5 Ways to Add Pizzazz to PowerPoint Data

April 6, 2011 | By | 1 Comment

Nick Morgan, from the Forbes.com blog, shares these 5 tips for presenting data through a PowerPoint slide.

Now I love data. As a market researcher, I live and breathe data. But presenting graphs on a PowerPoint slide is only one of many ways to present data to an audience. And it’s not always the most impactful.

If you really need to make an impact with your data, think about 3 or 4 different ways you could present your data. Then choose the one that’s most impactful.

Here are 5 options.

1. Animated PowerPoint slide. Hans Rosling makes his data come to life by showing changes in child mortality rates over time as a living, changing scatterplot. To show “growth”, consider having a bar chart that grows. One ASU study found students were more likely to approve a scholarship application when the student’s statistics were displayed as an animated PowerPoint chart versus the same chart presented static in a text document, illustrating the impact of animating your charts.

2. Use metaphors and analogies. The problem with data is it’s hard to visualize. You can make it easier to visualize, and so more impactful, if you compare the data to something the audience can visualize. For instance, in Made to Stick, the authors talk about scientists who computed some number to some incredible level of accuracy that was “like throwing a rock from the sun to the Earth and getting within a third of a mile of the target each time.” But this analogy is hard to visualize. Instead, how about “as accurate as hitting a golf ball the length of a football field and getting a hole in one every time.” Use analogies and metaphors that make it easy to visualize your data and it will have more impact.

3. Infographic. While pie charts and bar graphs are abstract, infographics use pictures of real things to represent numbers. For instance, in President Obama’s state of the union address, he uses a pie chart to illustrate America’s goal of 80% clean energy. Instead, he could have used an infographic showing 8 wind-powered plants and 2 coal-powered plants. This makes his abstract data feel more concrete and gives it more impact.

4. Audience guesses, then you reveal. I use this technique all the time in my workshops. Rather than just showing the audience the results of a research study, I ask them to guess the number. For instance, I talk about one study that compared the effectiveness of using no slides versus full sentence bullet points versus concise bullet points. Then I reveal the scores for no slides. I’ll ask the audience “how many think audiences learn more from full sentence bullet points? How many thing they learn less?” Then I reveal the answers. There are audible gasps in the audience when people’s myths are busted before their eyes.

5. Props. Rather than using a PowerPoint slide, you could use real physical things. For instance, in Made to Stick, the authors tell about one presenter who wanted the audience to know how many nuclear arms there were in the world. Rather than using graphs, this presenter dropped a single ball bearing into a tin bucket to represent each nuclear armament. The room was hushed listening to the seemingly endless rain of metallic pings – much more impactful than any graph.

Data is wonderful. But copying and pasting your graphs from Excel into PowerPoint may not have the impact you want. For the biggest impact, consider different ways to present your data with more pizzazz.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the new language of business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Filed in: graphs, presenting

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