2. Charting Competitors

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Charting competitors along a financial metric is a common task in powerpoint. Here I complete it using a clustered column chart.

Lesson Notes

How to compare competitors

The clustered column chart is often the best way to compare companies over time

Formatting a clustered-column chart

- Always put the largest numbers to the left of the cluster
- Change the default colour scheme
- Move the legend to the top of chart to make some space for labels


When conducting business analysis, you will often have to compare your company's performance against your competitors, based on a metric such as revenue, profits, or even customer numbers. In this lesson, we're going to create a clustered column chart, which is a great option for comparing competitors over a period of time. Our chart will utilize the data table shown on this slide. I have three fictional companies, Goodspeed, Hummel, and Mason. The figures shown represent their respective revenues for 2008 to 2011.

Our task is to show this information effectively on a chart. Let's start by creating a new slide, I will insert a chart.

We'll select Clustered Column chart, and click OK. This brings up the Excel sheet for our chart. We can quickly add the years on the left-hand column.

But before we add the companies along the top row, we need to first decide in what order they should appear. Let's quickly return to our PowerPoint chart. From our data table, we can see that Mason has the highest revenue numbers for most of the time period. This is important, because we should always try to put the largest numbers on the left-hand side. It makes the chart much more readable. We can also see that Goodspeed has larger revenues than Hummel for three of the years, so we'll put Goodspeed next to Mason, with Hummel last. Let's return to our Excel sheet.

Let's quickly add the companies to the top row.

All that's left to do is to add the revenue numbers from our data table. To save some time, I'm going to do this off camera. There we go. Now that our Excel sheet is finished, let's return to PowerPoint and format our chart.

First of all, I'll remove the scale on the left-hand side. I'll also remove the lines.

Let's go from dark to light on our bars, so the first bar will be dark, the next bar will be slightly lighter, and the final bar will be very light.

I'll add some borders to each bar.

I'll also color the x-axis.

Next let's add some labels to this chart. Right click on a column, add data labels. And let's repeat this for each column.

The labels in some cases are a little difficult to read. We could make them more readable by reducing the font, but if you're presenting this slide you may not want to reduce the font any further than 18, which it's currently at. What I'd like to do is to extend the chart to the right, and move the legend, which will allow more space for the labels to be shown. Let's start by selecting the legend, holding Shift, and moving it to the top. After we move the legend to the top, let's now extend it across the chart.

I will also shorten this box.

Next we'll select the chart, we'll reduce its height so it doesn't cut cross the legend, and then extend it across the width of the area. And that now makes our chart, and our labels, much easier to read. So often when a legend is automatically created, you may need to adjust its position and its shape to make your chart more readable. Lastly, we need to add a title to this chart. Let's create a text box, and I'll type 'Annual revenue by competitor,' and we'll give it a unit.

We'll obviously need to increase the size of the font to 18.

And I'd also like to have this in the top, left-hand corner of our chart. I'd like to bold the main heading we'll do this with Control+B.

We could also align the legend a little better with the title by just reducing its height further. There we go. Lastly, we might want to add an action title to this slide. The action title will depend on which company you actually work for. So for example, if the company is Mason, the action title might be: 'Our loss in revenue has mainly been due to the growth of Goodspeed." However, if you were Goodspeed, this would obviously be reversed. Let's finish up by doing a quick alignment check, so I'll select all my objects including the title, and I'll do View, Guides, and it looks like we're pretty much in the center. Overall, charting competitors is very, very easy with the clustered column chart. In the next lesson, I'm going to show you how to compare market share, which is slightly different than when comparing absolute numbers, such as revenue or profits.