14 Jul Be Careful Using Graphs

Graphs are used commonly in corporate presentations to highlight trends and show comparisons. We know ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ – and it does, as long as you can see the picture and the details of interest.

In my experience most people simply copy and paste the graphs from an existing document like a report into their slide presentation. It’s quick and easy for them. Problem is that the report is a document meant for reading carefully in the reader’s own time, and at their leisure if they so desire. It’s also intended that a report will be read on paper at close range, so there is often a lot of detail on the graphs contained in reports.

I recommend you should reproduce only the important parts of the graph for a slide presentation. You shouldn’t just copy and paste the graph from a report into a PowerPoint slide show. The slide show is a different medium and intended to be seen at a distance, not close range like a report, and presenters only give you about 10 seconds per slide. This means the graph on PowerPoint should be a lot more simple than a graph on a report.

So it’s going to be a little bit more work if you decide to reproduce the graphs from scratch with just the important information – and it’s worth it! People from one company I work with often say to me that it’s just too much trouble to re-design the graphs when they have been pre-designed by a computer whiz who knows how to create fantastic graphs. So let’s go back to the reason you are presenting. Is it so you can bamboozle your audience, or have them switch off because they can’t read what you are showing them, or is it so you can influence them to be engaged by your results?