PowerPoint Tip: Options for using Data from Excel on PowerPoint Slides – Part 1

Excel is commonly used to perform calculations or financial analysis.  I use it frequently for these purposes, as I am sure you do.  While Excel is a great tool for performing numeric analysis, it is not intended to be a presentation tool.  If you show a large spreadsheet on the screen, people get overwhelmed quickly and tune out.

In a two-part series, I am going to share my best practices for using the information from our Excel analysis in a presentation.  In today’s first part, we’ll talk about using a table of numbers from the spreadsheet on a slide.  Next time, I’ll cover ways to use the data other than the copy and paste approach we’ll cover today.

If you shouldn’t just copy and paste the entire spreadsheet on a slide, what should you do instead?  Create a summary table.  Any analysis we do should result in us answering a question that prompted the analysis.  How are this year’s results compared to last year?  How are results compared to our forecast?  What do projections show for the next three quarters?  What factors contributed to the rise or fall in results?  There are many more questions that we could be wondering about that give rise to numerical analysis in Excel.

Your audience does not want, or need, to see all of the analysis.  They only need to see the results that answer the question.  So in Excel, create a summary of the results from your analysis.  It could be on a portion of the existing worksheet or on a new worksheet.  This summary table is what you will use on your slide.  It should be a few rows by a few columns at most.  This makes it easy to understand and big enough when displayed on the screen.

When you copy this small number of cells to your slide, I suggest you use one of four options.  There are more that PowerPoint allows, but I think these are the four that are most useful for you to consider.  I’ve listed the options below along with an idea of what the result will be in your slide.  Three of the four are accessed by using the Paste Special command, which opens up a dialog box that gives you more options than the default Paste command.

Option 1: Simple Paste using Ctrl+V: This inserts your Excel cells as a PowerPoint table.  PowerPoint tables can only be animated as “all on” or “all off”, so you can’t build the rows or columns individually unless you use the exit animation reveal technique.  This option does not link to the source Excel file, so any changes in the Excel file will not be reflected in your presentation automatically.

Option 2: Paste Special; Excel Worksheet Object: This embeds the current version of the Excel worksheet into your PowerPoint slide and displays the last editing view of the worksheet.  The advantage to this method is that it allows you to access the entire sheet on your slide.  The disadvantage is that the last view is shown, so someone can accidentally open the object and what shows up on your slide will be what they last looked at, perhaps not what you wanted the audience to see.  This method also uses the limited table animation and does not link to the source Excel file.

Option 3: Paste Special; Unformatted text: This creates a PowerPoint text box of the entries in the cells, using tabs to create the columns in the text box.  Because it is a text box, you have more control over formatting the text and you can animate it like any other text box, including by row.  There is no link to the source data.

Option 4: Paste Link; Excel Worksheet Object: This embeds a link to the Excel file on your slide and displays the last view in Excel.  When you edit this object on your slide, it actually opens Excel to do the editing.  For animation, it treats it as a single object, so you only have the “all on” or “all off” options.  This link does update your slide as data in the Excel sheet changes (you will be asked to update the data when you open the PowerPoint file).  This option is great if you have a regularly updated spreadsheet and only want to create one presentation that will always have the latest data.

None of these options is the best in all situations.  Consider the purpose and future use of the summary table of numbers, then select which option will work best.  Next time, we’ll talk about alternatives to using a table of Excel data in your presentation.