11. Growth Rates and Baselines on Charts

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Learn how include additional information on your chart with objects such as growth rate arrows and baselines.

Lesson Notes

Adding baselines to charts

- Option 1: Simply draw a line over the chart where you think the line resides
- Option 2: Create two new columns in the chart and convert these to lines

Adding growth rates to charts

1 Calculate the growth rates for each year
2 Draw an arrow and an ellipse shape which contains the growth rate
3 Align the two objects middle and center before positioning above the two columns
4 Repeat for the remaining years in your chart
5 Group each growth rate object and distribute them horizontally for neat formatting


We'd often like to add some additional features to our charts such as growth rates and baselines but unfortunately, PowerPoint doesn't make this an easy task. Unless you have a PowerPoint plug-in like think-cell, you have to use some manual tricks to add these features, which we'll be doing in this lesson. Let's start with baselines. In this chart, I'd like to add two lines that show the highest and lowest annual revenues for the 10 years prior to 2007. A simple horizontal line with a label would work well here. The first option is simply to draw a line on top of the chart. I'll start by duplicating this chart and then I'll duplicate this line with Ctrl + Shift and hold the mouse button and drag it onto the chart.

And I'll do it one more time for the low revenue mark.

The low revenue figure is 47 million so selecting the line and holding shift, I can then move it to where I think 47 million might be.

That looks about right. The high revenue figure is 98 million and this line looks roughly in the right position. I can now format these lines and add a label. So, I'll select both of them by holding the shift button and I'll thicken them and give them dashes.

I'll color the high line green and the low line red and off camera, I'll also add labels.

This method of adding lines to charts comes with some obvious drawbacks. The first is that the lines are not in exactly the correct position and the second drawback is if I resize the chart, the line positions have to be updated as well however, this method does offer a handy, quick fix for adding lines to charts and it allows you to apply nice labels. If you want a more exact solution, you could actually draw lines within the chart. I'll show you how to do this by again, duplicating the first slide and this time we'll right-click on the chart and go to edit data and we'll create two new columns. The first column will only include the values for the low revenue, which is 47.

We'll copy this for the remaining cells and the second column will just contain the values for the high revenue, which is 98.

We can now return to our PowerPoint slide and convert these bars into lines so right-click on the first bar and change series chart type.

Select line and press OK.

We'll then click on the second bar, right-click again, change series chart type, and select line again and we now have exact lines representing 47 and 98 on our chart. What's more, if we change the size of the chart, the line positions change accordingly.

We can format these lines by selecting them, changing the color, and adding dashes.

And I'll do the same for the lower line so that it looks similar to the lines on the previous slide. The one drawback with this method is that it's a little harder to add nice labels for your lines. One solution you might consider is adding a legend to the chart. Let's now move on to our last topic in this lesson, which are growth rates so again, I'll go to the first slide, right-click and duplicate and my first task will be to calculate the growth rates. I will do this in the Excel sheet.

So when we go to edit data, we can calculate the growth rates in here and the growth rate formula is simply the new revenue minus the old revenue divided by the old revenue and we can convert that into percentages with this icon.

I can then copy and paste this for the remaining years.

Knowing the growth rates, I can now return to my PowerPoint slide and add them to my chart.

For growth rates, I like to combine an arrow with an ellipse. So I first select the ellipse in drawing tab ribbon and then draw the ellipse and add in my growth rate. For the first year, it's 30%.

I might need to extend the ellipse so that the text fits neatly.

I'll then put an arrow behind this ellipse.

I'll move the ellipse to the front and I'll thicken the arrow and change the color.

That looks much better and I will select both objects, group them, and place them above the right years.

I can add growth rates for the rest of the years in a similar way.