data in your chart
Chart filters are useful for highlighting specific trends in your data, or for hiding data that may not be relevant at the moment. You can do this through the use of the Chart Filters button.
- Start by clicking anywhere in your chart to select it.
- The Chart Filters button will appear next to the chart in the top right-hand corner. Click it.
- A new dialogue box will appear, like the one shown below. Click on the Values tab, and select or unselect the series or categories you want to show or hide.
- Once you are done, click Apply for the changes to take effect.
I hope this piece has helped guide you through the process of selecting the best graph for your data and drawing up the graph in PowerPoint. The beauty of being able to do this in either PowerPoint or Excel, with a linked graph, is that you can edit and change the data and chart type to illustrate your focus point perfectly.
Charts in PowerPoint are entirely customizable to fit in with the rest of your slides perfectly and will improve your presentation by leaps and bounds.