Published on February 26, 2016
1. Geetesh Bajaj Microsoft PowerPoint MVP Indezine.com 10 Tips for Cool PowerPoint Charts Applicable to Windows and Mac versions of PowerPoint.
2. Front Matter Copyright Indezine.com All rights reserved. First Published: March 2015 This Edition: 1.00 Published: March 2015 You may not copy this book, or any content from this book -- but you are welcome to spread the word. We hope you enjoy this book as much we enjoyed creating it. Credits Thanks to all these amazing people for their feedback and suggestions: Indezine Audience Comments Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
3. Contents Should Charts be Animated? Pages 27 to 28 Practice Often, or Hire a Professional Pages 29 to 30 Ask Help, Read Books Pages 31 to 32 Recommended Books Page 33 About the Author Page 34 Follow Indezine Page 35 Thank You Page 36 10 Tips for Cool PowerPoint Charts Pages 4 to 5 Clean Up Your Charts Pages 6 to 8 Plan Your Chart Type Pages 9 to 11 Don’t Hurry With Charts Pages 12 to 13 Inspiration is Not Afar Pages 14 to 18 Reverse Engineer Charts Pages 19 to 20 Consider Tables Pages 21 to 22 Stay Away From 3D Charts Pages 23 to 26
4. 10 Tips for Cool PowerPoint Charts Indezine Feedback “Always good information and products on this website. Well worth taking the time to review.” - An authentic visitor testimonial. Creating charts can be both easy and difficult -- it all depends upon what you want to end up with! The easiest way is to just accept all the defaults that PowerPoint provides. The difficult way is to fine tune each aspect of the chart until you have just what you wanted. While the difficult way does get the best results, you must know that between the easy and difficult ways is a third option, the clever way. This clever way lets you quickly create a better, cooler chart using the tricks that we share within this small book.
5. Do note that this list of tricks is not something you will perform as a linear step-by-step process. And it is not necessary that every trick will apply to all charts you create. Before we proceed with these tricks, determine for sure whether you must use a chart. Do not use a chart just because you think you need one! A chart is meant to display data visually in a manner that makes it easy for your audience to observe a trend, or look at a relationship between figures and any other component such as time, a commodity, or even some forecasts. If what you want to express is something that’s not really within these confines, then a chart may not be the answer for you. So let’s get started with these 10 tricks. You can browse these tricks in sequence, or you can click on any of them to read about them non- sequentially: Clean Up Your Charts Plan Your Chart Type Don’t Hurry With Charts Inspiration is Not Afar Reverse Engineer Charts Consider Tables Stay Away From 3D Charts Should Charts be Animated? Practice Often, or Hire a Professional Ask Help, Read Books 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.
6. The biggest bane of charts seen on PowerPoint slides is that they are too crowded, include too much detail that’s much more than what audiences want, and have so little white space! By white space of course, we don’t just mean space that is colored white – rather we mean empty, breathing space. If we had to sum up what we need in two words, then those two words would be “cleaner charts”. To bring attention to what a clean chart is, we must first look at a chart that is not clean! Look at the figure rightwards on this page, where you can see a moderately bad chart. Why do we call this a moderately bad chart? That’s because we have seen charts that are so much worse than this specimen! Clean Up Your Charts A moderately bad chart
7. If we just follow a few guidelines and five minutes of effort, the same chart you saw earlier can be transformed into what you see in the figure shown on this page. There’s such a huge difference between the charts you see in both the figures. How did we do it? First of all, we abandoned the 3D chart type and chose the basic column chart option to get a cleaner, flat look. We also removed the value axis altogether since we already have data labels. It makes no sense to include individual data labels and then also provide a value axis, since that’s essentially duplicated information. We then moved the legend to the top right so as to give more white space in between the column groups. Finally, we reduced the opacity of gridlines to make them less prominent. A better chart
8. Recommended Books: Say It With Charts: The Essential Guide to Visual Communication White Space is Not Your Enemy Whenever possible, try to make your charts clean – here are some guidelines that will help you: Imagine a clean, harmonious background for your slide that you don’t want to crowd -- this will make it easier for your chart to stand out resulting in the audience being able to review the chart more attentively. Have you ever tried doing a very important project on a very cluttered desk? Chances are you realized that a clean desk can help you create a better project because you can concentrate more. It’s the same with the audience -- they can assimilate information presented on a slide better if it contains a clean chart on a clean background. To create a clean chart, only retain chart elements that are needed. Yes, you must add the actual chart but not much else. • • You don’t always need a legend, data labels, axes labels, titles, plot lines, too much data, or even too much extra text. And you most certainly do not need them all at the same time! Limit yourself to the fewest number of chart elements as you can. Some slides have many charts. Even four charts in a single slide may be too many, but we have seen slides that had sixteen charts! If your audience cannot decipher the chart content at such a small size, is there any sense in following this approach? Think about it! •
9. While there’s always going to be some people who can end up with wonderful charting results without any planning, it does not work that way for everyone. To understand this better, let’s explore an analogy. Have you seen those folks, who have the gift of the ladle? They need no clues about what they are cooking, yet they just seem to know what to do next. And they end up creating a culinary masterpiece. But most others cannot do so, and may end up with a culinary disaster without planning. It works the same way with charts – chart gurus can make awesome charts just like that! For everyone else, the more you plan, the better your charts will look, and be more capable of explaining your numerical message to the audience. Plan Your Chart Type Cook up better charts
10. 10 First take a look at your data. Try and visualize your audience then, and think about how you can show this data to them in a way that they can comprehend. You will have to think about the audience’s designations, their age profiles, and their way of thinking -- and maybe you will also have to think about where in the world do they come from? Then based on this information, arrive at the Least Common Multiple. What’s a Least Common Multiple? A Least Common Multiple, or LCM is the common ground for all your audiences. LCM is essentially an arithmetical concept that can also be used to understand your audience’s capability to comprehend your charts. You need to make your charts simple enough so that every single member of the audience can understand what you are trying to say. For example, some people in your audience may follow complex charts such as combination, pareto, or waterfall charts. If you don’t know what these terms mean, then you already are in the same category as some of your audience members, and that’s not bad at all. If you know what these terms mean, there may still be others in your audience who do not, and they may be most comfortable with basic column charts. Thus the LCM of your audience is a column chart -- stay with that option! Recommended Books: Meaningful Graphs Show Me the Numbers
11. 11 Next you must ponder over what type of chart you need. Don’t just create a new chart in PowerPoint and then replace the dummy data -- yes, PowerPoint is good at hand-holding and we won’t debate whether that’s a good approach or not. At times this hand-holding can help you create a quick chart and newer versions of PowerPoint do default to creating better looking charts than the previous versions. Yet, there is much you can gain by a little planning. PowerPoint does provide a large range of chart types and it even makes it so easy to change between chart types. But again, it’s best that you have a clear idea of what chart type you need even before you start. PowerPoint may let you change charts but it’s best to make a decision before you begin
12. 12 Don’t hurry with your chart slides! While this is true for almost any slide you create, it is more true for chart slides because charts do two things: They express figures, but those figures essentially express a thought, an idea, or a trend. To make this expression successful, you need some quality time to create a better chart. They inform audiences, and the result of that information may be the message you want your audience to believe in. This requires a well-crafted chart, and that again cannot be created in a hurry. While we realize that this advice is not too helpful if your boss needs those charts in the next 30 minutes, there’s no debate about the fact that creating charts a little slowly can help you create better looking specimens that your audiences can assimilate better. 1. 2. Don’t Hurry With Charts! Don’t be in a hurry to create your charts
13. 13 Yes, your audience is the key! And that’s precisely why you must think about your audience all the time, and also think about what you are trying to tell them. Here are some guidelines that will help: Begin by analyzing the message of your chart. Does it have too many messages -- this can happen when you use one of the default charts in PowerPoint and thereafter change the values to create your own chart! Those extra messages may show up in the form of unrequired axis titles or even a confusing chart title! Some charts may also not need a legend. Select all these extraneous elements and delete them one after the other until you are left with one, clearly focused message. Use that message to drive your direction - and your chart. You’ll address the attention of your audience better. A good chart needs so much thought - this in turn requires time and patience. Most people need to create the same types of • • charts within their slides -- if that’s true for you, open up one of your older chart slides and look at it objectively and closely. Determine what you can do to make it cleaner and more comprehensible -- and make some changes. Repeat this exercise at least once a week, and your charts will improve each time! Look at charts that others create more objectively. If you find an effective technique that they used, try and incorporate that technique in your style. Feel free to ask them for help too. Again, this sort of introspection and improvement entails time -- so make sure you dedicate some quality time to make your charts look better. Finally, keep your best charts ready even before you need them -- in fact, keep hundreds of sample charts ready! That way, when you need things in a hurry, you can just re- use a chart. Do remember that it is always easier to change values in a chart than creating it from scratch. • •
14. 14 Sometimes, don’t all charts look the same? And then some pessimist may tell you that all of them look so uninspiring! That does sound a little cruel. But how can you and your charts look more motivated? And what can you do to be more inspired, and in turn create charts that inspire others? The answers are all around you -- there is inspiration everywhere! And in this article, we will try and highlight some ideas that will get you inspired. To begin with, explore financial statements, even if they are printed or within PDFs -- these have great charting examples that can inspire you. You can find plenty of such financial statements from the downloads section of the websites belonging to banking and financial companies such as Citibank, McKinsey, etc. (see figure on this page). Inspiration is Not Afar Download reports online
15. 15 Having said that, charts printed on financial statements mimic paper rather than slides and can thus afford to contain minute detail -- something that’s not really in place within charts shown on a slide. Did that sound confusing? Let us share an analogy to understand this better: Let’s start with a business newspaper, where a sheet or two has listings of stocks along with their rates. This is something that can be compared to a sheet within Excel or another spreadsheet program. • Stock market quotes in a newspaper mimic spreadsheets? Photo Credit: Andreas Poike by Creative Commons
16. 16 Now let us look at a report or even a legal agreement spanning pages. Such documents are intended to be printed, and can use smaller font sizes and even detailed charts and other graphics. This is something that can be easily compared to a document created in Word or another word processing program. • Printed documents created within a word processor Photo Credit: Desi by Creative Commons
17. 17 Now consider a slide created within PowerPoint or another slide program. A similar analogy for a slide could be a business card! Even though you may be mistaken into not realizing the benefit of this analogy when you see the slide projected on an entire wall, be assured that a slide should ideally include no more info than what you can see on a business card. That’s all the comprehension power your audience has unless you are providing them with printed or PDF handouts -- but those handouts are not your slides! • Slides are like business cards (or even bulletin boards) Photo Credit: Woodley Wonder Works by Creative Commons
18. 18 More often than not, we either scan or photograph our source content. If the content is within an online magazine or ebook, we use screen capture programs such as Snagit to create more source content. We then use PowerPoint slides to create a digital scrapbook -- this sort of scrapbook makes an awesome inspiration bank. Based on this analogy, there’s no reason why you cannot get inspired by financial reports -- but you will have to dilute and adapt that inspiration to something that works well within the confines of a slide! This also means you must have no more than one chart on the slide, or at the most two. And even then, your charts must be clean. Want more inspiration? You can find entire boards on sites such as Pinterest that contain charts of all types (see figure on this page). There’s even more inspiration on national television, especially the news and business channels. Look at the charts they show -- they are almost never too detailed since they are more akin to slides -- just what you need! Still more inspiration can be found in magazines and newspapers. We often cut out samples of great looking charts and other graphics from newspapers and old magazines. We then paste them all in our chart scrapbooks. Pinterest provides so much inspiration
19. 19 Imitation is the best form of flattery – and that motto will help you create charts that are so much better! Before we proceed, let us discuss whether imitation is stealing? The answer to that question is that you must only look at imitation as a source of inspiration. And make sure that you leave your own imprint to whatever you create. You can do so by investigating the chart content well, making changes that work for you, and improvising all the time. Did you notice something funny in the last paragraph. We promise we never did this intentionally, but we seem to have used a lot of “I” words such as imitation, inspiration, imprint, investigation, and improvising! Let’s add another word to this list: influence. Make sure that you are just using a chart you reverse engineer as an influence - a very good influence. Author Austin Kleon says in his book, Steal Like An Artist: Your job is to collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by. Reverse Engineer Charts
20. 20 Austin just introduced another “I” word on this page: ideas! If you have sample presentations that include great charts that others have designed, then go ahead and explore them to gain some ideas! Make a copy of the slide that contains the chart you love and try to reverse engineer the chart. Look at all the options used in the chart -- even if you use a single idea from the chart you tried to reverse engineer, it is worth the time and effort. Gradually you will combine your inspiration with these ideas to cultivate your own style. Reverse Engineer Charts
21. 21 Did you read the title of this page correctly? Are we really suggesting that you should consider using a table rather than a chart? You might have heard the reverse more often -- about using charts rather than tables but like for everything else in life, there’s not one glove that fits all hands -- or in this case, there’s not one solution that can work with all sorts of data. Let’s imagine that you have some simple data to start with -- maybe something on the lines of revenue from one division being $2000 and the revenue from another division being $50 million. Now whatever you do, and even if you work hard to create a faux split chart, you will still compare a trend that’s not comparable, at least not in a chart. Use a table instead, and the data can be so easily compared. It’s one of those times when you should not complicate something that’s simple enough. Consider Tables A simple table can sometimes show data better than a chart
22. 22 In such and similar scenarios, a simple table with a few columns and rows can portray some data better than a chart. A table is a perfectly acceptable solution -- and there are times when it can indeed help your audience understand things better than a chart. Want another analogy? We won’t go too far to find this analogy: imagine the humble multiplication table presented as a chart? Some things are meant to stay simple -- just don’t complicate them. Your audience will be happier, and so will you.
23. 23 In the days of PowerPoint 2003 and older versions, you just had to insert a chart to end up with a 3D chart! Yes, that’s true – the figure on this page shows the default column chart you inserted in those versions. To say that this chart looks horrible is an understatement. Stay Away From 3D Charts Default chart in PowerPoint 2003 and older versions
24. 24 Comparatively, the default column chart you add in newer versions of PowerPoint is so much more cleaner, as shown in the figure on this page. Of course, changing the defaults does not mean that you will not encounter any 3D charts since even in newer versions, it is fairly easy to change a chart from 2D to 3D. There are plenty of 3D charts to be seen even today. Even now, there are people who love 3D charts just because it might make them look like a pro. Well, that’s the big mistake - 3D charts don’t make you look like a pro. Default chart in newer PowerPoint versions
25. 25 A shorter column in a non-3D chart Let’s look at an analogy to understand this better. Do you need 3D text jumping out from your business card for every alphabet? Then you are right - you do not need 3D charts in your slides at all. There are exceptions though - especially if your data needs a 3rd Z axis - but most charts do not need a Z axis. Thus stay away from 3D charts - your viewers will thank you. Another reason why you cannot use 3D charts is because some data can become invisible. Look at the non-3D chart you see on this page, and notice that the column representing Grapes for 2011 (highlighted in red) is fairly shorter than other columns in the same chart. Yet you can see the column.
26. 26 And now look at the same data used for a 3D chart in the figure on this page. Yes, the same column is existent here but since the column itself is shorter, you cannot see it at all! This is just another reason to stay away from 3D charts. 3D charts can hide some columns!
27. 27 Should Charts be Animated? Charts are something that are often shared between Excel and PowerPoint - and while Excel gurus may look down at PowerPoint as far as charting is concerned, there indeed is one charting feature that is not doable as well in Excel – and that is animating charts. OK, an Excel guru somewhere may have said that it’s great that you cannot animate charts in Excel - after all many PowerPoint users do create a mess with animation anyway! Well, do I agree with that statement? The answer is both Yes and No. Yes, charts in PowerPoint should be animated if the movement adds some value to your chart. And how can we define “value” here? Let’s explore more with an example. Maybe you have figures lined up for 4 years as 4 columns in a chart. It can help if the columns for the previous 3 years are not animated. Then you (or the presenter) discuss the present year’s figures - and then entry-animate the column representing the current year using a simple Wipe animation.
28. 28 Do note that when I mentioned the “Wipe” animation in the previous paragraph, that was a very significant message! The animation effect you choose for a chart must be subtle and simple - the intention here is to add animation to add value, and not to add distraction. Wipe is a subtle animation, and a Wipe animation that progresses from bottom to top can be especially effective with column charts. Other animation effects such as Fade and Float Up / Ascend can also work - but please do stay away from spinning pie charts or bouncing columns! Remember that in chart animation, the build and sequencing is much more important than the animation. Animation is just a way to bring in the build and sequencing.
29. 29 Practice Often, or Hire a Professional It’s always been the norm that you will enjoy the work that you are passionate about, and chart designing is no exception. There’s so much to learn about creating better charts that are effective in sharing information or data with others -- and people spend their entire careers in trying to be better chart designers. If you have spare time and need a hobby -- then chart designing is a great option. It is fun too -- not to mention that it can become a very lucrative source of income if you get good at doing this stuff well. And if you do not have the time to learn chart design, that’s OK too. There are many professional slide designers who can create awesome charts for you. It’s a great idea to hire someone professional to design your charts -- there will always be someone who can do it a little differently -- and that “difference” may make a “big difference”!
30. 30 How do you find the right person? Look around, and see if there’s someone in your office. Or if you know someone who is not from your office, through a friend or colleague -- do reach out and ask if they could help you. Ask to see some sample work. You can also post on some of the LinkedIn forums for presenting technologies -- one such forum is the PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff forum -- make sure you post these threads in the Jobs sections, and not within Discussions! Practice Often, or Hire a Professional
31. 31 Learning is a process that never ends. You may be a charting expert, but there’s always more to learn because of two reasons: Your perspective may be different than that of others, and based on client requirements or any other reason, your perspective will change and evolve all the time. Technology changes all the time – and what seemed cutting edge just yesterday no longer seems so! And perceptions change too – newer chart types evolve all the time, and you will need to keep up! Two of the best ways you can stay up to date is by reading books and participating in forums. 1. 2. Let’s first look at books: Most charting books fall into two categories – about charting design and charting techniques. Books within the first category look at charting, so as to how a particular chart will help people understand a difficult concept. They also look at design principles and best practices. Books within the second category look at the actual steps and techniques you need to explore to create those charts. There are a few books in this category that look at how charts can be created within Microsoft Excel, and almost no book is available similarly for PowerPoint – but that’s OK since Excel powers the charting engine within PowerPoint as well. Ask Help, Read Books
32. 32 So where can you find such forums? Microsoft Answers has dedicated sections for both PowerPoint and Excel – both these areas provide plenty of engagement. In addition, LinkedIn also provides several such forums including the popular PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff group. In addition to books and forums, there are many web sites that talk about charts – a quick Google or Bing search will get you some great results! Here’s a list of some books within each category: Charting Design Books: You can start by exploring Gene Zelazny’s Say It With Charts book. And there are several books by Stephen Few, such as Now You See It and Show Me the Numbers. Charting Technique Books: There are several books on Excel charting – options within PowerPoint are similar enough! You can explore James Smith’s Meaningful Graphs and Excel 2013 Charts and Graphs by Bill Jelen. While books are great as a resource, they cannot be updated as frequently – nor do they allow much discussion. The latter is fulfilled better within the many forums online where PowerPoint and presentation designers are discussing everything from storytelling to chart designing. Go and visit these forums, ask polite questions, and try to help others.
33. 33 Recommended Books Say It With Charts: The Essential Guide to Visual Communication White Space is Not Your Enemy Meaningful Graphs Show Me the Numbers Now You See It Excel 2013 Charts and Graphs
34. 34 About the Author Geetesh Bajaj has been designing presentations and templates for over a decade and half now, and heads Indezine, a presentation and content creation studio based out of Hyderabad, India. Geetesh believes that any presentation is a sum of its elements – these elements include abstract elements like concept, color, interactivity, and navigation – and also slide elements like shapes, graphics, charts, text, sound, video, and animation. He explains how these elements work together in his best-selling book Cutting Edge PowerPoint for Dummies – the book has several five-star ratings on Amazon.com. Geetesh has also authored three other books on PowerPoint 2007, and two books on Microsoft Office for Mac. Geetesh has been awarded the Microsoft MVP (Most Valuable Professional) title for PowerPoint since the last 14 years. His Indezine.com site attracts nearly three million page views each month and has thousands of free PowerPoint templates, Themes, and other goodies for visitors to download. He also does custom training sessions for PowerPoint and presentation skills. To enquire about these training sessions, fill in the feedback form on Indezine.com.
35. 35 Follow Indezine We are on all social media sites, and you can follow us on Twitter and Facebook. You can also post your questions on our LinkedIn and Facebook pages. To access our social media hubs, please visit any Indezine page and click on any of the social buttons. Alternatively, here are links to follow us on Twitter and Facebook: Twitter Facebook In addition, here are links to our communities on LinkedIn and Facebook where you can ask questions, or just participate: LinkedIn - PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff Facebook - PowerPoint and Presenting Stuff You can also send Geetesh a direct email by filling in this Indezine form: Indezine - Send us Feedback We look forward to hearing from you. Also you can join our mailing list to get a weekly email with updates: Indezine - Join Mailing List Have a great day!
36. 36 Thank You Thank you for reading this book – feel free to share this book personally with your friends and colleagues. However, you are not permitted to provide this book as a download from your site, or on any social sharing site. If you want to share this book with others, suggest others to join the Indezine mailing list so that they can get their own free copy of this book.
Learn about 10 tips that will help you create cool PowerPoint charts in PowerPoint.
Free eBook to 10 Tips for Cool PowerPoint Charts This small book has tips and tricks to help you create better, cooler charts.
Free eBook to 10 Tips for Cool PowerPoint Charts. This small book has tips and tricks to help you create better, cooler charts.
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