3 Tips for Better PowerPoint Charts

3 tips for better ppt charts_Visual

Why use the Insert Chart feature in PowerPoint versus pasting Excel charts into a PowerPoint slide? What's the benefit?

Well, if you're trying to manage file size, want to maintain confidentiality of your data and care about keeping chart colors consistent from presentation to presentation, then creating new charts within PowerPoint is the way to go.  

Tip # 1:  Use Insert Chart

Instead of pasting Excel charts onto PowerPoint slides, use the Insert Chart feature in PowerPoint. Here's how:


1.  From your Excel worksheet, copy just the data you wish to show on your PowerPoint slide
2. In PowerPoint, insert a new slide and choose the Title and Content layout
3. Select the Chart icon (see Tip #2)
4. Insert Chart dialog box appears
5. Select chart type and click OK
6. Paste data into the worksheet that appears
7. Close the worksheet


Excel data sheet


Benefits of Insert Chart

  • Keeps chart colors consistent with your presentation design
  • Maintains confidentiality of your original Excel worksheets
  • Reduces PowerPoint file size 


Tip #2: Choose a Chart That Tells A Story

Many presenters cram more data onto a chart than is necessary. Include data that supports your message and leave the rest out (or include in slide notes).

Line graphs show changes or relative changes to something over a period of time. Use a maximum of 5 lines per chart for easiest viewing and understanding.

Bar graphs display a relationship between variables, usually for the purpose of comparison. Keep them two dimensional for ease of viewing. Vertical bars are easier to read than horizontal bars. Bar color and outline should be the same color.

Pie charts show how percentages relate to each other within a whole. Use a maximum of
6 wedges per pie. Use pie charts only for data that add up to some meaningful total.

Tables display data details which would be lost in graphs or charts.


Tip # 3: Just Say No To Eye Charts

Use design elements, labels and scales that enhance, not distract from the message.


Darker blues, greens and oranges are best. Avoid yellows and neon colors, they just don’t project well. Use red to highlight or call attention to a key message. Avoid 3D effects.


Be careful with dashed and dotted lines. Instead, use different colored solid lines.


For best viewing in a medium-sized room, use a minimum of 18 pt font. Use your PowerPoint default font; avoid Times Roman, narrow fonts, or fonts with serifs.


Legends are used in charts with more than one data series.  They should not be placed on the outside of the chart in a way than reduces the plot area, the amount of space given to represent the data.


A chart that labels the value of each individual data point does not need labeling on the y axis.  If it seems necessary to label every value in a chart, consider that a table is probably a more efficient way of presenting the data. 


What is the one thing you want your audience to remember about your chart? Make that your PowerPoint slide title. Avoid passive titles, such as “Annual Sales”, “Units Sold”, or “Percent Trained”. Passive titles don’t give the audience information, they are merely boring labels. Instead try titles that are conclusions: “Annual Sales Beat Expectations”, “Northwest Region Leads in 2010 Unit Sales”, or “Employee Safety Training Lags in Department XYZ”.


If they are used at all, use subtle colors, like a soft grey and don’t let them overwhelm the other graphical elements of the chart.

Want more? Learn more tips for building better PowerPoint charts, plus LOADS of more data visualization tips in our Presenting Data Visually workshop.

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