• open panel

Using a graph? What’s your point?



by Tom Nixon

Presenting data to an audience is a challenge. If we just dump a pile of numbers on the screen we can expect those “eyes glazed over” looks that PowerPoint is so famous for. To make numbers meaningful we often turn to a graph or chart to show numbers as visual relationships.

Unfortunately, PowerPoint is all too ready to help us make those many layered, three-dimensional, color coordinated graphs that are just as confusing as the raw data. As the “tour guides” of our presentation we need to simplify and clarify or maybe even interpret the essential meaning of our numbers for our audience.

Determine the single concept that you want the data to show for this slide. Extraneous data can be reduced or eliminated. If you are concerned about “dumbing-down” your presentation, show the entire dataset — display it in a chart and then quickly move to a simplified chart or graph that makes your point as clearly as possible. Or better yet, tell your audience that the raw data will be available in a handout after the talk.

It is our job as presenters to make all the information we place before our audience meaningful. Keep your graphs simple and to the point.


Tom Nixon has over three decades of experience assisting clients with meaningful business communications. Contact Tom to see how he can work with your business leaders and subject matter experts to create stunning visual presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) and enhance their on-stage delivery.