Options for using Data from Excel on PowerPoint Slides – Part 2; Issue #217 August 24, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Options for using Data from Excel on PowerPoint Slides – Part 2

In the last newsletter we discussed options for pasting a summary table of results from Excel on a slide to present numerical information.  While showing a table of numbers is one option for presenting this type of data, it is not the only option, nor is it the best option in many cases.  Today I want to explain other best practices you can use to present numerical information from Excel.

If you are showing a trend in some data or comparing a few figures, use a graph in PowerPoint instead of a table of numbers.  If you show a table of numbers and expect your audience to do the math to figure out the difference in magnitude between the numbers, they won’t.  Audiences won’t do the math.  Instead, use a graph to illustrate the differences in the numbers.  Don’t feel that you have to re-type the data and risk making a mistake.  Just copy and paste the data from Excel to the PowerPoint graph data table.  If you want to see this done, watch the video on creating graphs in PowerPoint here.  To determine which type of graph might work best for your message, use the decision tree in this article as a guideline.

I rarely suggest showing a full table of numbers, but if you must show a table of numbers, you need to make sure it is not overwhelming for your audience.  There are two techniques you can use to make a table easier to understand.  First, if the table is small, use a callout to focus attention on the one or two numbers that are the most important.  Put a circle around the number and add some text beside it to explain why this number is significant.

If the table is large, and you need to explain each area separately, use the break-down and zoom-in technique.  Start by showing the entire table for context, but explain that there are different regions of the table that you will explain in detail and show the regions by semi-transparent overlays on the large table.  This gives the audience an overall context for the organization of the data and how the different regions relate to each other.  Then, you can show a zoomed-in portion of the table to explain each region individually, using the callout technique to focus attention on the one or two numbers in that region that are most important.

The final best practice I want to cover is one that allows you to get audience input into the calculations.  This makes it very personal to their circumstance and raises the level of engagement of the audience.  This technique can work well when you have a situation where you have calculated a general example in Excel and show the results to illustrate a broad concept.  The idea is communicated, but the applicability to an individual situation might not be clear.  In this case, hyperlink to a pre-created Excel spreadsheet that allows you to ask the audience for their exact inputs.  Let the spreadsheet do the calculations using their inputs, giving results that are tailored to their exact situation.  Now you have involved the audience and demonstrated your point using inputs that exactly match their situation, engaging them in the message you are delivering.  You also now have an example you can e-mail them right after the presentation that demonstrates their exact scenario, reinforcing the message you delivered in the presentation.

Just because you use Excel to calculate data for use in a presentation doesn’t mean you have to copy and paste a large table of data on to a slide.  Use the techniques above to present a more visual message that communicates more effectively with your audience.