# Lesson 5 – Creating Effective Graphs that Audiences can Understand

A common message that we need to communicate is numeric data.  Whether it is financial results, operational data or measurements of any kind, instead of placing a table of numbers on your slide, a graph is usually a better approach.  In today’s lesson I want to share some tips on making a graph more effective using the ideas in the KWICK method that I shared in the last lesson.

Show only the data you need to
I know that the spreadsheet has 40 numbers in it, but if you are only comparing two items over five time periods, only include the ten data points that are required.    This fits with the Key Point step in the KWICK process.  The data on the graph should be consistent with the headline of the slide.   If you prefer to create graphs in PowerPoint instead of Excel (as I do), you can copy and paste the required data from Excel into the PowerPoint graph worksheet instead of re-entering it and possibly making a mistake in keying.

Clean up the default graph
Unfortunately, the default graphs in PowerPoint (or Excel for that matter), are burdened by elements that detract from the true meaning of the graph.  In the In Context step of the KWICK method, we want the visual to be easy to understand.  So you should get rid of distracting elements like the 3-D effect, excessive text on the axis, the legend and gridlines.  By making the graph cleaner, you place the focus on the data instead of the peripheral elements.

Include callouts to indicate the most important spot on the graph
The C step in the KWICK method calls for us to make the visual Crystal Clear.  On graphs, we need to add a callout that points to the most important spot on the graph and callout text that explains why we want the audience to focus on this spot.  We can also increase the clarity by using an emphasis color for an important pie wedge, column or bar.

Build graphs one data series or data point at a time
The last step in the KWICK method is Keep Focus.  For graphs, we should build the graph series by series or point by point so we can explain each one individually.  If you have a line graph, you can build each line from left to right and talk about the trend that is being shown.  With a column graph, you can build each column and comment on the height of the column and what it means to the audience.  With a pie chart, you would build each wedge and explain the significance of the size of the wedge.

The KWICK method is applied to every visual that we create, whether it is a graph, a diagram, a photo, a video clip or any other visual.  By focusing on building persuasive visuals, we can increase the effectiveness of our presentation.