1. Building Your First Chart

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Construct Charts for Your Data

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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.

Lesson Notes

Use of charts

- Brings raw data to life for an audience
- Allows audience to quickly grasp conclusions from data

What chart to use?

- Clustered-column chart: Comparing competitors
- Stacked-column chart: Splitting revenue/profit by region
- 100% Stacked column chart: Showing market share over time
- Line chart: Use when you have a lot datapoints to display
- Pie charts: Showing market share

Creating a chart

1 Click on the Insert tab
2 Click on chart and select your preferred chart type
3 Enter your data in the pop-up Excel sheet
4 Close Excel window and return to your PowerPoint window

Formatting tips

- Removing the y-axis and adding data-labels can make your chart more readable
- Changing the default colour scheme is also usually a good idea
- Don't be afraid to move a label to the side of a small segment if it doesn't fit
- Adding a title to chart is best done using a separate textbox


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 have 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 are in 3D and they utilize different shapes.

Let's now move on to 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 1 to 4 represent the years and series 1, series 2 and series 3 will represent the regions.

So, let's quickly add the years.

You might have seen when I press return and enter 2011 that the blue line, underneath moved 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 entry 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 PowerPoint is not very readable.

Let's start by making the chart 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 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 our 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 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 in it again to isolate it, and then move the label to where you'd like it to go.

And I want to repeat for the 1.3 I 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'd 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 want to move the chart down slightly on our page.

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 billions of US dollars.

I like to bold the main title and then leave the unit as plain text.

I've 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.

You might want to check to see if this is centered on the page so, let's select it, 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. slide 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 no 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.