Clarify the Data

When displaying data in a presentation, pursue clarity above all else. The people in your audience can’t spend extra time with your projected charts or pull them closer to examine them, as they do with charts in print. They have to get meaning from your numbers at a distance, before you click away.

People will interpret your data slides first by reading the titles, then by looking at the shapes the data make, and then by reading the axes. It’s a multistep process, complex to begin with. So if the information you’re displaying is visually complex, the audience won’t have time to comprehend it.

These rules of thumb will help you clarify—and simplify—your data.

Highlight what’s important

Start by asking, “What would I like people ...

Get HBR Guide to Persuasive Presentations (HBR Guide Series) now with O’Reilly online learning.

O’Reilly members experience live online training, plus books, videos, and digital content from 200+ publishers.