Use a map to show geographic relationships; Issue #138 July 10, 2007

PowerPoint Tip - Why Not Use a Map?

If you have geographic based data to present, it is important to organize it into a logical manner for the audience. Usually this means organizing it left to right in west to east order so that the data on the slide is the same order as the regions or territories would be if you looked at a map. Typically this will be a column graph with the western data starting on the left moving to the far right where we find eastern data.

A recent client slide from a Canadian client is a perfect illustration. They were showing market share in each region. They used a column graph and had one bar for BC, one for Alberta, one for the Prairies, one for Ontario, one for Quebec and one for the Atlantic provinces. It was a well designed slide. But it could have been even more effective.

When showing market share, a pie chart is a great visual because the proportion is instantly clear to the audience. But how do you create a pie graph that would show market share in each of six regions? The answer is you can't. But you can use a pie chart for each region.

What I used was a map of Canada as the base graphic for the slide covering most of the slide. On top of the map, I created a small pie chart that showed the market share in BC. Then I positioned the pie chart over British Columbia on the map. Then I did the same for each of the other five regions. So the slide had a map with six small pie charts showing the market share in each region.

The result was a much clearer picture of where the company had strong market share and where they needed to focus efforts at increasing market share. There was very little text needed because the pie chart and the positioning on the underlying map said it all. The next time you have geographic data to present, think of how you can use a map to give the audience context that is far more effective than just words.