1. Building Your First Chart


Charts are easy to create in PowerPoint but hard to format neatly. Our first barchart, splitting company revenue by region, will teach you many formatting tricks of the trade.

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  1. Lesson Goal (00:04)

    The goal of this lesson is to create and format a chart in PowerPoint to display our data visually.

  2. Common Chart Types (00:36)

    Charts can be used to communicate data to an audience in a compelling way. Charts also allow you to communicate conclusions quickly and easily. To add a chart in PowerPoint, we select the Insert tab, then Chart. We can then select the type of chart we want to use.

    There are several types of column chart. A clustered column chart is appropriate when we have several metrics that we want to compare between competitors. A stacked column chart is used when we want to analyze a metric, like sales or revenue, that has different components. For example, this can be used to analyze sales by region. Finally, a 100% stacked column chart is useful for displaying percentages, such as market share.

    A line chart is useful when we have a lot of data points and a column chart would look unsightly. Finally, pie charts are another chart type that can be used to display percentages.

  3. Adding a Chart and Adding Data (02:07)

    When we select the chart type we want, the chart is created in our PowerPoint slide. In our case, we add a stacked bar chart to display revenue information by region over a five-year period. 

    Creating a chart also opens an Excel window containing a table of data used to create the chart. The row labels in the table of Excel data correspond to the labels of each bar in the chart. In our example, these are the years. The column labels in the table of Excel data correspond to the components of each bar. In our example, these are the regions. The data is then placed in the cells of the table. In our case, the data is the revenue amounts.

    When we modify the data in the Excel window, the PowerPoint chart will automatically update. As a result, we create our PowerPoint chart by filling out this table. Once we do this, we can close the Excel window, and the chart will be complete.

  4. Formatting the Chart (04:17)

    Formatting charts tends to take more time than creating them. There are numerous formatting tools you can apply to a chart to improve its performance. You can often improve the readability of a chart by adding data labels. This adds a numeric label to each bar on our chart showing the value of the bar. We add data labels by right clicking a segment on the chart, and selecting Add Data Labels.

    If a chart contains data labels, then you can usually remove the y-axis and its associated gridlines. To delete an axis, we simply select the axis and press Delete. The same process applies to deleting gridlines. Deleting these elements makes your chart less cluttered and easier to read.

    It’s often a good idea to change the color scheme of a chart. One good style for a stacked column chart is to color the bottom segment of each column in a dark shade, then color the higher segments in lighter shades of the same color. We can change the color of a segment by selecting the segment, selecting Shape Fill, and selecting the desired color. We can also add borders to a segment by selecting the segment, selecting Shape Outline, and selecting the desired border color.

    Finally, we may want to adjust data labels for column segments that are too small for the data label to fit. For these segments, we select the data label by double clicking it, then dragging it outside the relevant segment. A line is automatically created linking the line to the segment, making it easy to understand what segment the data label relates to.

  5. Chart Titles and Slide Titles (08:33)

    The best way to add a chart title is to add the title in a separate textbox. In our case, we align the textbox with the top left corner of the chart. When writing the chart title in the textbox, we write the title in bold, then include the units of measurement in plain text. We also ensure the font size of this text matches the font size of the chart.

    Adding a title to the chart allows us to use the slide title to communicate information about the chart, such as a conclusion or insight. This is known as an action title, which provides an insight into the information you are presenting.


(lively music) One of PowerPoint's most important uses is displaying data. Raw data can be a little plain to look at particularly if we have quite a few numbers on the screen. If we look at the current slide, I have revenue for a fictional company, Goodspeed, segmented by region for 2007 to 2011.

To make this information more compelling to the reader, I'm going to display this information on a chart which will look something like this.

Let's get going by creating a new slide and then we'll go to the Insert tab on the Ribbon and we'll click on Chart.

When we click on this button, you'll see a lot of charts to choose from. I'm going to run through the most commonly used charts very quickly.

In the first row, we begin with a clustered column chart. This chart is very useful when we want to compare metrics against a set of competitors. Next we hit the stacked column chart. The stacked column chart is suited for when we have a particular metric, let's say revenue or profits broken down into smaller pieces. This will suit our needs perfectly today when we want to break revenue down into the different regions that the company operates in. The next chart is the 100% stacked column chart. When we want to display percentages, say for showing market share, this is the ideal chart to use. The remaining charts in the column section have the exact same functionality as the three charts that I have mentioned, only that they're in 3D and they utilize different shapes.

Let's now move onto the line chart. I tend to use the line chart when I have a lot of data to display, say over 12 data points. Above this number, bar charts tend to look unsightly and I find line charts the best way to go.

Pie charts, on the other hand, are the perfect way in which to display percentages that is clear and easy to understand for the audience. This is especially useful when you want to show market share. As I mentioned before, the stacked column chart is the best option for a revenue breakdown, so let's select this chart and let's click OK.

Immediately when we do this, we can see that the screen changes and that we now have an Excel sheet to work with as well as our PowerPoint slide.

The Excel sheet, if I minimize it slightly, actually corresponds to the data that we need to enter in our PowerPoint chart. We can see the category one to four represent the years and series one, series two and series three will represent the regions. So, let's quickly add the years, you might have seen when I pressed return and entered 2011 that the blue line underneath moves with me and the blue line determines what information is going to be shown on the chart, so for example, if I move the blue line back up above 2011, we can see that 2011 no longer appears in our chart, so let's move it back down so that 2011 is included.

Next, let's enter the regions.

Again when I click on enter after entering South America, we can see that the blue line extended so that this column will be included. When we go back to our chart, we can now see that our four regions are included in the legend next to the chart. Now all we need to do is add the revenue data I showed on the initial slide. To save some time, I'm going to add these data with a paste.

There we go and now our chart is populated and it's going to be PowerPoint from here on in.

Now that our data is complete, all we have left to do is to format our chart. When you create charts in PowerPoint, formatting typically takes up the bulk of your time. As it stands, the bar chart automatically generated by a PowerPoint is not very readable. Let's start by making the chart a little bigger and let's bold the bottom axis, so I'll select and then hold control and press B.

One thing I like to do with bar charts is to show the actual data in each segment. To do this, let's click on a segment, then right click and select Add Data Labels. And I'll repeat this for the other bars.

Now that we have the data labels added to each segment, we don't really need the Y axis, so I'm going to select and then I'm going to press delete. I'm also going to delete these horizontal lines.

And that actually makes the chart a lot more readable now that we have the data labels added. Next I'm going to change the color scheme of the chart. I like the effect of going from dark segments to lighter segments and I'm going to implement that style here, so let's start off by clicking on the bottom segment, then we'll go to Fill and we'll select a dark color.

I'll then select the next segment and select a lighter color and then repeat twice more.

There we go. I think that looks much better.

Now I'm going to also add borders to each segment.

Click Shape Outline after we've selected each segment and now borders are added. The labels in the bottom segment are quite difficult to read, so let's change their color by clicking on the label and then changing the color to white. That's much better and I'll repeat for this segment.

And now our bar chart looks much better than it did previously with the automatic color scheme that PowerPoint gave it. Let's now adjust the two labels that don't quite fit fully inside their segment. This is the 3.3 and the 1.3, so clicking on the 3.3 it selects each label in that particular South American segment. Let's click on it again to isolate it and then move the label to where you'd like it to go.

And I'm going to repeat for the 1.3.

I'd like to connect the label to the segment with a line, so I'll select Line, and simply drag between the label and the segment.

And I can duplicate that line for here.

If you have very thin segments, it can be hard to actually construct the line and put it in the correct position. So, to do this, I like to zoom in by just moving the slider and finding the line and adjusting it with the enhanced zoom and this makes sure that my line is placed correctly and connected to the data label.

Let's now zoom out again by clicking on the Fit to Window button.

Our chart is now almost complete. All we have to do is add a title. I think the best way to add a title to a chart is to do it manually with a separate text box. I'm going to move the chart down slightly on our page and then I'm going to select text box.

And I'm going to call it Revenue by Region 2007 to 2011 and then give the unit.

Millions of US dollars. I like to bold the main title and then leave the unit as plain text.

I have also made sure that the font size 18 corresponds to the font size of the chart. Now I just need to align by selecting the text box, selecting the chart, align top and align left.

And now my chart is complete. We might wanna check to see if this is centered on the page, so let's select it and then it's View, Guides and we can see that it's not quite centered. So, let's move it slightly and that looks pretty good from here. One thing you might notice when you have charts on a slide is that the chart title may often be the same as the slide title. One way around this is to use action titles. i.e. slides titles that provide an insight into the information that you are presenting, for example, in this case, we could write revenue growth was very dependent on Asia and South America and in this way the reader will be in now doubt as to what the conclusion from this information will actually be.

If you'd like to learn more about PowerPoint charts, be sure to check out my course on the topic.

PowerPoint Essentials
Construct Charts for Your Data


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