Improve Your PowerPoint Presentation with Excel Data Visualizations

Brad Jones 01-07-2016

Ready to present your findings? Find out how to visualize your data using Excel and PowerPoint.


We’ve all sat through boring PowerPoint presentations at one point or another, and they’re no fun. You can use countless ways to liven things up Make a PowerPoint Presentation That Doesn't Put Your Audience to Sleep PowerPoint presentations, when done right, can be an engaging way to provide an audience with information. When done poorly, however, they can quickly put the audience to sleep. Read More  and something as simple as a chart made with Excel can go a long way.

Here’s everything you need to know about creating a data visualization in Excel and exporting that content directly to a PowerPoint presentation — you might be surprised by just how easy it is.

Prepare Your Data

The first step to a professional chart is ensuring that we have all the necessary data arranged correctly. The following section will show you how to do just that for all the most common types of data visualization 8 Types of Excel Charts and Graphs and When to Use Them Graphics are easier to grasp than text and numbers. Charts are a great way to visualize numbers. We show you how to create charts in Microsoft Excel and when to best use what kind. Read More produced with Excel.

Column, Bar, Line, and Area Charts

The data for these charts doesn’t require much processing, just ensure that your data is separated into columns or rows, and properly labelled. These two examples below demonstrate that you can use either a vertical or horizontal layout for your data.

bar column line data


Pie and Doughnut Charts

For a single data series, lay out your data in one column or row, with labels in a separate column or row.

pie doughtnut data

If you’re charting more than one data series using a doughnut chart, just add another column or row containing the additional figures. Giving each series a label isn’t mandatory, but it will help you keep track of your information.

pie doughnut data multiple series


Scatter and Bubble Charts

For scatter charts, place your data for the X and Y axes in adjacent columns.

scatter data

For a bubble chart, include what size you want individual bubbles to be in a further adjacent column.

bubble chart data


Create Your Chart

Next, we’re going to create the chart in Excel How to Create Powerful Graphs & Charts in Microsoft Excel A good graph can make the difference between getting your point across or leaving everyone dozing off. We show you how to create powerful graphs in Microsoft Excel that will engage and inform your audience. Read More — my example will  be a pie chart about pies, but the same concepts will apply no matter what kind of visualization you’re aiming for.

chrat data

Above, you can see that I’ve arranged my data in the correct format for a pie chart and highlighted the entire selection. With that done, it’s time to head to the Insert tab and click the pop-out button on the Charts section.

charts pop out


The resulting window is split into two tabs; recommended charts and all charts. The former option is helpful if you’re not sure what’s the best way to visualize your data 4 Data Visualization Tools for Captivating Data Journalism Words and numbers are not enough. In the end, visuals will capture and convince your audience. Here are the tools that will help you turn your data into something great. Read More , but otherwise you can simply pick the correct option from the full list. The All Charts tab offers up lots more options, so it’s really worth poring through the list to find the most appropriate chart.

Once you’ve selected your desired option, Excel will create a basic version of the chart — but it’s likely that you’ll want to make some edits for yourself.

stock chart

First, let’s change that title to something a little bit more informative. All we need to do is click the text once to select the text box, and another to drop our cursor into it so that we can make edits.

titled chart

Next, let’s take a look at the three icons that show up on the edge of our chart when we click on it. The box with a plus symbol helps us adjust Chart Elements, like its title and its legend. Marking the checkbox confirms that these elements should be included, while clicking the small arrow will offer up some more in-depth options.

chart elements

The paintbrush icon lets us adjust the chart’s color scheme How To Pick A Color Scheme Like A Pro Colors are tricky. It might seem easy enough to pick a handful of colors that look good together, but as any designer who has spent hours tweaking shades will tell you: it's tricky. Read More , either choosing from pre-made styling templates or picking out individual shades. I’m not completely happy with the default color palette, so I’m swapping it out for a monochromatic chart.

chart colors

The third icon allows us to filter the data that goes into the chart, which is particularly handy if you’re working with more than one series. However, there are plenty of other uses — below, I’ve used the tool to quickly create a chart that only looks at dessert pies.

dessert pies

Once you’re all set with these adjustments, we can export the chart into PowerPoint.

Transfer Your Chart to PowerPoint

Exporting your chart from Excel to PowerPoint is as easy as copying and pasting How to Copy and Paste Even Faster in Word Do you copy and paste in Word all the time? Here's a faster way to get the same result. Read More it across — but there are a couple of pitfalls to avoid. Select your chart in Excel by clicking on the background, making sure that you’re not accidentally selecting a particular element, then use CTRL + C to copy the data to your clipboard. You can also right-click on its background to copy from the context menu.

copy chart

Once this is done, open up PowerPoint and navigate to the slide that you want the chart to appear on. Use CTRL + V to paste the chart in place.

chart in powerpoint

However, there’s one more step to complete if you want to do the job properly. While the chart might already look correct, now’s the time to make an important decision about how it’s placed in the presentation.

paste options

This small dropdown will help you decide if your chart is linked to the Excel spreadsheet it’s based on, a straightforward way of making your data available to viewers. Choosing one of the options featuring the phrase Link Data will link your visualization to the spreadsheet, whereas those that feature the phrase Embed Workbook will make that document available as part of the presentation itself How to Embed a YouTube Video & Other Media in Your PowerPoint Presentation Typical presentations are dull affairs with text and corporate backgrounds providing little of interest. Media files can lighten up the experience. We show you how to embed even videos. Read More .

You can also opt to paste the chart as a picture, but this doesn’t offer any of the same fact-checking benefits as the other two. Once you’ve made this selection, you’re free to integrate the visualization into your presentation however you see fit.

Visualize It to Realize It

It’s not difficult to turn data from an Excel spreadsheet into a chart for your PowerPoint presentation — but this kind of visualization can really help your audience digest the information 10 Tips for Making Better PowerPoint Presentations with Office 2016 Microsoft PowerPoint continues to set new standards. New features in PowerPoint 2016 manifest its top spot as the best option for smart and creative presentations. Read More .

Microsoft has gone to great lengths to make its Office suite work as a cohesive unit, so using individual programs in tandem can produce great result. Just consider the strengths of each of its component parts; PowerPoint is great for presenting to an audience, but working with data is definitely a job for Excel.

While this guide put the focus on PowerPoint, you can use the exact same method to export charts to other programs in the Office suite — keep that in mind next time you want to include a visualization in an essay written in Word, or add it to your OneNote notebook How to Use OneNote Like a World Famous Scientist Charles Darwin would have loved OneNote. He was an avid note-taker who recorded everything he observed. Here's how he might have used OneNote to organize his work and move his research forward. Read More .

Do you have more questions about using Excel charts in your PowerPoint presentation? Or are you confident enough to offer help to other users? Either way, head to the comments section below to join the discussion.

Related topics: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, Presentations, Visualizations.

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