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

In my workshops, one of the popular visuals that I show is a dashed line on a column graph because it allows the audience to see the measured values against a comparison value. A common example would be comparing performance in five regions against the company goal.

In a recent workshop an example came up where they needed to compare each measured value against two standards. They wanted to compare the value to the goal and to the best in class in the industry. Here is the table that we started with.

In this situation, I created the following visual to compare each measure to the two comparison standards.

The visual above is a single column with two dashed lines, ones to the left and one to the right. It is created as a three series graph in Excel or PowerPoint with three categories. Here is the data table for the graph.

The first series is for Measure A and only has a value in the second category. The second series is for the comparison that will be to the left of the column. By having values in a blank category to the left and the category for the column, the dashed line extends from the left to the middle of the column. The third series is for the comparison to the best in class that will be to right of the column.

When you have to compare a value to two standards, consider a column graph with multiple comparison lines instead of a table.

By Dave Paradi

Dave Paradi has over twenty-two years of experience delivering customized training workshops to help business professionals improve their presentations. He has written ten books and over 600 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 fewer than ten people in North America recognized by Microsoft with the Most Valuable Professional Award for his contributions to the Excel, PowerPoint, and Teams communities. His articles and videos on virtual presenting have been viewed over 4.8 million times and liked over 17,000 times on YouTube.