Mike Parkinson is an internationally recognized visual communication expert and multi-published author. Mike has spearheaded multi-billion dollar projects and created thousands of graphics resulting in billions of dollars in increased revenue for his clients. He is often requested to speak at national conferences, large and small companies, and graphic industry events. Mike is a frequent contributor of visual communication articles for magazines, newsletters, and a variety of professional websites. Visit Mike’s site, Billion Dollar Graphics for helpful presentation graphic tools and articles.
In this conversation, Mike discusses best practices on using charts.
Geetesh: Among all graphic types, what makes charts stand apart — and what are your top suggestions for users who want to add charts on their slides?
Mike: There are two reasons quantitative charts rock! (I am referring specifically to area charts, bar charts, bubble charts, candlestick charts, circle charts, Gantt charts, line charts, pie or segment charts, and point charts.)
When adding charts to slides, remember the following best practices:
Geetesh: Is there any scenario in which users may be better off using graphics other than charts on their slides — or a different type of chart other than the usual bar, column, and pie charts?
Mike:The type of chart or graphic chosen depends upon the primary objective (the purpose of the slide), audience, and subject matter. For example, if you intend to sell a fleet of hybrid cars to a rental car company, you may choose to use a gauge graphic (gas gauge) to compare your car’s fuel economy with another leading hybrid car’s capacity. In this case the graphic type—a gauge graphic (shown below)——stands out, is consistent with the subject matter, and makes a memorable point.
Charts are great for distilling down data, but due to their ubiquity they are difficult to remember. We tend to remember things that stand out. Combine your charts with other graphic types or switch to another graphic type to improve your success rate. (Nigel Holmes does a fantastic job of creating unique charts that convey quantitative information, yet are highly memorable.) There are many different graphic types and an unlimited number of options to combine graphics. For example, you could use a bar chart to show an increase in sales. However, an interesting (and memorable) way may be to use a stair graphic with each step representing a year and its revenue with the top step being the goal set for your organization. To select the right graphic I recommend downloading my free Graphics Cheat Sheet (links to a PDF). It helps me choose the right graphic for the right need.
See Also: The Powerful Presentation Graphics Guarantee by Mike Parkinson
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