If you want to create a graph for your PowerPoint slide using data from Excel, you have two choices. You can create the graph in Excel and link it to your slide using one of the methods in this article. Or you can create the graph in PowerPoint using the data from Excel.
Don’t re-type the Excel data into the data table for the graph in PowerPoint. This can lead to errors and takes too much time. Here are two methods to get the Excel data into the graph table in PowerPoint.
Method 1: Paste Values
The simplest method is to select the cells in Excel, copy them, and paste them into the graph table in PowerPoint. If you use the default Paste, you may run into trouble if the source cell in Excel contains a formula (which is quite common). Instead, use Paste Special – Paste Values to copy just the values from the cells in Excel.
This method will not link the data for the graph back to the source Excel file. If the data in the Excel file changes, your PowerPoint graph will not update. It uses the data as if you had typed it in yourself.
Here is a video that demonstrates this technique.
Method 2: Formula Link
If you need to link the data back to the Excel spreadsheet, you will need to create a formula in the graph table. The easiest way to do this is to have the source Excel file open already. In the graph data table cell, press the = key and navigate to the cell in the source Excel file that you want for this graph value. Click on that cell and then press the Enter key. This creates a formula in the PowerPoint graph data table that refers back to the specific Excel file and that particular cell. You will see the current value displayed.
To update the data in the future, click on the graph in PowerPoint and click on the Edit Data button in the Chart Tools Design ribbon. This opens the graph data table and gets the updated data from the Excel file. If the file can’t be found, no updated data is retrieved. You still see the last values that were there. You can manually enter a new value if you want to, but realize that the link back to the Excel file for that cell will now be broken. This may be your only options when you have to make a last minute change and the source Excel file is not available.
The method you choose depends primarily on whether you need the graph data to be updated in the future when the Excel file changes. If you do, you will have to choose the Formula Link method.
For more information, read this page with advice on presenting financial information effectively.
Dave Paradi has over twenty years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written nine books and over 100 articles on the topic of effective presentations and his ideas have appeared in publications around the world. His focus is on helping corporate professionals visually communicate the messages in their data so they don’t overwhelm and confuse executives. Dave is one of less than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel and PowerPoint communities. He regularly presents highly rated sessions at national and regional conferences of financial professionals.