Using Excel Data in a PowerPoint Presentation

Since the topic of presenting financial or operational data calculated in Excel is so popular, I put together this page to bring together my best articles and resources to help professionals use Excel data in a PowerPoint presentation. I've divided the resources into groups based on the common areas presenters ask me about. If you have other resources that would be helpful, let me know. Feel free to share this page with others via email or social media.

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Advice on using numbers in a presentation

This slideshare shows 3 big mistakes professionals make when presenting financial or operational data to executives and what you should do about it: 3 Big Mistakes slideshare

Do you really need all those numbers? I don't think so. This article shares five steps for creating slides for financial information, this article talks about why it is more important to share the story behind the numbers, and this article suggests that 75% of the numbers most presenters include can be eliminated. Tempted to copy a spreadsheet on to your slide? Please resist the temptation. This article explains why spreadsheets don't belong on slides and this article explains that just because you have numbers, doesn't mean you should use them in your presentation.

Using Excel data as a table

When you do decide to copy a small table of summary data from Excel to PowerPoint, this article explains four different ways you can do so. There is no one way that is the best all the time, so decide which one will work best for you. When you create a table in PowerPoint, lining up the numbers can be a problem. If you have ever tried it using the spacebar, you know how frustrating it can be. This article discusses the use of the decimal tab in text boxes and this article discusses using a PowerPoint table. This video will show you how to format text this way in PowerPoint.

Using Excel data as a graph

Many presenters create a graph in Excel and copy it to their PowerPoint slide. This is a good way to have the graph update when the data in Excel changes. This article explains the two methods and the differences, so you can choose which is best for you.

You can also copy the data from Excel to create your graph in PowerPoint. If you have never done this before, just watch this video and you will see how easy it is. Once the graph is created in PowerPoint, use the tips in this video and this article to clean up the default graph. I also suggest you build the graph piece by piece so you can explain it to the audience and keep their focus on the points you want to make. This article explains how this is effective for your audience and this video shows you how to animate the graph in PowerPoint. (These tips for cleaning up and animating a graph also apply to Excel graphs inserted using the Basic Paste method.)

If you are re-using a PowerPoint graph from an old presentation that was developed in PowerPoint 2003 in a newer version of PowerPoint, read this article for tips on how to convert the graph into the newer format. Donut graphs are becoming more popular in the media, and this article shows you some ways they can be used in your presentations.

For many more ways of using graphs to visually represent your data, check out the What Visual To Use site that has over 80 different types of visuals and more than 240 examples.

Linking Excel data so the PowerPoint slide automatically updates

If the data in your Excel sheet will change regularly and you want the PowerPoint slide to update automatically, this article explains how and this video will show you how to do it in PowerPoint. If you have a graph that will be changing because the data changes, this article gives you two options to use.

Creating other visuals using Excel data

Beyond the standard graphs in PowerPoint, presenters can use other visuals to visually show the data they have calculated. Here are some options you should consider:

Waterfall graphs: this page shows you an example of how this type of specialized stacked column graph can show the components of a change from a starting value to an ending value. This video shows you the basics for creating this graph. I have even created a Waterfall Graph Calculator to make the calculations easy (also see tips for creating these graphs on the calculator page)

Proportional Shape Comparisons: this article and this article explain how these visuals can be a more impactful replacement for a graph, and this slide makeover shows this type of visual used to transform a real slide. I have a Calculator that makes figuring out the sizes for each shape much easier, with tips on creating the shapes in PowerPoint.

Treemap Diagrams: A treemap diagram shows proportions of a whole in a different way than a pie graph and can be very useful when one segment takes up half or more of the total. This article shows an example and how you can use this visual in your presentations. The Simple Treemap Calculator will do the hard task of calculating the size of each rectangle for you.

Diverging Stacked Bar Chart: when you want to show the change in two groups of data or show how a set of data is compared to a standard value, this visual might be a good choice. The calculator I created shows an example, makes the calculations easy and gives tips on creating this type of visual in PowerPoint.

For many more ways of visually representing your data, check out the What Visual To Use site that has over 80 different types of visuals and more than 240 examples.


If you need to learn more about Excel, check out this great list of Excel Pros from

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