Microsoft says that $250 million is wasted each day due to poor PowerPoint presentations.

The average PowerPoint data presentation lasts four hours. Five hundred million people use the software but few know how to engage their audience.

Some of the blame lies with the over-use of data tables.

Too many facts and figures get squashed onto the screen. Nothing stands out. The result is that everyone switches off.

This article gives 4 reasons why your PowerPoints need tables — if they’re done right.

Read on to discover how to link your data tables with live data and spreadsheets. Learn how to highlight essential information. And see why combining tables with data charts will make your speeches a success.

Data Tables in a PowerPoint Presentation

Like MS Word, PowerPoint allows you to create tables of information to highlight statistical data.

Adding a table to a slide is relatively easy. You have several options including:

  • Click the Insert tab then choose Table
  • Copy and paste a table from Word
  • Copy and paste cells from Excel
  • Copy and paste data from a web page

PowerPoint is extremely flexible when it comes to inserting and importing data tables. The problems occur when they’re used incorrectly.

The Problem of Information Overload

Have you ever sat through a meeting where endless slides filled with dull tables appear on the screen?

You can’t focus on the information because too much data gets crammed in. Statistics seem to run into each other. Everything looks bland and ‘samey’.

That’s why many businesses often exclude data tables from their PowerPoints. They don’t want to bore their audience with monotonous grids.

Yet data tables play an essential role when communicating essential statistics if used in the proper way.

Why Present Data as a Table in PowerPoint?

Tabular data plays an important role in certain situations:

  • display specific user data like names
  • compare data vertically and horizontally
  • highlight precise numbers like stock prices
  • show formatted content

Creating a graphic or inserting data into a paragraph of text is either too difficult or not engaging enough. Well-formatted data tables, used sparingly as part of a solid story, can form an excellent presentation.

With that in mind, here are 4 reasons/tips to encourage you to present data in this way.

1. Present Data Directly From Excel

Pasting content from Excel has one distinct disadvantage — data could be obsolete by the time you run your presentation.

Wouldn’t it be great if the data could link to a live Excel sheet? That changing data in Excel would then update your PowerPoint slides?

Good news! PowerPoint allows you to link and embed Excel spreadsheets directly into your presentations.

Firstly, create your spreadsheet and slides. Copy the data from Excel as normal but use the ‘Paste Special’ command in PowerPoint. Choose ‘Paste Link’ and click OK to paste the data as an object.

Alternatively, go to the Insert tab, select a new Table, then choose ‘Link to Excel’.

You can resize the table just like any other object. But now, when you update Excel, this data table gets updated too.

You can even edit the spreadsheet directly by double-clicking the table within PowerPoint.

The Downside of Linking Excel Data Tables

One word of caution. Only use this method if you need live data.

Some presentations require historical information. In that case, simply copy/paste as normal, otherwise figures will show as incorrect. Also, if you move, rename, or delete your Excel file, your linked slides won’t work.

Formatting is tricky too with embedded spreadsheets so your options are limited when it comes to colors and styles.

2. Link With Other Data

PowerPoint extends itself to work with other sources of data.

Excel can import tables of information from websites. Because these spreadsheets work within presentations, the data is ‘semi’ live if you use this method.

There are several add-ins available that extend the range of data sources you can connect with directly.

The DataPoint add-in enables you to create data connections with:

  • Google Calendar and Sheets
  • Facebook pages
  • Microsoft Access and SharePoint
  • Departure information from airports

Enterprise companies use the Qlik data analytics platform to help visualize essential information.

Data charts in Qlik replace bland figures to engage your audience. They’re displayed in the familiar rows and columns but capture interest and relay meaning.

Learn more about how to integrate Qlik and PowerPoint with these Qlik Sense tips.

3. Highlight Essential Information

Don’t forget that the main purpose of including a table of data in your presentation is to highlight key info.

Fancy animations and swiping transitions are fine but offer no substance. Bullet points get the ‘point’ across but don’t work if used too frequently.

Intersperse your slides with a solid table of facts to grab your audience’s attention.

This will direct them to the core focus of your talk and provide hard-hitting evidence between the bells and whistles. Make sure to limit the number of table slides to make their impact more effective.

4. Combine Data Charts With Tables

Create data charts from your tables to better visualize them.

Bar charts, line graphs, pie charts, histograms, etc. bring static information to life. A picture tells a thousand words, so place them beside the data source or on the next slide to really stand out.

PowerPoint also lets you embed and paste charts created in Excel.

But don’t overdo things. The key is balance and to tell a story throughout your presentation.

More Business Data Presentation Tips at Industry Directions

PowerPoint data tables can work with data sources to present tabular information. Linking to a cloud service or Excel spreadsheet means you can share data without having to paste it.

However, don’t overuse them and present data in the most relatable format.

Create data charts to highlight patterns or show important info. Make your data presentations more appealing by formatting content. Use the right tools for the job. Read more about how to make better data presentations in our Business section. And don’t forget to bookmark the site as we add new content on a regular basis.