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Presentation Graphs

Presentation graphs are key to effective visualisation, and can demonstrate data in a really engaging way. But with so many graphs to choose from, how do presenters know which one to choose? And how can they make the most of basic graphs to create engaging, truly visual slides?

Allow us to present the m62 guide to presentation graphs. We talk about the different types of graphs, and how best to use them in different situations. All of the graphs listed below can be produced quickly and easily with Microsoft PowerPoint live charts (Insert tab > Chart), but combining these with animation and other PowerPoint tools can produce even more effective graphs that will really engage your audience.

Bar Chart

The bar chart is probably the first type of graph that springs to mind for many people. This graph is simple and easy to both create and understand. The bar chart allows presenters to demonstrate absolute data values, and allows direct comparison between data values and data sets. This works particularly well when comparing the same variable, for example costs in different departments within an organisation. Even better, the bar chart can be used to demonstrate an increase or decrease in these values, and not just a static viewpoint. The bar chart allows the presenter to go into a granular level of detail, but to express it in a very simple way.

Bars can be vertical or horizontal. Vertical bars work well to demonstrate data such as cost and value. Horizontal bars are a fantastic way to present an absolute value of time, for example the length it takes to complete a particular task.

For a more advanced effect, you can move bars, or sections of bars, around the graph to show a redistribution of the data. See the slide set further down the page for an example of this.

Line Chart

The line chart is best used to demonstrate a trend over time. With a line chart, you can show two variables at the same time, as well as reveal the relationship between them. They can demonstrate both a comparison between data sets, and a comparison between trends in data sets.

Line charts are wonderful in their simplicity, and can really be manipulated in PowerPoint to produce engaging, creative graphs. While it is not possible to animate the points if you’ve used a live graph to create your chart, there are certain things you can do to emphasise your point in PowerPoint. For example, you could extend the trend over longer periods of time, using animation to build the future projection. You can highlight the difference between different lines by creating a shape to appear in the space between them.

If you created the lines of your chart manually, you can really manipulate the data. Lines can be animated, and the motion will make them much more engaging. This emphasis will really help to create an impact.

In the manually-drawn example further down the page, we demonstrate how line graphs can be used to demonstrate performance quality over time, and how PowerPoint animation can be used to help tell the story.

Pie Chart

The pie chart can only be used for direct comparisons between a single linked data set. However, while pie charts can only be used to show one data set, they can show multiple points within it.  You could show, for example, that company has a 75% market share, whilst company only has 10%. The pie chart is a really good comparison tool, but it never shows absolute value – just proportional value.

Pie charts are often viewed, rather unfairly, as being the boring chart, but with a little creativity they can be made truly exciting. If you were to use some animations, you could really bring a pie chart to life and use it to tell a story. For example, you could change the portion sizes by adjusting the angle, to demonstrate how these percentages change over time. Or you could use a grow-shrink animation to increase the size of the pie chart, to show that while the percentages may stay the same, the size of the data set itself can grow.

Bubble Chart

The bubble chart is exciting in that it can show three sets of variables – something most other graphs can’t do. This is done by the x and y axes, as well as the size of the bubble – all of which give a distinct data point. With animation, you can even show an extra variable and have the position and size of these bubbles moving and changing over time – Hans Rosling provides an excellent example of this. This effect can be produced with live charts in PowerPoint 2007 and 2010.

Scatter Chart

Scatter charts are useful when presenting a complete data set. That data set could show a trend, or an absence of a trend. These charts are typically used when there are lots of data points, so that the viewer can then establish whether there’s a relationship between the data points or not. Practically, these are really only ever produced with a live chart, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be drawn from scratch. If you really want to be able to interact with the data points individually, the best way to produce an editable version would be to create a live scatter chart and then draw around it.

There is still plenty that can be done with a scatter chart you have produced using live charts – you can highlight points and draw trend lines, and compare two sets of data to look at accuracy. As with other graphs, there are plenty of opportunities to make it exciting!

Radar Chart

A radar chart is used for the same purpose as a bar chart – to show comparison between semi-independent variables, e.g. the cost associated with different parts of the company. The advantage a radar chart has over a bar chart is that you can show a lot more individual data points than you can in a bar chart. There is limited space in bar chart for names, but in a radar chart there’s more room available for these. This can be important in a presentation, as the audience need to be able to read what the data points are.

Which Graph?

The best advice we can give on presentation graphs is to choose the one that is most suited to the data you are presenting, as well as the audience you are presenting to. You want to present your data in a simple, engaging way that will really help your audience to ‘get’ your point.

For more information on the technical side of producing these graphs, check out our PowerPoint Graph tutorials.

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