The Ultimate Guide to Using Data Visualization in Your Presentation

Data is key for backing up your arguments and selling your message to your audience. However, it can quickly turn from an aid to a hindrance. It’s easy for an audience to become overwhelmed, distracted, and even bored on a presentation with plain data. That’s why businesses worldwide constantly face the question of how to make data more appealing for presentations. Luckily for all of us, PowerPoint has a wide array of options for making your data more engaging and digestible! Here you’ll learn how to use data visualization in PowerPoint to take your presentations to the next level.

What is data visualization?

Just like its name suggests, data visualization is giving numbers, quantities, and overall information a visual representation. Data on its own can be pretty overwhelming and difficult to understand at a simple glance. Giving it a graphical representation can help your audience better understand what these numbers actually mean.

For example, saying that a specific product has over 80% more revenue than another one. This number alone might not mean much to someone. But by showing it visually, you allow your audience to process the information in a way that’s more easily understandable for them.

Data visualization helps to give context to numbers that don’t mean much on their own. It is the most effective way to show trends and patterns and illustrate these figures’ true meaning in your company’s reality. Whether it’s a business presentation or a written sales report, visually showcasing your data can help you communicate your findings more effectively and make active use of data to back up your arguments.

Why use data visualization in your PowerPoint presentations

Data plays a huge role in sales and overall business presentations. Data can make or break the message you’re trying to tell your audience. It can help you support your points and give strength to your arguments. Things like revenue, online leads, growth over time, social media engagement… There are a hundred different ways you can use data to enhance your business presentations.

However, many people forget to consider one very critical point: Data is only useful as long as it is understandable. Throwing in a long list of random numbers will probably do more harm than good. People in your audience will probably get more easily distracted and frustrated. And even worse, raw data is pretty boring.

By using data visualization tools, you’ll be able to not only showcase the information you’ve collected in a more efficient manner but also to tell a story with it. Humans are naturally visual creatures, and it is in our nature to look for images and pictures above everything else. Using data visualization in PowerPoint presentations is also great for creating more impact in your audience. It will help you create a presentation that’s more engaging and visually appealing.

How to make data more appealing for presentations: a step-by-step guide

How you choose to present your data can make or break your presentation. It can help you create a highly impactful presentation that stays with your audience. Or it can make your presentation boring, tedious, and ineffective. It’s not enough to just copy and paste your data into a presentation slide. Luckily, PowerPoint has a lot of smart data visualization tools! You just need to put in your data, and PowerPoint will work it up for you.

1. Collect your data

First things first, and that is to have all your information ready. Especially for long business presentations, there can be a lot of information to consider when working on your slides. Having it all organized and ready to use will make the whole process much easier to go through.

2. Identify your story

When you’re using data in a presentation, it is for a reason. Ask yourself: What do you want your audience to take away from it? What should this data prove? By asking these questions, you should have clear what purpose your data should serve.

For example, to showcase the company’s growth over the last year. Or to display the ROI of the marketing strategy. Or to evaluate the KPIs and how close you’re to reaching your goals. Whatever is the case, knowing exactly what kind of information you have in your hands and what you want to show with it is critical for using data visualization effectively in PowerPoint.

3. Choose a data visualization option

One of the keys to using data visualization in PowerPoint is knowing what options are available and which one is the best for you. This depends on the type of data you’re trying to showcase and what your story is. If you want to showcase growth over time, you won’t use a spider chart but a line chart. If you’re going to show percentages, a circle graph will probably work better than a timeline.

In the next section, I’ll go through some of the most common tools for using data visualization in PowerPoint. This will include what these graphs and diagrams are best for and how you can make the most of each of them. Hopefully, this will help you define what will work best for your own presentation!

4. Be creative!

PowerPoint can help you with the more challenging part of creating the graphs and diagrams, but it is up to you to polish and make the most out of them. Also, take into account that there are many other options beyond what PowerPoint offers. Things like Venn diagrams and pictograms can help you display different types of information too.

At the end of this article, you’ll find some easy tips to take into consideration to upgrade your data visualization design!

Most common data visualization tools in PowerPoint

Here you’ll find some of the most common data visualization tools for business PowerPoint presentations. Aside from the classic graphs, you’ll also find some that are not exclusively for quantitative data. However, they are still great options to consider when trying to implement data visualization in PowerPoint. All of the options in this list will help your audience get some context and make more meaning out of your data.

a) Bar and column graphs

Bar and column graphs are great for comparing different categories organizing them around two axes. One of these will represent quantitative data, and the other the categories or product your need to compare. You also have the waterfall option, which is perfect for highlighting the difference between gains and losses.

You can learn if you should use a bar graph or a column one here.

b) Line graphs

Line graphs are similar to bar graphs as they are also organized in two axes. However, line graphs work the best when used for showcasing change through a period of time. Another critical difference is that line graphs are accumulative. For example, a bar graph can help you show how much revenue went in the months of January, February, March, and April. But a line graph will show how the revenue evolved through these months.

c)  Pie and circle graphs

Pie, circle, and donut graphs are some of the most popular data visualization tools in PowerPoint, and for a good reason! These types of graphs are perfect for representing percentages. This means that they are great options for drawing attention to differences between one group and another. And to highlight how much of a bigger (or smaller) part of the whole this represents.

d) Venn diagrams

Venn diagrams are definitely a tool to take into consideration when talking about data visualization. Even if its focus is not quantitative data! Venn diagrams are best for showcasing similarities and differences between two (or more) categories or products. It is an incredibly versatile tool, great for making comparisons.

e) Maps

Maps are the tool to go if you want to display geographic information. They also work great when paired with other forms of data visualization. For example, you can use pie charts to give information about offices in different cities around the world, or bar charts comparing revenue in different locations.

f) Timelines

If you have chronological data that you want to display, then you must use a timeline. It’s the most effective and space-efficient way to show time passage. Timelines can be used, for example, for showcasing your company’s history or relevant events that have affected your business. And just like maps, they are easily combined with other types of data visualization.

g) Flowcharts

Just like timelines, flowcharts are used for a succession of events. The main difference is that timelines have determined start and finish points and specific dates. Flowcharts, on the other hand, just show the passing from one step to the next. They are perfect for conveying processes and information that demand a determined order. They can also help you communicate cause-and-effect information in a visually engaging way. Their best feature is that (unlike timelines) they can also be circular, meaning that this is a recurrent process to go through.

h) Pictograms

Finally, let’s talk about one data visualization tool that is not very common: pictograms. Pictograms utilize images, or icons, to show quantitative data. For example, you can make a bar chart using icons instead of a plain bar. In these cases, each icon represents a determined amount, so when looked at side by side, you will still be able to compare between different categories.

You can also use pictograms to showcase percentages. For example, a pictogram can help define how many of your clients were men and women in a market study. Just like in the last example, having a determined amount of icons vs. another type can also help the audience understand the difference in sizes between the two.

These are just some of the many options out there for using data visualization in PowerPoint. There are many other types of graphs and charts. But even those aside, anything that can help you showcase data in a visual manner will be a plus in your presentation. Your creativity is the limit!

5 tips for using data visualization in PowerPoint

Using data visualization in PowerPoint presentations is not hard, but it takes time to master it. After all, practice makes perfect! Here are five easy tips you can implement for your data presentations that will upgrade your overall slide design.

#1 Avoid charts

Avoid charts as much as you can! These are a great way to organize quantitative information, but not very good when talking about displaying it. Charts, especially those with many variables or columns, can be easily overwhelming for an audience. It is a lot of information to showcase at just one go, and it’ll probably become more of a distraction than an aid.

The good news is that chances are you can probably easily transform your chart into another kind of data visualization tool. Even if you can not fit all of your charts in just one graph or diagram! In many cases, it’s a matter of dividing the chart data into more easily digestible parts and working to make these more visually appealing.

If you have to use a chart, a good option would be to consider charts that also have a visual aspect to them. For example, look at this KPIs scorecard template! Representing progress in shapes instead of numbers can seem like nothing special, but it makes all the difference. It gives your audience a visual representation and a first-glance comparison that makes the message more effective and engaging.

#2 Focus on your brand

Keeping your presentation on-brand can genuinely make you stand out from the crowd! Even if it’s just focusing on your brand’s color scheme will make your presentation look more polished and professional. You can also make a memorable presentation by focusing on your product. You can play with data visualization tools to make sure they stay on theme with your company’s product and services. This way, you’ll have a unique presentation that will undoubtedly stand out from the crowd.

You can even make a presentation reflect your brand in a more subtle way. Think of what values you want to be associated with your company and how you can display this on your presentation design. A playful design style can help you showcase that your brand is all about creativity or that it’s a youthful, fresh concept. A blue corporate style is perfect for conveying trustworthiness and professionalism. The imagination is your limit when it comes to presentation design!

Presentation design is not easy to do from scratch, as it takes lots of time, effort, and specialized knowledge. However, outsourcing your presentation design is an excellent option for those looking to go the extra mile. You’ll get a personal team of designers that will make sure that your slides have a cohesive style and that they reflect your brand and product as best as possible. You will be able to rest assured that your presentation will make an impact on your audience! And the best thing is that you can leave it all in the hands of the professionals while you just sit back and relax.

#3 Highlight key information

Using data visualization in PowerPoint is all about efficiency when conveying important information. Highlighting the most critical points within your graphs and diagrams is a great way to be assured that your audience will take away exactly what you need. Using colors is an excellent way to work with this. Colors are also a great visual tool to showcase contrast. For example, if you’re working on a graph to display your revenue, expenses can be showcased in red and earnings in green. This is the kind of color-coding that will make your data visualization clear from first sight!

An extra tip! If you’re using color to highlight key points, keep these consistent through all your slides! Changing the meaning of a color from one slide to another can make your presentation less effective, as your audience will have to take precious time to decipher it instead of focusing on your story.

#4 Work on your slides’ layout

Make sure you’re not cluttering up your slides. As far as possible, I would recommend keeping it to one data graph or diagram per slide. Otherwise, it might look cramped and even confusing, undermining all the positive aspects of using data visualization tools!

However, this is not a hard rule! The best practice overall is to maintain the focus of each slide at one main idea. But if you have more than one graph or diagram that relates to that same idea, you can put them together. Especially in the cases of data visualization where two different graphs are being compared or feed on one another.

Just don’t forget that these cases are the exceptions, not the rule. You should try to keep your slides’ layout as clean as possible. And always make sure that your audience will be able to take in all the information without effort. If you find out that your graphs are too small or that the data is difficult to read when looked at from the back of the room, you might want to reorganize that slide!

#5 Use Templates!

This tip applies to all sorts of presentations, but it is because templates are a fantastic well of options and resources! Microsoft Office has its own library of templates, but you can find some pretty amazing ones online too. Take some extra time to search and pick one that truly fits your needs and brand.

Our Templates by 24Slides platform has hundreds of templates, all completely free for you to use. You can even download different templates and mix and match slides to make the perfect deck. All the data visualization PowerPoint templates you’ll find there are entirely editable, so you can add your own data and forget about design.

If you liked the look of some of the examples in this article, you might be in luck! Most of them are part of these, and you can find them on our Templates platform too.

Be creative!

Using data visualization in PowerPoint can truly upgrade your business presentations. Data and overall quantitative information play a huge role in businesses, but it is of little use if it’s not understandable. By using data visualization tools, you make sure that the meaning you’re trying to convey is crystal clear and that it makes an impact on your audience.  

The best thing about it is that PowerPoint in itself offers a wide array of smart data visualization tools. You just need to pick your graphs, type in your numbers (or export them from excel), and PowerPoint will take care of it! Of course, choosing the best possible graph or diagram option is a crucial part of becoming an expert at data visualization. But hopefully, the list above can give you a good idea of your options and what will work best for you.

If you don’t want to spend much time or effort on the learning curve of using data visualization of PowerPoint, you can always trust professionals to do it for you! 24Slides professional PowerPoint designers work with businesses all around the world, helping them take their presentation from ‘okay’ to ‘spectacular.’ Our team of designers will help you showcase your data in the most visually appealing and effective way possible to create an impact on your audience!