FinancialViz: Presenting Financial Data and Analysis Visually

In this section of my site I share examples of data visualization applied to reporting financial messages. Too often financial results or analysis are reported using spreadsheets or paragraphs of text. Below I share examples of how those in accounting, finance, treasury, and other areas can use visuals to effectively communicate important messages.

I've organized the examples by the message they communicate because I believe that the correct visual is based on the message, not on how nice it looks. I have organized the examples into nine categories of messages based on my years of working with financial professionals and the messages they communicate. If you'd like to see some examples organized by messages common to financial statements, check out my articles for Income/P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statement.

The examples are drawn from my work with clients in customized workshops, from visuals published in the media, and from public financial statements such as annual reports. Some of the examples are makeovers where I show a visual that can replace a spreadsheet or table of numbers, some are examples of improving on a visual, and some are commentary on aspects of a visual that we can learn from and apply in our own work. In most cases I have added some tips on how to create the visual in common Office programs such as Excel and PowerPoint.

You can apply these lessons in areas such as regular financial reporting to others, preparing financial statements to be published, and creating dashboards in big data analysis tools such as Power BI or Tableau. Scroll through the nine areas below and review those examples that apply to the messages you need to communicate. If you want to see the latest examples from all categories, click here.

If you want to learn how to create visuals like the ones you see in the examples, I offer customized hands-on workshops as well.

Trend over time (view all)

Showing future differences; Issue #433 February 19 2019

When we want to show the impact of a proposed change, one of the ways we can do it is to show a...

Presenting financial analysis: Show trends in data series measured in different units

You’ve analyzed the past data and need to communicate important findings to the executives or...

Comparing growth in Sales and Expense categories over time; Slide Makeover #92

Use an index line graph to compare trends in different data series using a common starting point

Showing a trend and comparing current value to last Q and last Y; Slide Makeover #88

Use a line graph instead of a column graph to show both the trend and comparisons to previous values.

Makeover Monday Challenge April 10 2017

Use an index line graph instead of a dual axis chart to compare trends in different data series.

Showing trends as lines, not clustered columns; Slide Makeover #82

Use a line graph instead of a clustered column graph to show trends

Compare to a standard (view all)

Comparing only one value to a standard; Issue #432 February 5 2019

When you want to compare values to a standard, such as comparing output in various production...

Presenting the income or P&L statement: Compare values to a common goal

You’ve analyzed the income and expenses and need to communicate important findings to the...

FinancialViz Makeover: Comparing to an average with long labels

This makeover shows how using a dashed line as part of a graph allows easy comparison of values to...

Comparing to two standards; Issue #388 May 2, 2017

Use a column with two dashed lines to compare a value to two standards

Showing performance where we want to be below a goal; Issue #379 December 20, 2016

Showing performance where the desire is to remain below a standard (vs. the usual above the goal)

Order data to support your message; Issue #378 December 6, 2016

When comparing values, make sure the order supports the message

Comparing Values (view all)

FinancialViz Makeover: Comparing multiple characteristics

This makeover shows how using bar charts beside each other makes it easier to compare multiple...

Presenting the Balance Sheet: Visually show Assets (or Liabilities) with YoY change

Today you will learn a great visual to use when presenting Assets or Liabilities from the Balance...
Diverging bar chart to show difference between actual and budget and last year from article at https://www.thinkoutsidetheslide.com/showing-difference-between-this-year-and-last-year-budget-slide-makeover-93/

Showing difference between this year and last year/budget; Slide Makeover #93

Visually show variances: This Year compared to Last Year and Budget To see how well we are doing...

Presenting the income or P&L statement: Show Budget and variance walk of expense categories

You have looked at the difference between the actual and budget expenses in the different expense...

FinancialViz Makeover: Change in sectors over time

This makeover shows how using color and the right visual helps the audience compare the change in...

SWD Challenge September 2018

I think makeovers of slides or visuals is a great way to see what is possible in our own...
Contribution of segments (view all)

Presenting the Balance Sheet: Visually show Assets (or Liabilities) with YoY change

Today you will learn a great visual to use when presenting Assets or Liabilities from the Balance...

Presenting the income or P&L statement: Show how revenue less expenses results in net income

You’ve analyzed the income and expenses and need to communicate important findings to the...

Presenting the income or P&L statement: Show Budget and variance walk of expense categories

You have looked at the difference between the actual and budget expenses in the different expense...

Presenting the income or P&L statement: Show components that make up the total expenses

You’ve analyzed the income and expenses and need to communicate important findings to the...

Comparing Revenue components to previous year; Slide Makeover #91

Use a “steps to a total” graph instead of a spreadsheet to explain the components of total revenue

Showing breakeven analysis; Slide Makeover #89

Show the breakeven analysis on an investment visually instead of a spreadsheet or table of numbers.

Rank (view all)

Presenting the income or P&L statement: How to highlight the largest revenue segment or expense item

You’ve analyzed the income and expenses and need to communicate important findings to the...

Focus by using an All Others category; Issue #396 August 22, 2017

Use an All Others category when showing ranked data to focus on the most important categories

When gridlines help on graphs; Issue #387 April 18, 2017

When showing ranked values with a related data series, use gridlines to help the audience relate the values

The correct use of a pie chart; Issue #327 December 23, 2014

The correct use of a pie chart is to show one segment compared to the whole; Use bar charts for ranked values

Portion of a Total (view all)

Proportion visual using characters; Issue #395 August 8, 2017

Use ISOTYPE or group of items visuals to show proportion of the whole

The correct use of a pie chart; Issue #327 December 23, 2014

The correct use of a pie chart is to show one segment compared to the whole; Use bar charts for ranked values

Groups of text points (view all)

Executive Summary slide; Issue #394 July 25, 2017

Create an Executive Summary at the start of your presentation using text organized in shapes

Group text in shapes instead of bullets; Issue #391 June 13, 2017

Make groups of text visual by putting them in shapes

PowerPoint table alternative to SmartArt; Issue #357 February 16, 2016

Use a table to group text instead of SmartArt

Converting bullets to text grouped in shapes; Slide Makeover #83

Present bullet/sub-bullet text visually using text in shapes

Making text look better; Issue #340 June 23, 2015

Three options for grouping text in shapes instead of bullets and sub-bullets

Process/Sequence (view all)

Shapes on arrow sequence diagram; Issue #384 March 7, 2017

Use a "shapes on an arrow" diagram to show steps in a process

Visually showing procedures that include decisions; Slide Makeover #76

Communicate decisions and outcomes with a decision tree diagram instead of a numbered list

Timeline (view all)

Accurate Design Ideas-like Timeline; Issue #424 October 2 2018

In a previous newsletter I showed an example of how PowerPoint’s Design Ideas feature (last week...

Showing the timing of steps in a project; Slide Makeover #90

Use a data-driven Gantt chart instead of a bulleted list of dates to show timing of steps.

Creating a Gantt chart with Milestones using a Stacked Bar Chart in Excel or PowerPoint

When you need an accurate Gantt chart, you can use a stacked bar graph in Excel to create it

Download free Timelines & Calendars; Issue #371 August 30, 2016

Quickly create timeline visuals by starting with a pre-built timeline or calendar you can copy onto a PowerPoint slide