One major hurdle when trying to implement a visually stunning PowerPoint presentation based on simplicity is the presentation of data. I hear the question quite often – "This presentation style is great for keynotes and 30,000 ft ideas, but what if I have to get down to the details, including data (which is inherently boring)?" Great question.
I'm not being facetious (only word in the English dictionary with all five vowels in order) either. It is a very good question, because many presentations deal with data but not many presentation designers want to face the challenge. It's difficult. Data can be very granular, and by the way it is presented can mean different things to different people. You may be trying to convey one idea, but by the way you present it, that idea could be lost.
Nancy Duarte has a great quote in her book, slide:ology, where she states:
They are about the meaning of the data"
Here are a few tips to make sure your meaning gets across.
- Keep the color palette simple. Make sure the data point(s) that are most important have a color that stands out more than the others (red vs. gray, just one example). Draw your audience to the data that has the meaning you want to convey. This is especially important when combining data, such as stacked vertical bars, multiple lines, or numerous individual data points.
- Stay away from 3D, and keep your graphs on the same plane. I could have separated these into two, but they sort of go together. The chart wizard in PowerPoint has a number of graph types, and many people choose the 3D variety because it looks "cool" and "different." First of all, they're so widely used that they are not different. Secondly, it's not natural to look at data that way, thus the eyes can't accurately determine the true size/meaning of the data. Also, don't confuse your audience with a variety of graph types and axis locations. Keeping the same axis makes it easier for your audience to recognize what they're looking at and relate it to previous and future data.
- Clearly define values. Nothing is more annoying than to look at a graph that's too small. The result is confusion in the audience. Which product sold the most? Is that 100 or 1,000? Use as large of a font as possible and try to keep the type horizontal.
* See how the chart on the top is small, and you're not sure what's important and what's not. You realize that the second one from the right has the most incidents, but you may not be able to read the label, the value is tough to figure out (exactly), and you're unsure why it needs to be 3D. The chart on the right clearly puts the focus on Business, while the labels and values are clear. No axis or gridlines are necessary to get the point across, thus the chart is better served without them.