Sticky Presentations bite size article: Have you created charts for your presentation slides that you thought was a little too busy?

Have you created charts for your presentation slides that you thought was a little too busy?

Feb 21, 2020

I chance upon this slide recently as I was updating some course content for an upcoming class. My objective back then (about 5 years ago) was to show how key information can be displayed clearly on a simple column chart, hence this slide was created. I guess the idea still applies today—to present information clearly so that it can be easily understood.

Let me share my thoughts behind the design of this slide. You might be able to use the same idea when you are designing your next slide.

Quite often when we work with raw data, we tend to relay on the software function to build the chart for us. As always, we get a standard boring chart. Depending on the amount to raw data we feed the software, the resulting chart can be busy, at times cluttered with numbers, labels, colours, lines, shadows, etc..—a common problem by relying on the default settings of the software.

The easiest way to remove clutter on any chart is;

  1. to turn off all figures, labels, and legend;
  2. reduce colours used;
  3. remove unnecessary lines;
  4. remove unnecessary shadows.

Keep the chart clean and then decide what information is key. Sometimes it is also easier to draw the chart manually instead of relying on the chart function of the software. It is actually quite easy to just draw rectangles, circles, lines or just any simple shapes in the presentation software to create the chart.

In the above chart (which I drew manually using mostly rectangles and lines), I wanted to show clearly the price verses performance of the various sedans, and identify the top of the list. As I analyse the data, it clearly shows that the VW Jetta (in this case) is the best price-performance sedan among all. So I use a prominent colour to highlight the VW Jetta column. For the rest of the columns, I tone it down using a shade of grey. I also indicate clearly in big font size, the figures related to performance (160hp for VW Jetta) and its next competition (180hp Mercedes C200).

The price of both sedans was also shown prominently as they are key to this chart. At a glance, visually we can see how the rest of the sedans stack up against the VW and Mercedes, so we really do not need to show figures associated with these other sedans. This tremendously removes data clutter in this chart.

Finally to make the overall slide more interesting, I added a photo of the VW Jetta suggesting that this is how the best price-performance sedan looks like.

The author, ANG Tian Teck is a coach, trainer, and speaker, specialising in inspiring organisations and business leaders to deliver high impact presentations. He has coached, trained, and infected over 10,000 individuals across the region with his Amazing Sticky Presentations approach. Tian Teck is also the author of two books, Sticky Presentations, and Spinning I.D.E.A.S.

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