A method for effectively presenting a graph image from another program; Issue #203 February 9, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Drawing on top of graphs

Graphs that you create in PowerPoint are easy to work with and present because you can animate them easily.  But not all of our graphs will be created in PowerPoint.  Sometimes we will need to use a graph that has been created in a graphics program and saved as an image file, posted on a web site or included in a PDF file.  We may also deal with technical graphs that are output to image files from special software programs.  We don’t want to, or can’t, recreate these graphs in PowerPoint, so how do we present them effectively?

The problem with graphs that are images is that you can’t animate them. They are a static image and can’t be broken into series of data like you can with a graph created in PowerPoint. With a PowerPoint graph, you can build it piece by piece to explain the data one at a time. A graph image can't be built piece by piece. You could try to recreate the graph in PowerPoint, and I have done that on occasion, but some graphs are too complex to recreate in PowerPoint. So what can you do?

In October last year I showed an effective way to deal with this situation in one of my slide makeover videos here. Some people followed up with me after that video and asked how I had done that makeover, so let me explain.

First, I decided on the most important point the graph was making. In the case of the makeover graph, it was about showing a decline in the measured value over time. In your case it may be a trend line that shows financial data or it might be one of the lines already on a graph that you want to highlight as the key focus of the data.

Second, I placed the graph image on the slide and made it as large as I could. This may involve cropping out excess room around the graph or cropping out the title of the graph (since the slide title will be the headline). After cropping, I can resize the graph, making sure to hold down the Shift key as a drag a corner handle so the graph does not get distorted.

Third, I used the freeform line tool to draw a multi-segmented line through the data points in the graph to show the trend. Depending on your need, it may be a simple straight line or another shape, like a rectangle to go over a bar or column. With this shape, I can set the color and thickness so it is easy to see.

Finally, I animated the line so it built in the direction I wanted and in the sequence I needed to deliver the message.

When you are faced with using an image of a graph, use these steps to make your delivery more effective.