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Charts and Tables

Charts and Tables

PowerPoint integrates nicely with Excel, making it easy to add charts and graphs of various types. However, these should be used carefully. Scale bars and labels are particularly sensitive to scaling effects, and a chart that’s legible when printed on a piece of paper may be too small to understand pasted into a PowerPoint slide. If you need to use a chart, it’s probably a good idea to concentrate on showing the basic trends rather than the details. If your audience really do need the nitty-gritty of some technical issue, they’d be better off looking at the original spreadsheet, not a slideshow.

With that said, a chart can work very well in a slideshow if it’s kept clear and simple. In the example shown in Figure 7, the default clustered column chart has been tidied up in several ways to enhance clarity. The chart itself has been made bigger by stretching it across the slide. The gridlines have been removed, the axes reformatted slightly, and black lines added to the columns so they stand out more crisply. Also note that the legend has been moved to the bottom of the slide and the text color switched from black to grey so that there’s less visual clutter. Compared to default condition, this version of the chart is clearer and easier to comprehend.

Much the same rules apply to tables. Keep them simple, use color sparingly, and always take care to ensure contrast and clarity. By default, PowerPoint tends to add color shading to tables. While color used this way can make it easier to follow data across rows and down columns, it’s important the text stands out against the background shading. If in doubt, skip colors altogether and stick with plain vanilla tables with black lines, white backgrounds, and black text.

Figure 7 You can improve charts by removing clutter and increasing contrast; here the default chart is at the back, the improved one in front.

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