How To Work With Tables, Graphs And Charts In PowerPoint

Presenting data in front of an audience doesn’t have to be complicated. Sure, it may be quite challenging at first to think of a way to convey your data without making your audience’s eyes cross in boredom. If you want to avoid this at all cost, then read this entire article. Today, you’re going to find out how to work with tables, graphs and charts in PowerPoint – the easy way!

Using Tables, Graphs And Charts In PowerPoint To Present Your Data

Before we get into the benefits and the how-to’s of using tables, charts, and graphs, let’s define what each of these terms means to ensure we are going to be on the same page.

Working With Tables In PowerPoint

Tables are basically data presented or arranged in rows and columns. You can present various forms of data in tables. Even the periodic table of elements is presented in, well, you guessed it, table format. The columns and/or rows often have labels or names, so it’s easy for the reader to identify what the data in each table cell means.

Tables are used everywhere, they’ve been a very popular way to present information for centuries! You’ll find tables used in company budgets, sales reports, product inventories, restaurant menus, and so much more. The general population can easily read and understand tables because the information is laid out in a logical manner. As long as the columns and/or rows are labeled properly, reading tables should be a breeze.

Here’s an example:

how to work with tables, graphs and charts in PowerPoint - a sample table with the columns labelled from A to F
Sample table with the columns labelled from A to F

As you can see from the screenshot above, you just need to scan the column labels to know what the data in each column stands for. The good thing is you’re not limited to using tables for quantitative data, you can also use it for qualitative data.

Inserting tables in PowerPoint is as simple as clicking Insert > Table and then dragging your mouse down the number of rows and columns you’ll require for your table. By default, you can insert a 10-column x 8-row table (10×8 table) using this method.

Screenshot on how to insert a table in PowerPoint
How to insert a table in PowerPoint

If you want a larger table, then you can choose the Insert Table option and just manually type in the number of columns and rows you require.

Screenshot of how to manually input the number of columns and rows for your PowerPoint table
How to manually input the number of columns and rows for your PowerPoint table

To edit and change the layout or format of your tables, you will need to click on the table you want to edit to access the hidden Table Tools menu. You’ll then be presented with the Design and Layout tab.

Accessing the hidden Table Tools menu in PowerPoint
How to access the Table Tools menu in PowerPoint

If you want to change your table’s design and appearance, then click on the Design tab. Likewise, if you want to change the table’s layout, then click on the Layout tab. If you want to add more rows or columns, you will find this option in the Layout tab.

Remember, keep your table as simple as possible. There’s no point in presenting a table that has far too many columns and rows, it’s just going to confuse your audience. If you really need to present complex tables, you can either (1) convert and present it in a chart or graph format, or (2) you can print out your table and just give it as a handout to your audience.

Working With Charts And Graphs In PowerPoint

If you thought presenting your information using tables is superb, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how much charts and graphs can take your data presentation to a whole new level. While you can make tables look good on a slide, charts can basically convert a multi-column and multi-row table that spans multiple slides into a single chart on a single slide! That’s how powerful and useful charts are. You can present complicated information in an easy to understand and visually attractive chart.

But are charts and graphs the same or are they different? Well, for the most part, charts and graphs basically mean the same thing and are often used interchangeably nowadays. However, if you want to be precise, all graphs are charts, but not all charts are graphs.

Charts can take many different forms. From the simple bar graph, line graph and pie charts that compare one or two variables, to the more complicated ones like sunburst charts and scatterplots that compare multiple variables, there’s a chart you can use!

If you want to show the shape of your data, you’re going to need charts as this is not something you can do with a simple table. For example, if you want to show trends or patterns in your data, you can easily do this using charts. In the case of stock market traders who rely on technical analysis to make trading decisions, they breathe and live charts. Let’s take a look at Apple’s stock data for 2018:

Screenshot of Apple’s stock chart
Apple’s stock chart. Screenshot is taken from Yahoo! Finance

With just a single glance, you can see Apple’s stock price movement. You’ll see when the price has dipped and gone back up. If you’re trying to enter the market, based on this chart as well as some further analysis, you’ll be able to ascertain if this stock is going to be a good investment for you.

Now, try imagining this chart in table format. Do you think you’ll be able to present all the data in a single screenshot or slide? I don’t think so!

So, as you can see, tables are useful if you’re presenting relatively simple information. But when it comes to complex data, charts are the way to go. This is why it’s important for a presenter to know how to make graphs in PowerPoint.

Tables, Charts and Graphs vs. Lists and Bullet Points

If you’re presenting a lot of data and you want your audience to see the information it’s related to, then you would be better off using tables, charts, and graphs, as opposed to using bullet points or lists.

The top reason why you should use tables, charts or graphs to present your data is you want to save some time. It’s so much easier to just direct your audience’s attention to the point you want to make without describing it for several minutes. Since tables and charts are visual in nature, your audience will be able to make their own interpretations and can either concur or disagree with the information you’re presenting on your slides.

Now, obviously, in some cases, bullet points and lists would be a more practical way of presenting information, especially if you’re just relaying the endpoint or the summary of the information. If your audience doesn’t need to know the specifics, then there’s no need to show them the raw data in the form of tables or charts. You can just write the outcome or the summary in a plain sentence (or paragraph).

Remember, your slides are only meant to provide a visual reference to your presentation. If you’re trying to make a point, you can show the table and/or graph in the slide, but you don’t need to make your audience squint to make out what your data is trying to convey. In short, don’t just put your data in table format and/or chart, and then expect your audience to make sense of it.

A good presenter will always put the audience’s understanding above all else. After all, the purpose of your presentation is to inform your audience about your topic. If they can’t make sense of what your tables, charts, and graphs mean, then they’d essentially be wasting their time listening to you.

There are many different types of presentation charts and graphs you can use in PowerPoint. Depending on the data you want to analyze and present in an easy-to-understand format, you may need to do some digging around to find the best chart for your specific needs. Here are some of the more popular ones you can use:

Line Chart

Screenshot of a PowerPoint line chart
Example of a line chart made in PowerPoint

If you want to show a variable’s trend over a period of time, then you can use a line chart. In the sample line chart above, we’ve compared the profits of Stores 1, 2 and 3 over a 4-day period. As you can clearly see, the orange line shows an upward trend. On the other hand, the blue line shows a downward trend. While the gray line shows no discernible pattern.

How to make a line graph in PowerPoint?

To make a line graph in your PowerPoint slide, simply click on Insert > Chart. The Insert Chart menu will pop-up on your screen. Click on Line and choose the line chart type you want to use (see red arrow below). Options include the basic line chart, stacked line chart, 100% stacked line chart, line chart with markers, stacked line chart with markers, 100% stacked line chart with markers, and 3-D line chart.

Screenshot on the right way to insert a line graph in PowerPoint
How to insert a line graph in PowerPoint

Bar Graph

Sample bar graph made in PowerPoint
Example of a bar graph made in PowerPoint

Just like line graphs, bar graphs are easy to create and relatively easy to interpret. If you want to present ordinal and nominal data in your presentation, then a bar graph may prove to be useful.

In a bar graph, the bars are horizontally laid out, and the length of the bar is proportionate to the value it represents. This means that the longer a particular bar is, the higher the number/value associated with it.

For instance, in the sample bar graph above, you can easily see that the blue bar at the bottom is the longest bar in the graph. It represents the number of people who think Sean Connery is the best James Bond actor ever (30 people). Likewise, you can also easily see that Daniel Craig (gray bar) is the least popular one since only 10 people voted him as the best James Bond actor.

To add a bar graph, click on Insert > Chart. In the Insert Chart menu, select Bar and then click on the type of bar graph you want to use. Bar Graph options include clustered bar chart, stacked bar chart, 100% stacked bar chart, 3-D clustered bar chart, 3-D stacked bar chart, and 3-D 100% stacked bar chart.

Column Chart

Column charts are just bar graphs in a vertical orientation. If we use the same data that we used in our bar graph example above, then we can simply change the chart type. To do this, click on the bar chart to access the Chart Tools menu. Go to the Design tab, then click on Change Chart Type.

Screenshot on changing Chart Type in PowerPoint
How to change the Chart Type in PowerPoint

The Change Chart Type menu will then pop-up on your screen. Click on Column.

Screenshot of PowerPoint's Change Chart Type menu
The Change Chart Type menu in PowerPoint

Column Chart options include clustered column chart, stacked column chart, 100% stacked column chart, 3-D clustered column chart, 3-D stacked column chart, 3-D 100% stacked column chart, and 3-D column chart.

For this example, I just selected the clustered column chart (the first option). This is what our new column chart looks like:

Sample PowerPoint column chart
Example of a column chart made in PowerPoint

With the vertically-oriented bars, you can easily see how many votes each actor got (you don’t need to turn your head sideways to figure it out!).

Now, take note that not all bar graphs are better off converted to column charts. For instance, if you’ve got long data labels, then you’re probably better off using bar charts. If you’re not sure, it’s best to play around with how your charts will look on your slides and go with whatever makes your data easy to understand for your audience.

Pie Chart

Pie charts are relatively easy to create. You simply need to figure out the percentages or proportions of each category of data you want to present (these are the ‘pie slices’ you see in the chart). The large the ‘pie slice’ the larger the value or percentage for that particular category. The sum total of all the percentages should equal to 100%.

Unlike other charts, pie charts aren’t suitable for presenting large amounts of data. The more categories of data you have, the more segments or slices there will be in your pie chart. This means it’s going to be visually challenging to discern which segment represents what category.

Let’s use the same data from our James Bond actor example in the bar graph and column chart examples. Here’s a screenshot of our raw data:

Screenshot of raw data used for the pie chart, bar graph and column chart samples
The raw data used for the pie chart, bar graph and column chart examples

Since I used this data set in the Column Chart example, I used the Change Chart Type option in Chart Tools to come up with the pie chart below.

PowerPoint pie chart sample
Example of a pie chart made in PowerPoint

As you can see in the screenshot, PowerPoint has automatically calculated the percentage or proportion for each actor. Sean Connery, of course, took up the biggest percentage at 33% of votes, Pierce Brosnan came in second at 22%, Timothy Dalton and Roger Moore at 17% each, and lastly, Daniel Craig got 11% of the votes.

By the way, PowerPoint has 5 different pie chart types you can choose from: regular pie chart, 3-D pie chart, pie of pie chart, bar of pie chart, and doughnut pie chart.

Tips For Better Charts and Graphs in PowerPoint

Here are some top tips you can use to help you present better tables, graphs and charts in PowerPoint.

Keep it simple

You want to make your data understood by your audience. You’re presenting for them, after all. So, you need to look at your data from your audience’s viewpoint. For instance, if it was your first time to see your data presented on a table or chart, would you be able to understand what it means right away? Or would you scratch your head and say, “This is too complicated for me.”

If you found it confusing, then you need to simplify your presentation. There’s no need to make yourself feel like the smartest person in the room. I guarantee your audience is not going to appreciate it. If you want your audience to stay focused on your presentation, then you need to go down to their level of comprehension. Explain your data in layman’s terms, so to speak.

Use appropriate colors

Consider the colors you’re going to be using for your tables, graphs and charts. Make it consistent with the overall theme of your presentation. While it’s okay to project your personality in your presentation, you also need to consider your audience. This is why knowing who your audience is is so important. It will help you design your slides in such a way that your audience will appreciate it, or at least not hate it!

If you love bubble gum pink or neon colors or even punk design, that’s fine. But if you’re presenting to a professional crowd, then you may want to tone down your design. You don’t want to appear immature in front of them, especially if you’re making a sales pitch.

Label everything properly

Whether you use a table or chart to present your data, you need to make sure you label everything accordingly. You can’t leave your audience hanging and then expect them to understand what your data means. For tables, make sure you label the columns and/or rows. For charts, make sure the X and Y axis have labels that can easily be read from a distance.

Use fonts that are easy to read as well. There’s no point in labeling your tables and charts if no one can read it. Spare the fancy fonts for other parts of your presentation. For tables and charts, keep it simple and professional.

Don’t just copy tables and charts from Excel

Excel is very useful if you’re dealing with large amounts of data. However, a simple copy and paste procedure isn’t going to do your presentation any favors. It may sound like a quick solution, but if you just copy and paste your table or chart from Excel to PowerPoint, then your entire Excel workbook is going to be embedded into your PowerPoint.

When you embed another file into your PowerPoint, then it’s going to unnecessarily inflate the size of your PowerPoint file. This will also make all the data in your Excel file visible to anyone who has access to your PowerPoint file. So, if you have sensitive data on Excel, make sure you avoid this copy and paste method.

If you want to know how to insert graphs in PowerPoint from Excel, read on. For best results, it is recommended that you use the Insert > Chart option on PowerPoint. Just select the Chart type you want to use and click OK. A worksheet will appear on your screen. Simply copy the data (not the chart!) from your Excel file and then paste it into the PowerPoint worksheet. PowerPoint will then automatically create your chart for you.

For tables, use the Insert > Table option on PowerPoint. Define the size of the table and just copy and paste the data (not the table!) from Excel to your PowerPoint table.  PowerPoint will then automatically create your new table for you.

This method will ensure no confidential data is embedded in your PowerPoint file (unless, of course, you choose to share this information). It also means that your PowerPoint file won’t become unnecessarily massive in size.

Lastly, since the tables and charts are technically made in PowerPoint (you just copied the data from Excel after all), then they will inherit the color theme of your PowerPoint file.

Use PowerPoint tables, graphs and charts templates

The tables and charts on PowerPoint have been used countless times on an infinite number of presentations worldwide. If you want your presentation to be unique, then you should consider using PowerPoint templates as your tables and charts’ base design.

Here are some of the top tables and charts templates that you can download from the Template Hub:

PowerPoint pricing table template you can use for free - Tables PowerPoint Template Pack from 24Slides
A screenshot of the Tables PowerPoint Template Pack – a pricing table PowerPoint template you can use for free

You can use the slides in this 10-slide template for your pricing tables, comparison tables, to-do lists, checklists, etc. You can use these with both quantitative and qualitative data. If you need more rows or columns, you can easily edit the template to make it uniquely your own. If you want to change the layout or design of the tables, feel free to do so.

This template pack also includes a table with symbols slide (see below). Use this template if you need to present a lot of information in a single slide. You don’t need to worry about putting in entire sentences. All you need to do is look for icons that will accurately represent the table labels, so your audience can easily understand what each column is for.

The Tables PowerPoint Template Pack includes this table with symbols slide you can use to present a large amount of data in table format
A table with symbols template you can use to present a large amount of data in table format

You can basically customize the table templates in many different ways. You can change the icons, you can add more rows and more columns, you can change the colors, etc. Make your table unique to your presentation!

PowerPoint pie chart template you can use for free - Tables PowerPoint Template Pack from 24Slides
A screenshot of the Pie Chart PowerPoint Template Pack – a pie chart PowerPoint template you can use for free

With 10 free slides included in this professionally designed PowerPoint template, you can easily present the relative proportions and/or percentages of your data. If you’re looking to use a doughnut pie chart or a world map pie chart, then you’ll love this free template! Doughnut charts are perfect if you want to present relationships in more than one data set. Likewise, if you’re presenting data that covers multiple locations abroad, then the world map + pie charts slide will be perfect for your needs.

A Venn diagram template you can use for free - the Venn Diagram Template Pack from
A screenshot of the Venn Diagram Template Pack – a Venn diagram template you can use for free

If you’re looking to use a Venn diagram for your PowerPoint presentation and show logical relationships between your data sets, then look no further than this 9-slide template. You can choose from among a 2-circle, 3-circle or multiple-circle Venn diagram slide.

A cockpit chart template you can use for free - the Cockpit Chart Template Pack from 24Slides
A screenshot of the Cockpit Chart Template Pack – a cockpit chart template you can use for free

Presenting large amounts of data to your audience can be hard. If you want to help your audience understand what your presentation is all about, then you should check out the 10-slide Cockpit Chart templates. It includes cockpit charts for comparison slide, 3D vertical bar slide, and radar vs. waterfall charts slide.

Final Words

I hope you picked up some new graph presentation ideas today. Knowing how to use tables, graphs and charts in PowerPoint can mean the difference between a successful presentation and a failed one. Remember, don’t just cram your entire spreadsheet into one table or chart. You need to figure out the most appropriate tool to present your data, so your audience can easily understand the information you’re trying to convey to them.

You might also find this interesting: The Ultimate Guide To Using Images, Videos, And SmartArt Graphics In PowerPoint