7. Bubble Charts for Displaying Markets

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Bubble charts are a great way of plotting 3 different dimensions on one PowerPoint chart. In this lesson, we learn how to plot market size, growth rate and profit margin for 5 different geographic markets, all on one chart!

Lesson Notes

Bubble charts

- Bubble charts allow you to plot 3 dimensions on one chart
- They are particularly good for comparing different markets

Formatting bubble charts

- Make sure the data label for each bubble show size, not the y-value
- Increase the bubble size so the data labels can be easily read
- Give bubble a different colour so each country can be identified
- The legend and the labels for each axis can be done with textboxes

Keyboard shortcuts

CTRL + SHIFT + MOUSE DRAG: Duplicate vertically
CTRL + SHIFT + ←: Select one word at a time
CTRL + B: Bold text


One of the hardest tasks to accomplish when building charts in PowerPoint is to show three dimensions in one chart. I find that I often have to do this when comparing different markets in which a company operates.

In this example, I have five different national markets and for each market I have a growth rate, a profit margin and a market size. To show all three characteristics on one chart, our best option is the bubble chart. Let's start by creating a new slide, I will insert a bubble chart, so I'll select Chart and select Bubble.

The bubble chart contains three columns, the X axis values, the Y axis values and the size of the bubble which can correspond to the width of the bubble or the area. Off camera I'll now paste in the data for our five different markets.

If I now minimize the Excel sheet, you can see that the bubble chart has been created with profit margin on the Y axis and growth rate on the X axis.

Let's start our formatting by fixing the negative part of the X axis.

So, I'll select the X axis, right click, Format Axis, and here I'll write zero.

And that removes the negative part of the X axis.

Next I'm going to widen the chart because with bubble charts I like to create a manual legend which helps me identify the various countries.

Next we're going to add some data labels for each bubble.

So, I'll click on one of the bubbles, right click and add data labels.

Unfortunately the data labels are currently showing profit margin. I want them to show the size of the market, so I'll select the data label, right click, Format Data label and select bubble size. And I'll also center the various labels.

I'll make sure Y value is removed and then close.

I'll change the color of the labels to white, I'll reduce their size to 16 and I'll bold them.

And I'll also increase the height of the chart.

All that's left to do now is to add labels for the two axes and to identify the five different countries.

Let's start with identifying the countries. I'm going to first remove the lines which I don't think are needed and to identify the countries, I'm going to create a manual legend. To do this, I'll simply start by drawing a circle, so hold shift and drag, I'll remove the border and next to it, I'll write a text box for that particular country and I'll say that blue corresponds with the UK. So, I'll simply write the UK.

I'll now align these two objects and duplicate.

So, hold control + shift click and drag down.

Similarly, I'll create an entry for Germany and I'll color this bubble black.

And now I simply change the color of the different bubbles to correspond to my legend, so I'll make sure that the Germany bubble is black. And finally, I'll show that France is colored red and make the change for the appropriate bubble.

Off camera, I'll also add different colors for Ireland and for The Netherlands. Using text boxes, I'll now add some labels for the X and Y axis.

So, I'll create a text box, write profit margin and I'll bold this text.

I'll then duplicate this text box and write growth rate.

I'll then move the profit margin text box next to the Y axis, make it a little smaller and move the growth rate to the center of the chart.

Off camera I'll do some additional formatting giving this slide a title, giving the chart a title and making sure our labels all fit on the one page.

One last formatting change you may be interested in are the size of the bubbles. The bubble sizes can be changed by simply double clicking on one of the bubbles.

And in the Scale Bubble Size To dialog box, we can select a bigger number if you'd like the bubbles to be a little bigger.

However, one thing you have to watch is the overlap of each bubble. So, for example, you'll see the 300 and the 500 overlap because I've made the bubbles so much larger.

And change the bubble size to say 150.

This is some small overlap but it's a little nicer to read than the previous size of 200.

As with the line chart and the area chart, bubble charts require quite a lot of formatting after you've entered your data but as you can see, they do look very professional once created.