August 22, 2019

10 Chart Types: Which One Is Right for My Data?

Presenting data is one of the most common features of presentations. Presenters often face the challenge of presenting data in a way that focuses the audience’s attention on their core statements.

Presenting unstructured data series will inevitably lose the audience’s attention. They’ll spend their time and trying to interpret the numbers rather than listening to the presenter.

Storytelling & Visualizing Data

Data should always tell a story. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to connect with an audience and keep them interested.

The challenge is to integrate complex and dry numbers into the narrative in a way that helps the audience follow along. The key is to properly visualize the data.

The best known and most popular form of data visualization is the chart because of the convenient link between PowerPoint and Excel functions.

However, not every chart is suitable for every data set. The type of data and the message it should deliver need to be carefully considered.

Are they relative or absolute figures?

How many dimensions do I want to represent?

Do I want to present compositions or developments?

These are just a few examples of the questions you should ask yourself before choosing a chart for your presentation.

The 10 Most Important PowerPoint Chart Types

Here’s an overview of the best-known chart types with their advantages, applications and limitations.

1. Column Chart

The column chart is the most commonly used and simplest type of chart. Its strengths include mapping fluctuations within a given time period or comparing data.

Example: Annual revenue of different departments

2. Bar Chart

The bar chart is nothing more than a rotated column chart. The horizontal arrangement of the columns facilitates the use of long labels, such as questions in surveys. This diagram type is ideal for displaying rankings.

3. Stacked Column Chart

A stacked column chart can be used to break down and compare parts of a whole. Each column in the chart represents a whole, and segments in the column represent different parts or categories of that whole.

Example: Cost shares over time.

4. Line Chart

A line chart is used to compare and depict developments over a period of time. The lines can be directly compared to each other. This makes it easy to visualize progress and trends.

Example: Share prices

5. Area Chart

The area chart is a modified version of the line chart. The areas between axis and line are commonly highlighted with colors. This allows the relative relationship of two sizes to be visually emphasized. It’s also effective for visualizing operational and strategic gaps. Example: Gap analysis

6. Pie Chart

The pie chart or circle graph uses slices to represent parts of a total quantity. These diagrams are highly effective in visualizing relative proportions. Chronological sequences, on the other hand, cannot be represented with pie charts.

7. Combination Chart

A combination chart consists of two different types of charts. It is ideal for presenting the relationship between two data sets. The most common type is the line-column chart.

Example: Turnover (in millions) and number of employees (up to 100)

8. Radar Chart

The radar chart is also known as the spider chart and star plot. It is particularly suitable for showing the development or characteristics of predefined variables. Each variable has its own axis with its starting point at the center.

Example: A comparison of two companies based on predefined variables (e.g., benchmarking)

9. Bubble Chart

The bubble chart is characterized by its three dimensions. The X and Y axes are separate variables. Each plotted point then represents a third variable by the size of its circle, forming the third dimension.

Example: BCG matrix (market growth, relative market share and turnover)

10. Waterfall Chart

The waterfall chart is a modified form of the column chart. It shows an initial value, which is increased or decreased by further values. The final value is then displayed.

Example: Total costs divided into direct costs

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