Communicate to Win: 020 – Tips for Using the Best Exhibit Slide

Exhibit slides typically answer five types of questions. Based on the question your exhibit slide is answering, here are my tips for choosing the right exhibit slide to portray your information.

  • What are the elements? Pie charts show proportions to the whole and each wedge of the pie usually represents a percentage. Most audiences comprehend pie charts quickly and easily, but try not to use more than six components. To add emphasis, use contrasting, intense colors for consecutive slices to make sure it’s easy to distinguish the data.
  • How do amounts compare? Bar and column charts are great for comparing elements. In addition, they illustrate trends and clearly show increases or decreases. Bar and column charts usually represent countable things, such as the number of different responses to a survey question or the number of products manufactured over a period of time. When using bar or column charts, make space separating the bars and use contrasting colors for emphasis.
  • What has/how has it changed? When using charts to represent change over time, you can also use a line chart. News channels often present stock market summaries in the form of line charts that extend over a week, a year or even a decade.
  • How are items distributed? You can demonstrate how items are distributed with either column charts or line charts.
  • How do items co-relate? Paired bar charts are the best tools for demonstrating co-relationships.

Beyond answering questions, here are a few more types of exhibits to consider:

  • Diagrams show the elements. Think of a flow chart or org chart. For example, a diagram charts a process, such as the steps involved in making a product.
  • Tables summarize and compare data. When verbal descriptions are too cumbersome, tables offer an elegant and organized solution for showing exact numeric values.
  • Geographical maps translate data into spatial patterns. You can use them to compare locations. Divide maps into sections that link statistical data to population characteristics, such as annual sales by U.S. region.

All of the slide types I mention above can be found in the slide library. Click here to download the slide library. Using these slides will help give your charts a consistent look and feel and simplify slide formatting and placement.

Keep in mind, some presentations call for greater visual appeal. I was once sitting in a company meeting with 2000 co-workers and we were in our third hour of “death by PowerPoint.” Most of the visuals included facts and figures that those in the front row couldn’t even see! We have all been there! Finance was the last presentation of the meeting. I was dreading all the statistics I was sure were coming. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

Finance went out of their way to create strong visuals, and made sure the audience actually focused on the CFO’s speech. The dollar bill columns from that presentation shown here have stuck in my mind over the years.

I have often used icons to build columns and represent information for large audiences. Telephones represent call volume over time. Cars represent distances traveled. Doing something a little different on a chart appeals to your audience.

Remember, your narrative is the most important part of the presentation. The visuals should support your points clearly and simply to enhance the audience’s understanding of your message.

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