The Dos & Don’ts of Visualizing Data Through Charts
The ability to make figures visual is the mark of a good presentation. It involves providing a fast overview, displaying complex content, and ensuring listeners follow you on the journey to important decisions.
When working with charts, the same principle as when designing slides generally applies:
- Step 1: Precisely define the essence of your message to your audience
- Step 2: Remove anything that does not serve this message
- Step 3: Add anything that illustrates and conveys your message
- Write your core message in one sentence on your slide. This is actually the most difficult part of creating your slides.
- Example: “First decline in sales of product XY in 2017”
- Simply transfer your data from Excel or a database export to PowerPoint.
- Use headlines such as: “Product XY sales development in 2017”. This is not a statement or message.
It is not possible to create effective visualizations without clear statements whose content adds value.
- Reduce all content in your chart to this statement
- Rid the data or axis labels of anything irrelevant to the message or indeed redundant
- Ensure a clear, well organized look
- Use any visual elements that cause distraction. Make a conscious decision to reduce the use of color, 3D elements, shading, decorative elements or background images
- Use multiple messages
- Include vast seas of numbers
Less is definitely more. Reduction makes for easier orientation.
- Visually highlight your core message, as the only colored element
- Immediately interpret your presented facts for your audience
- Leave your audience to try and get their bearings
- Leave your audience alone with too much to read
- Leave your audience to interpret things for themselves
Your audience expects messages, not just “data and facts”.