Tuesday, February 09, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Drawing on top of graphs

Web content is becoming more and more important to include in our presentations. Whether it is traditional research we do or new content like blogs and Twitter, we need to use our access to a broader range of information to bring the latest perspectives to our audience. I’ll be doing a program in May for the DPI-PDW Conference in Ottawa that includes ideas on how to find and incorporate content from the web. Today’s tip deals with how to effectively use a graph that you have as an image, whether it is from the web or an internal source.

The problem with graphs that are images is that you can’t animate them. They are a static image and can’t be broken into series of data like you can with a graph created in PowerPoint. With a PowerPoint graph, you can build it piece by piece to explain the data one at a time. A graph image can't be built piece by piece. You could try to recreate the graph in PowerPoint, and I have done that on occasion, but some graphs are too complex to recreate in PowerPoint. So what can you do?

In October last year I showed an effective way to deal with this situation in one of my slide makeover videos (to see all the videos, check out my YouTube channel). Some people followed up with me after that video and asked how I had done that makeover, so let me explain.

First, I decided on the most important point the graph was making. In the case of the makeover graph, it was about showing a decline in the measured value over time. In your case it may be a trend line that shows financial data or it might be one of the lines already on a graph that you want to highlight as the key focus of the data.

Second, I placed the graph image on the slide and made it as large as I could. This may involve cropping out excess room around the graph or cropping out the title of the graph (since the slide title will be the headline). After cropping, I can resize the graph, making sure to hold down the Shift key as a drag a corner handle so the graph does not get distorted.

Third, I used the freeform line tool to draw a multi-segmented line through the data points in the graph to show the trend. Depending on your need, it may be a simple straight line or another shape, like a rectangle to go over a bar or column. With this shape, I can set the color and thickness so it is easy to see.

Finally, I animated the line so it built in the direction I wanted and in the sequence I needed to deliver the message.

When you are faced with using an image of a graph, use these steps to make your delivery more effective.


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