Think back to the last PowerPoint presentation you saw. Did it have charts, graphs or other figures that you may have seen before, perhaps in an Excel spreadsheets? Were they good? It’s not uncommon to see presentations with weak graphs, which can lead to the audience losing attention. While it may seem hard to get a good-looking graph into PowerPoint, it can actually be quite easy.
Here’s how you can take data from spreadsheets in Excel and turn it into graphs and charts in PowerPoint.
Before you start
Before you can transfer data from Excel, you should take a look at the spreadsheet. If you have a ton of data and only want to take a certain chunk to make your graph, it would be best to copy and paste it into a new Excel workbook. This way, you can get the data from Excel to PowerPoint easily and turn into a graph or chart.
The key idea here is that you don’t want to do a data-dump – putting every single number, most of which could be useless – into a slide. You want to take only the most relevant information from the spreadsheet. It’s easiest to do this on a slide-by-slide basis, after you have set up the presentation outline. Copy the information only pertaining to that one slide. If you’re not sure whether it will be useful or not, it likely isn’t, so don’t take it.
Create the graph/chart
Once you have only the data you are going to need for the chart, you can switch over to PowerPoint and go to the slide where you will put the chart. This can be done by:
- Clicking on the slide’s body field – where you enter the main text of the slide, below the title.
- Selecting the Insert tab from the top of the screen and clicking on Insert Chart. Note: This will only work if the slide’s layout supports Content. To change the layout of the slide, right-click on it and select Layout, then pick one that says Content.
- Choosing the type of graph that’s relevant to your data from the window that pops up and pressing OK.
- Deleting the information in the dummy Excel spreadsheet that comes up by left-clicking and dragging over the content. It will be highlighted and pressing Delete will get rid of it.
- Copying and pasting the information from the Excel spreadsheet you setup earlier into the window in PowerPoint. Be sure to click on A1 before you paste it.
- Renaming the chart by double-clicking on the title above the cells.
Click back to the slide to look at the chart for errors. A common one is to find that the data has switched axes. For example, the date will show on the X axis, when it should be on the Y. If you click on the chart, and select Switch Row/Column in the ribbon above the slide, you will be able to re-arrange the information.
Time to format
It’s highly unlikely that the graph you placed into the slide is formatted the way you want, or even optimized for your audience. Here are four tips to help you format it so it not only looks good, but can be clearly seen when you give your presentation.
- Don’t get too flashy – Yes, there are a large number and variety of charts available. No, they are not all good for presentations. It’s best to pick a simple layout – stick with the classics: Pie, Bar and Line. Don’t pick 3-D charts as they are hard to read and can confuse the audience. Also pick colors that can be seen. For example, light green, yellow, grey, and other similar colors can hardly be seen on most projectors.
- Use big text – It may look big enough on your screen, but you can be sure it isn’t going to be big enough for your audience. Use the biggest font size possible, and limit any explanation text.
- Remove Gridlines – But Gridlines make it easier to determine amounts don’t they? Yes, on reports. But this isn’t a report, it’s a presentation, so it’s ok to be general. Gridlines will just confuse your audience, and make graphs look cramped. Remove them by clicking on any grid line in the middle of the graph, and pressing Delete on your keyboard.
- Test it – Before you give the presentation, it would be a good idea to test the presentation on a screen that is similar to the size you will be presenting on. If that’s not possible, get a colleague to look over it. They will likely be able to point some things you might want to think about updating.
Having attractive graphs in your presentations can go a long way in keeping your audience engaged, and it could increase the chances of your message sinking in. If you would like to learn more about how you can leverage PowerPoint or any of Microsoft’s other programs in your office, please contact us today.