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14 Tips To Present Awesome Charts



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14 Tips To Present Awesome Charts

  1. 1. Free E-Book By Vivek Singh Founder, Jazz Factory – A Presentation Design Firm
  2. 2. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 2 of 47 I hereby give you every right to distribute this e-book. If you are reproducing or quoting any part of this e-book you must mention my name and link to the blog (
  3. 3. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 3 of 47 What is this E-Book about? This e-book will help you make awesome charts in 14 simple steps. You will be able to create charts that are effective and smart looking. These tips were first published as a series of 14 posts on the blog This is a revised and concise version of the entire series. You can read all the posts online here. Who will benefit from this e-book? If you make charts and present it to others (through reports, presentations or any other medium) this e-book is for you. This e-book focuses more on presenting charts and not on creating them. Hence it does not cover the basic steps of entering data and creating a chart from scratch. It assumes you know how to make a simple chart (in MS Excel and/or MS PowerPoint). However, in case of advanced usage (like adding a secondary axis to your chart) each and every step is explained in detail. Please Note: 1. All the tips on creating charts are based on MS PowerPoint 2007. However, people using older version should not find any problem is using the tips contained in the e-book. 2. This e-book uses the words ‘charts’ and ‘graphs’ interchangeably.
  4. 4. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 4 of 47 Contents Tip #1: The Bigger Picture .........................................................................5 Tip #2: Do you really need a chart?..........................................................8 Tip #3: Which chart type should you use?.............................................11 Tip #4: What is your key message? ........................................................17 Tip #5: Chart Title .....................................................................................19 Tip #6: Number of Data Points...............................................................21 Tip #7: Data Labels...................................................................................23 Tip #8: Chart Legend................................................................................25 Tip #9: Chart Axis......................................................................................28 Tip #10: Data Source................................................................................32 Tip #11: Chart Colours.............................................................................34 Tip #12: Chart Animation ........................................................................37 Tip #13: Highlighting ................................................................................40 Tip #14: Chart Aesthetics.........................................................................43
  5. 5. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 5 of 47 Tip #1: The Bigger Picture When you create a chart you make a series of decisions (consciously or otherwise). You decide on the chart type, chart colour, etc. What is the starting point of it all? It all starts from what is the point you are trying to make. You create a chart from raw data with a purpose. Your purpose can be the following:  To share information, or  To prove or disprove something You might be trying to prove that sale in your area is growing very fast. If you just say this, not many might believe. Hence, you support it with data. But, how do you present this data which will prove your point (that sale is indeed growing well)? You can do the following:  Create a chart (the most obvious choice, but not necessarily the best one)  Create a table  Make an infographic (more on it in Tip #2)  Simply type out the data on the slide Making a Chart: A 4 Step Process 1. What is your key message? 2. Do you really need a chart to support your key message? 3. Which chart type should you use? 4. How should you design your chart?
  6. 6. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 6 of 47 After deciding to make a chart, there are two broad areas which you need to consider.  Chart Core, and  Chart Design Your key message, the need for a chart and the right chart type form the chart core. They come first and have to be answered. Chart design includes the other ten areas;  Chart title, data points and data labels  Legend, chart axis, source, colours  Animation, highlight and aesthetics Chart Core or Chart Design: Which is more important? Many people worry only about the chart core. These people spend more time on the first three areas of making a chart: key message, need for a chart and chart type. They totally neglect chart design. This neglect might come from ignorance or lack of care. I call them North Pole Presenters.
  7. 7. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 7 of 47 Then there are presenters who get lost in small details and forget the overall picture. They spend more time on chart design. They try various kinds of line colours, markers, shadow and gradients. You can throw them off balance if you ask, "What is the point you are making?" Amidst all this design they forgot the key message. These are South Pole Presenters. Where do you find yourself in this world? The best place to be is in the middle. Give equal importance to Chart Core and Chart Design. It is very important to crunch data, choose the right chart type and know what you are presenting. But if you are unable to get it across (which is the role played by chart design) then all this preparation falls flat. Chart core has more to do with what you are presenting and chart design has everything to do with how you are presenting it. A healthy mix of both is the recipe for an awesome chart.
  8. 8. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 8 of 47 Tip #2: Do you really need a chart? You have by now understood that your key message is the point you are trying to make and chart is just one of the mediums to do that. We will now answer the following questions:  What is a Chart?  When should you use a chart?  What are the alternatives to a chart? What is a Chart? Chart (or Graph) is a visual representation of raw data serving many purposes: 1. It makes data easy to understand 2. It reveals relationships between data 3. It amplifies the impact of data 4. It converts raw data into useful information for managerial decision making When should you use a chart? You have some raw data which will support the point you are trying to make. Before making the chart, ask yourself this question. “What value do I add when I present this raw data in the form of a chart?” What happens if you just presented the raw data in the form of a table? If your chart does not add any value and does not fulfil any of the four objectives above, do not make it. Example 2.1: Your organization has grown leaps and bounds in the last 30 years. This is your key message. To prove this to the new recruits you have this raw data.
  9. 9. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 9 of 47 If you present this raw data in the form of a table, do you think you will be able to impress the new recruits? The impact of this table is nil. How about presenting it like the bar graph below. These New York Skyscrapers will nail the point in the minds of the audience very well. This visual representation meets objectives 1 (easy to understand) and 3 (amplifies the impact). Use charts only when you have more than one data point Never make a chart with one data point. A chart which has one bar or a pie which has one number does not make much sense. In these cases, try some other option. Example 2.2: You conducted a market research and found that your product’s market share is 5%. This is very low and you want the management to take strong cognizance. Here are two ways of presenting this information: It is much better to put the number in limelight and initiate a discussion rather than putting just another pie and diluting the
  10. 10. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 10 of 47 power of this information. What are the alternatives to a chart? You have decided that chart is not a good medium to deliver your key message. In that case you have the following options. 1. Create a table 2. Simply type out the data on the slide 3. Make an infographic Point 1 and 2 are simple to understand. In example 2.1 we saw a table and in example 2.2 we saw how to type out the data on the slide. Infographic: This is a very unique and interesting way of presenting information. Look at the following example: Example 2.3: 16.7% of the world population lives is India. How do you present this information? Because you have one data point, you should not use a chart. How about this? This is a much more evolved way of presenting information. If you are comparing the sales of three countries, instead of making a table, you can try plotting the numbers on a map. Make charts which add some value to the information and enhance audience understanding. Keep your options open. Be ready to look beyond charts.
  11. 11. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 11 of 47 Tip #3: Which chart type should you use? After you have decided to go for a chart, the first decision you have to make is about the chart type. How do you decide which chart to choose? Do yourself a favour by not going to ‘Insert Chart’ in MS PowerPoint. PowerPoint gives you 74 types of charts under 11 varieties. There are pies, donuts and even spiders up for grabs. Which chart type to use depends on what you are doing with your data. So instead of worrying about 74 chart types, answer the following question: What are you doing with your raw data? You can do the following: 1. Compare data 2. Break data into smaller parts to see what it is composed of 3. See data over time 4. Discover correlation between two sets of data Because correlation is an advanced usage and is used very rarely, we will keep it aside. We now have three main usages of data. Look at the following image. This is the framework which will help you choose the right chart type. Look at the image carefully. We are going to study 6 types of uses a data can be put to. We already covered 3 above. A. Compare data B. Break up data into parts C. See data over time From the interplay between A, B and C we get 3 more cases.
  12. 12. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 12 of 47 D. Break data into parts and compare the sub-parts (D=A+B) E. Comparing data over time (E=A+C) F. Break down parts of data and see over time (F=B+C) We shall deal with each one of them with simple examples from real life. A. Compare data When you are comparing data you are pitting them against each other. What’s the best way to compare your height with your sister’s height? Make both of you stand near each other. Rings a bell? When you are comparing data, use a bar graph. Bar graphs are of two kinds; column (vertical) and horizontal. Though both the graphs serve the same purpose and can be used interchangeably you should prefer vertical graphs because it is easier for the eyes to compare vertical distances. Example A: Per Capita Consumption of Shampoo in India in USD The chart on the left has been taken from Hindustan Unilever’s investor presentation. The presentation is comparing per capita consumption of shampoo in India to other countries. I have recreated the same in horizontal bar as well (right). The vertical one looks better. B. Break data into parts When you break down data to analyze what it is comprised of then you can use pie charts, stacked bar graphs and normal bar graphs. However a pie chart is the most preferred choice. Some examples of what it means to break data into parts are as follows: i. How much sales of your brand comes from North, South, East & West India? ii. What is the market share of various soap brands in the US? Example B: Shareholding Pattern as of June 30, 2009 of Infosys.
  13. 13. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 13 of 47 Here you are breaking down the equity share holding of various entities and hence you should use pie charts. This data can be presented in three ways. The chart in the middle is a normal bar whereas the one on the extreme right is a stacked bar graph. I advise you to stick to pie charts when breaking down data into parts. C. See data over time For presenting data over time, you can use line graphs, area graphs and bar charts. Examples where you compare data over time are: i. Stock price for last 12 months ii. Sales & profits of a company over time iii. Number of employees in an organization over time Example C: You want to invest in the shares of Reliance Industries so you want to see its stock price over the last three months. Here are two ways you can present this chart. The area chart and the line chart serve the same purpose here. The area graph actually accentuates the movements of the stock price. The same data can actually be presented as a bar graph. However, bar graph will make the chart cluttered because the number of data points is very large.
  14. 14. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 14 of 47 D. Break data into parts and compare the sub-parts (Compare + Break data into parts) Example D: In Example B we saw how to break down the shareholding pattern of Infosys into its sub-parts. I now ask you to compare the shareholding patterns of Infosys with Wipro & Polaris (as of June 30, 2009). How would you present this chart? Because we are breaking down shareholding into its sub-divisions, we should use pie charts. Going by the old logic our slide looks like this: Suddenly, the pie is complicating things. First we need more space for 3 charts and second, it is tougher to understand and compare while looking at 3 charts. Look now at the right way of presenting. This Stacked Bar Chart looks better. Remember you have done two things here. One, you broke up each company's shareholding pattern. Second, you compared the smaller chunks with each other. The analysis here could be that Wipro is far more closely held (high promoter holding) than Polaris and Wipro. To do any meaningful analysis you need to understand data first. Stacked Bar Chart helps you do that much better than a pie chart.
  15. 15. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 15 of 47 E. Comparing data over time (Compare + See data over time) When we compare two or more pieces of data across many time periods we can use Bar Graph or Line Graph. Example E: You have sales and profits data of your company for the past 17 years. How do you present this data? The line graph and bar graph both can be used. However, as the number of data points keep going up, you should prefer line over bar. Having 15-20 vertical bars make a slide cluttered. Avoid bars as soon as the number of data points crosses 15. F. Breaking data into parts and seeing it over time When you have to break down data into parts and then see how the parts shape up over a period of time what should you use? You can use both these charts; stacked bar graph and stacked area graphs. Example F: You are studying world's consumption of cooking oil over time. This is the data you have (it is a hypothetical data). If you look closely, we have broken down world consumption into four oil sub- types. Then we are looking at how the sub-types change over time. You should present this data using either a stacked
  16. 16. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 16 of 47 bar chart (right) or a stacked area graph (left). Summary You should remember these six cases or six treatments which your data can go through. Here is a ready reckoner to remind you of which chart to use when. I have not discussed about special charts like bubbles, radars and donuts because they are complex. They tend to confuse the audience and don’t add much value. Avoid.
  17. 17. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 17 of 47 Tip #4: What is your key message? The process of making a chart starts from the key message. Every presentation has an objective. You are making an argument in the presentation. Each chart adds to that argument in a small way. How you arrive at the key message is beyond the scope of this e-book. You should know what you want to talk about. We are concerned only with how to present it in the form of a chart. How should you present your charts’ key message? To make an awesome chart, you need to know the following: 1. Know what your key message is. Know what point you are trying to make/prove/disprove with the help of your chart. 2. Do not have more than one key message for every chart. Two is just too many. 3. Write down the key message on the slide in one complete sentence. Don't eat words and make it small. Don't be verbose and make it too long. 4. You should write down the key message on your slide header. You can also write it in a box near the chart. Make sure it is clearly visible and readable. Example 4.1: Look at this chart from the investor presentation of Hindustan Unilever (HUL). HUL's spend on advertising and promotion (A&P) has gone down in this quarter. Being the biggest spender in India on advertising, their investors might be worried seeing this chart. So they have added a key message below the chart. They say, even though they are spending less yet they remain competitive in spends on brand building. Investors have nothing to worry.
  18. 18. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 18 of 47 Exception to the Rule: When you are just sharing information and there is nothing ‘key’ to share with the audience, the chart need not have a key message. Look at the chart from Starbucks below: Example 4.2: Starbucks performance in its Annual Report, 2008 This chart merely tells you that the number of stores is on the rise. There is nothing more that they want to communicate. Hence, no key messages here. This marks the end of our topics on Chart Core. We now move on to Chart Design.
  19. 19. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 19 of 47 Tip #5: Chart Title Purpose of having a Chart Title A chart title tells the audience what the chart is for. It helps the audience read and understand the chart faster. Try removing the title from a chart you would have presented recently. The audience will take more time to grasp it. Remember that the audience gets only a few seconds to see the chart and make sense of it while you are presenting. What should a Chart Title be like? The title tells the reader what the data on display is and helps him/her understanding it faster and better. 1. Chart title should be descriptive and not too short. 2. Chart title should also have the time period mentioned. The year should be written in full. 2008-09 is better than 08-09. Example 5.1: Take a look at this chart from an investor presentation by Hindustan Unilever (HUL). What is the pie chart showing? Break up of sales (turnover) or profits (EBIT)? Obviously sales? You know this but the investors do not. How does an investor figure this out? You are (subconsciously) assuming your audience knows what you know. Hence you omit some information by mistake. Having a proper title will eliminate such confusion.
  20. 20. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 20 of 47 Summary Understand who your audience is. Realize they have limited exposure time to see and understand the chart. Admit that it is they who will decide whether your charts are good or bad. A simple solution to all your problem is this: Put chart title in every chart you make.
  21. 21. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 21 of 47 Tip #6: Number of Data Points After choosing the chart type and giving a chart a proper title, you now need to consider how many data points to display on the chart. What is a Data Point? If your pie chart has 10 parts then it has 10 data points. If the bar chart has 4 vertical bars, there is 1 bar for each of the 4 data points. If you are making a one year chart of the stock price of Infosys, then you will need 365 data points (actually you would need somewhere around 310 because there are 52 Sundays plus some holidays when the share market is closed). How do you decide on the correct number of data points? As you know, a chart is used to prove or disprove a point to the audience. In order to do the analysis, you might need 20 data points but to prove the point in the presentation you might only need 10. So when you 'present' your chart you must have only 10 data points. What to remember while choosing the number of data points? 1. The more the data points, the more complex the chart becomes. Audience understanding is inversely proportional to the no. of data points your chart has. The more data points your chart has, the lesser the audience will understand in a given time. 2. When presenting data over time, choose data points at equal time gaps. Example 6.1: KK Consultants (name changed) are making a presentation to the new employees of their organization. They are sharing how their organisation has grown leaps and bounds in the last three decades. This is how the chart looks. We have seen this chart already in Example 2.1 (Tip #2)
  22. 22. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 22 of 47 Good. But think of the new employee looking through this and trying to read 14 data points. The key message here is 'that our organization has grown leaps and bounds over the last three decades’. To make this argument, you might need to analyze 14 data points, but to present you can manage with only 4. Take a look at this new chart. Great! An audience to understand 14 data points will take time and does not add much value. By reading 14 data points, it is tough to draw this conclusion (added 2 employees per day!). Humans cannot mentally analyze so many data points. But with 4 data points, the audience gets the key message far more easily and far more powerfully. Example 6.2: Look at this chart from the American Heart Association. It talks about the heart disease mortality rates (deaths in thousands for males and females). Look closely at the chosen data points; 1979, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000 and 2005. While 1980 to 2005 are at 5 year gaps, there is also an unwanted 1979. Visually all data points look equally far away from each other in time. But they are not. This situation should be avoided. Choose equidistant data points.
  23. 23. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 23 of 47 Tip #7: Data Labels After you have chosen the number of data points and created the chart, you now need to label your data. We discussed in the last post that you might require 30 data points to do your analysis but you can present it with only 10. Do you still need to label all 10 data points? Need not. You are showing the share price of Reliance Industries from April to June 2009. Will you label all the data points? No. Because that will make the chart cluttered and will serve no purpose. You can just label a few data points which help you convey the key message. What you must remember about labelling your data? 1. All relevant data points should be labelled. There is no compulsion to label every data point. It depends on what point you are trying to prove with the chart (key message). 2. The labels should not clutter the chart and hurt audience understanding. Space them out and make them legible (greater than 18 font size). 3. Position the label properly on the chart. Labels on a pie chart can be inside the pie or outside. The objective that drives this choice is how easily readable and understandable the label is. Example 7.1: Take a quick look at this chart from ACC and answer this question. What is the capacity utilization (%) for the 5 years (see the line graph)? 86, 93, 18.7, 19.9, 20.8. Right? Wrong! Take a look again. For the first two data points, the label for the line graph was above the line. For the next three, it went below the line and changed its colour from black to white. The solution: If you put a % after the numbers it will be far simpler to read the chart.
  24. 24. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 24 of 47 Also, be consistent with colour coding of data labels and don’t mess with their positions. Use different colours for labelling different graphs (in this case, use different label colours for bar and line graph). Use this colour coding when the labels appear so close to each other. When the labels are far away, colour coding is not needed.
  25. 25. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 25 of 47 Tip #8: Chart Legend What is a legend? A legend, as you know, is a guide that helps the audience read your chart. If you are comparing the share prices of Microsoft and Yahoo and your chart has two line graphs, then your legend tells the audience which line denotes which company. The legend is a 'visual' symbol of the data series that has been plotted on the chart. When you don't need a legend? By definition, a legend tells you which bar or line chart is for which data series. Hence, you need a legend only if you have more than one data series on your chart. You don't need it if you are showing the growth of sales over time and have just one line graph (or a series of bar graphs). Most of the graphs you would have seen in your life will have a legend even when there is only one data series. Why? Reason 1: Because the legend comes by default in the software. Reason 2: Because of your ignorance. Where do you place the legend? The legend by default is always placed to the right. But there are in total 5 places where you can place it. Top, Right, Left, Bottom and Inside the Plot Area (along with the data points). Where you place it has a huge impact on the usefulness of the legend. Remember the objective of a legend is to make the chart easy to read. Few examples of legends
  26. 26. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 26 of 47 Lesson (pie charts above): Placing the labels outside the pie chart (without having a legend) is much better. Pie chart on the right looks much smarter and friendly. Lesson (bar charts below): The legend should be in sync with the bar graphs. If your bar goes from left to right then you legend should be read from left to right. Lesson (line graphs above): Labelling the lines on the right is better than a legend.
  27. 27. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 27 of 47 To Summarize: 1. Do not use a legend when you have only one data series (example, sales over time). 2. When making pie charts, put the series name with the data labels outside the pie itself. Do not create a legend. 3. Place the legend where it is logical. Make it sync with the way data has been presented. 4. When using line graphs, label the line graphs instead of putting a legend.
  28. 28. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 28 of 47 Tip #9: Chart Axis 1. What is an axis? An axis in a chart or graph is the line along which we measure our variables. It is nothing but a scale (or a ruler). The x-axis and y-axis tells you what are being measured and lets you read the measurements. 2. What should you know about an axis? First, you should know the purpose of an axis. An axis tells you what is being measured and also lets you read the values. As an audience, you should always check out the axis before looking at the bar or line graph. Second, because the axis tells you how to read the chart, you have to label the axis with what is being measured and the units of measurement. This is however theory. It is better, at times, to write down the chart title as ‘Sales (in $mn)’ than to say just ‘Sales’ in chart title and put ‘in $mn’ in axis title. 3. Playing with the axis? Left click to select the axis and then right click to choose Format Axis. 3a. Line Colour & Styles Choose vertical y-axis -> Format Axis -> Line Colour. Solid Black. Then Line Style -> Width 4. Again, choose horizontal x-axis -> Format Axis -> Line Color. Solid Black. Line Style -> Width 4. You chart will look better with a thicker axis. 3b. Axis Options
  29. 29. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 29 of 47 Choose the vertical y-axis -> Format Axis -> Axis Options -> Change the 'Minimum' from Auto to Fixed and enter 80. See what happens. The y-axis now starts counting from 80. The growth in sales now looks far better than it looked when the axis started from zero. Which one is better? What should you do? Companies in their annual reports do play this trick very often. You should as a rule, always start you axis from zero. In case you are not doing so, for some justified reason, then you must inform the audience of this aberration. 4. When and how should you use secondary axis? Let us take an example. You have to make a chart to show the financial highlights of SpaceTel (a hypothetical company). Here is the raw data. Using our framework from Tip #3, you can create a bar graph or a line graph (because you are comparing data over time). You create a bar graph. Here is how your chart looks like: What is wrong with the graph on the left? The software looks at all the values and tries to fix a scale (axis) which includes the maximum value of 500. Hence, it has taken the scale up to 600. By doing this, the profit percentage data which is maximum 35% (=0.35) becomes invisible. How do you solve this problem?
  30. 30. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 30 of 47 You need a different axis in the same chart. That 'other' axis is called 'secondary axis'. On this we measure the profit percentage. Adding a secondary axis Step-1 Choose the data series 'profit percentage' by clicking next to the profit bar in red. Step-2 Right click -> Format Data Series Step-3 Series Options -> Choose Secondary Axis -> Close Are you in deeper trouble now? No. Click on the data series again (one click on any green bar will select all bars). Right click and select 'Change Series Chart Type'. Choose a Line Graph. Click Ok. Your chart is ready.
  31. 31. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 31 of 47 Summary of what you learnt about Axis: 1. Axis is a scale which tells you what is being measured and its unit of measurement. 2. These two pieces of information have to be present in every chart. You need not label them near the axis. You can mention it with the chart title. 3. Your axis should start from zero. In case it does not, inform the audience about it. 4. When you are measuring variables (like sales, profits) whose values are different from each other or the gap between maximum and minimum value is too big, then add a secondary axis.
  32. 32. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 32 of 47 Tip #10: Data Source Your chart is made from raw data. But this raw data is not a fiction of your imagination. It has a source. A place from where you culled out the data for analysis and representation. Why you need to worry about the source? You are in-charge of new product launches in your company. You have studied the fairness soap market for men in India and in your presentation to the CEO you are recommending to launch a new soap brand. In the process of research you would have come across lots of data. During your presentation, your CEO might ask; "Where did you get this data from?" All that he is asking for is; tell me the source of data. For the audience to accept your charts' key message (the point you are trying to make), they need to know if the chart is credible. They might not ask for the source always, but having it on the chart enhances the credibility of your argument. When should you mention the source and when you should not? Though every chart has a source, you need not mention it all the time. It is required when there is a need to boost credibility. Talking about credibility, there are two situations you need to consider: i. Internal Credibility - Source of data is optional ii. External Credibility - Source of data is necessary When you are presenting something from your area of expertise (domain), you do not need to compulsorily mention a source. The credibility comes from you (the presenter) and your audience knows about your expertise. They trust you. But, it is possible that you are presenting something outside your domain. In which case, the audience would like to know the source of your data. Remember, the taller your claim, the more credibility you require to support it. You can't get away by simply making bold claims and recommendations and not backing it up. How and where to mention the source?
  33. 33. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 33 of 47 The source is generally mentioned below the chart in a font size that is easy to read. But in how much detail you should mention the source? Ask yourself this question and you will know in how much detail you should write the source: "If your audience wanted to check your data with the source, can they do that easily." If no, then re-write the source to make it easier to verify. Remember, you trust yourself more than others trust you. You are honest does not mean you will not furnish the source of your data.
  34. 34. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 34 of 47 Tip #11: Chart Colours While we are talking about chart colours, I can see many eyebrows rising. "We make formal presentations and all this colouring has no place in our company. Let's talk data." This post is not about how to make your chart colourful and get noticed. This post is about how to balance the colours on a slide so that chart colours become invisible. The way I look at colours is: "Colour is that ingredient of your dish (chart) which does not have a taste of its own. It enhances the taste of the dish without getting noticed. If the colour of your chart is getting noticed, you have failed." The role of colour is thus two-fold: 1. It has to make the job of audience easy to read the chart 2. It should not distract and draw attention towards itself Example 11.1: Look at this chart from the presentation of the FMCG major, Emami Limited. Do you even feel like reading the chart? Would you be proud of presenting this chart? How many colours should your chart have? To colour a chart you need to take care of many things. It is not only the colour of the bar or line graph. You need to consider the following four: 1. Colour of the bar/line graph
  35. 35. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 35 of 47 2. Colour of the plot area 3. Colour of the chart area, and 4. Colour of the slide. Look at this image. When I talk about chart colour I am talking about the colour of these 4 elements (slide, plot area, chart area and bar/line). The colour of your bar cannot be seen in isolation from the colours around it. Steps in colouring a chart Step – 1: You start by taking the slide background colour as given. You do not decide the slide background colour after creating the chart. Hence, if your background colour is white then you have to start from that point. It is always better to have a white slide background colour. Step – 2: Merge the Chart Area, Plot Area and the Slide Background. If the slide background is white, make the other two white as well. To change the colour of the chart area, click on the chart area and choose white colour from ‘Format -> Shape Fill’. Step – 3: You now have to choose the colour of bar/line graphs from the five types on the left (see image below).
  36. 36. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 36 of 47 It is better to use solid colours for the bar graph which provides good contrast with the background colour. Using gradients and images will reduce visibility. If your chart has more than one data series (sales & profit) then you have to differentiate between the bar graphs representing these data series. You can use shades of the same colour (light and dark blue) if there are two data series. If you have more than two data series use multi-colour bar graphs. Summary 1. The fewer the number of colours you use, the better your chart becomes. 2. Do not do anything that draws attention of your audience towards the colour of the chart. 3. Stay away from gradients, flashy colours and using images in your bars. They reduce the visibility of your chart.
  37. 37. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 37 of 47 Tip #12: Chart Animation By animating a chart we mean animating that line graphs or bar graphs of the chart. Animation would make each data point or series of data points come one after the other, with a clear purpose. When to use animation and why? Animation is a powerful tool. It brings your presentation to life. When slides after slides are static, animation comes in to break the monotony. It draws the attention of the audience and gets your point across very effectively. You should use animation when: 1. You want to draw the audience attention to an important point 2. You want to share information in a phased manner 3. When you have too much information to present in a chart, it is better to animate and present in a sequence. How to animate a chart? We will understand chart animation with the help of an example. Example 12.1: You, the CEO of Red Soaps, is presenting at a press conference ahead of your IPO (new share issue to public). Because your soap brand (Red No. 1) is not advertised it is not popular in the media. Your charts' key message is that your brand is much bigger than the 4 more popular soap brands in the market. These four brands regularly advertise and are more popular than Red No. 1. How do you draw the attention of the public who are going to give you $100mn if your presentation impresses them? Here is your chart. You can present this chart at once and make the point; "You know these big brands. But did you know we are bigger than them?" A better approach: Create a story. Animate the five bar graphs (animation effect: wipe from bottom) and ask the audience to guess the turnover of each brand.
  38. 38. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 38 of 47 After they guess for one brand, you animate and show whether they were right. At the last, when your brand's bar goes past all these popular brands, your audience will get the message loud and clear. They will remember this animation and will also remember the message. Step 1: Right click on your chart -> Edit Data -> Arrange the series in ascending order of sales. (Your source data has to be in the ascending order) Step 2: Click on the chart to select it -> Animations Tab (in version 2007) -> Custom Animation -> Add Effect -> Entrance -> Wipe Step 3: In Custom Animation -> Make Direction from Bottom -> Speed Fast -> Start On Click Step 4: Drop down menu -> Effect Options -> Chart Animation Tab -> Group Chart By Category -> Do not Start animation by drawing the background The result: In slide show mode, the axes and title would be present. Your bar graphs will come one by one mouse click. How to avoid animation misuse? Animation is a 'special' effect which works when used very few times. Then only it breaks the monotony and draws audience attention. Do not do the following: i. Do not animate every possible chart in your presentation ii. Do not use wrong effects (line graph coming as 'wipe from bottom', horizontal bar coming as 'wipe from left')
  39. 39. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 39 of 47 iii. Do not use wild & weird effects. Use simple effects like fade, zoom, wipe, ascend, descend, expand, compress, etc. iv. Do not use more than 1 type of effect in a chart. Every sub-part of pie should come as fade in. Do not make one part zoom in, another zoom out and the third fade. If used prudently, animation can become the secret weapon that will give your presentation an undue advantage over others.
  40. 40. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 40 of 47 Tip #13: Highlighting To highlight (verb) means to make something more prominent. It is different from the noun highlight which means the most important part. We are concerned with the verb form here. What do you highlight? You highlight a data point or a data series or a relation between two data points (or series). When do you highlight something important? By definition, you highlight something that you want to make prominent. It is not already conspicuous (obvious to the eye). Some instances when you highlight are: i. You highlight to point out the change in values of a variable (a growth in sales over time). By looking at the graph, the growth is obvious but the percentage is not. ii. You highlight to give a reason for change in values of a variable (a sudden fall in sales, a dip in share prices). The reason is not captured in the graph and hence needs to be separately mentioned. iii. You highlight to make something stand out. Something that is already there but as part of a crowd. Like your company's sales graph when compared to 9 other companies. iv. You highlight to bring out the relationship between two variables. You have plotted sales & profit bar graphs but profit percentage is not captured in the graph. You can highlight that.
  41. 41. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 41 of 47 Examples Illustrating Instance 1 & 2: Chart #1 shows the sales growth of ACC over time. They have highlighted the number 5% which is the change in sales. It is possible that industry was in a bad phase and 5% is something to take consolation from. Remember: Never highlight what puts you in a bad light unnecessarily. Chart #2 has been taken from FMCG major Dabur. They are showing quarterly revenue growth over the last 8 quarters. They are giving a reason (a clarification) that the good growth of 22.1% is not coming majorly from acquisition of another company Fem. The growth is mainly organic (which is a good sign). Examples Illustrating Instance 3 & 4 Chart #3 is from the website of Reliance Industries. Talking about world's largest refining companies they highlight their own place among 16 other companies by giving their bar a red colour. This is a good way to stand out. In the same chart, they
  42. 42. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 42 of 47 have also marked state-owned companies and made them stand out by giving it another shade of blue. But it does not stand out. They should have used another colour. Chart #4 presents the sales and profits of a hypothetical organization. Profit as a percentage of sales is important to know and has not been captured in the graph. To bring out this relationship between sales and profits they add a text; '46% is the 3 year average profitability'. How do you highlight something important? If you have carefully observed you will notice that colour and shapes are used to highlight. Merely text is not sufficient. In Chart 3, if the RIL bar was given a gradient, the effect will not be as great. Using colour is better and using red even better as it attracts our eyes the most. You can highlight by: 1. Using shapes and colours along with text, and 2. Using animation Animation is a medium you should use to highlight something important. In Chart #2, after having presented and discussed the growth rates in sales, the presenter can, on mouse click, circle the 22% and make the attached text appear. Read more on animation in Tip #12. Highlights & Key Message Chart highlight is not the same as key message. While talking about key message we discussed that key message is the point you are trying to prove with your chart (to read about key message click here). Highlighting can be a good way of supporting your key message. The key message for Dabur in Chart 2 above could be; "We have grown very well over the years purely due to the efforts that have been put by the company. Contrary to popular belief it has not come from acquisitions like Fem in 2009- 10." The highlight in this case supports the key message.
  43. 43. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 43 of 47 Tip #14: Chart Aesthetics Aesthetics deals with beauty and taste. In our context, chart aesthetics would mean the overall look and feel of a chart. For an audience to understand and read a chart, they need to like it first. It does not mean that a chart has to be a piece of art. It simply means the chart has to 'fit' in the slide and should not look out of place. It has to be such that your audience can easily read and remember the chart. Why bother about chart aesthetics? After all you are a serious presenter. It is a presentation in your college or office. And here I am teaching you aesthetics. So why should you bother? Let me show you two formal charts. Assume that you made these charts. Would you be happy showing these to your boss? Chart #1 (Left – Dabur): Do you think your boss would even like to read this chart? Chart #2 (Right – BILT): Will you ever be able to prove your point when you present a chart like this? (Notice that each bar has numbers written inside it. A data label which your boss can never read) Go back to Tip #11 on colour and check out the chart by Emami Limited. Do you think people would even like to read such a chart? What will they think about you after you have presented this chart?
  44. 44. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 44 of 47 How to enhance the appeal of your chart in 10 easy steps? Aesthetics is a vast subject and leaving it at a theoretical level will not be good. Here is a technique you can use to dramatically enhance the aesthetic appeal of your chart in 60 seconds. Technique: After you have made your chart, go through these 10 steps (in any order). Follow all the steps and within 60 seconds you will have a dramatically improved chart. Step 1: Remove all the grid lines (major and minor). Step 2: Adjust the size of your chart to balance it with other elements on the slide. Step 3: Check for the font size and font colour of axis, chart title and data labels. If you have re-sized your chart, you must re-adjust the font size. Step 4: Merge the colours of the slide, chart area and the plot area. Ensure good contrast between colours of the bars/lines with the background colours. Aim for better visibility. Step 5: Make the line graph thicker to enhance visibility and appeal. See Tip #9 to know how. Step 6: Change the location of your legend. This will free a lot of space. Step 7: Delete some data labels which you don't need, without causing a loss of information. This reduces a lot of clutter. Step 8: Club your axis title with your chart title. Instead of writing In '000 tons above y-axis you can always make the title as; Sales (in '000 tons). This will free some more (valuable) real estate. Step 9: Make the axis lines thicker. This gives a good frame of reference to the eyes to view the chart. Step 10: Convert your three dimensional chart to a two dimensional one (3D to 2D). Why? Because the extra 'D' spells disaster. If we use these 10 steps on the 1st chart we can get a dramatically better chart. Here is the old chart and the new and improved chart.
  45. 45. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 45 of 47 If you find any problem in applying these ten steps you can check out the detailed step-by-step explanation on the blog here. Remember Your chart will be read only if it appeals to the eye. You don't need a piece of art. But that does not mean that your chart totally ignores basic design principles. Every presenter is a designer and it's time you stood up and took notice. [Click here to read the detailed post which will explain the entire ten steps]
  46. 46. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 46 of 47 What Next? To continue to learn more about presenting charts, you can do four things. 1. Extra Effort: The next time you are going to make a chart, spend some extra time thinking about the four areas (key message, chart need, chart type and chart design). 2. Develop Basic Charting Skills: Develop your basics through practice. Know how to play with excel charts. If you get stuck refrain from calling your colleague. Solve it with help from your inbuilt software and from Google search. 3. Learn from Others: Download and watch investor presentations of large multinational companies from their website. Visit slideshare and check out the most voted presentations in your area of interest. Every time you see a chart, stop and ask why you like or hate it? Seek help and feedback from others. After a presentation, you can always ask your colleagues on how they liked the charts. Were they able to understand it easily or was something missing? People will always share candidly. You just need to ask. 4. Take Interest and Discuss: Follow a presentation blog (like Jazz Factory) which writes about charts regularly. Start a conversation to try and understand what is being said and why. Best of luck on your journey to make better charts. Be rest assured that that you are not alone. You will always find a co-traveller in me. Ask your friends and colleagues to also join in the fun. See you on the blog!
  47. 47. E-Book: 14 Tips to Present Awesome Charts Jazz Factory .in Page 47 of 47 Disclaimer: All the charts that have been taken from corporate websites and investor presentations have been used for purely academic purposes. The e-book does not intend to comment, in any which way, on the style of working of any organization.