Tip #21: Format your tables

Tip 21: Format tables and charts. Following from last time, almost always decks look pretty good until we reach a data table. Near the beginning, a market growth chart copy/pasted from a Navigant or IBIS research report; or near the end when you are trying to present financial projections.

Tables and charts in slides invariably look terrible – both in themselves and because they don’t match the formatting of the rest of the slides.

You can see the obvious reason these look bad, with the usual problems about distractions: does anything look more year 2000 than a black-and-white Times New Roman excel table, complete with gridlines, dropped onto a slide?

But there are more subtle and powerful complaints than esthetics and distractions.

First, this presenter is comfortable pulling a table direct from a research report. Have they really understood it, analyzed it, compared it to other data – or just plonked in a chart they think we want to see? Even if you have worked on it and really understand your market, by dumping a chart you found in someone else’s pdf into your deck loses your credibility.

And second, if you dump in a poorly done excel table, you are proving that numbers are not core to you. Financials are an afterthought in your business, housed in a different set of programs that a to-be-hired-one-day-CFO will deal with later. For us, numbers are critical: if your most important number (cash in the bank) reaches zero, we lose our investment. We need to know this is as critical to you as it is to us, and that you are well equipped to work on it.

This is a pothole that is easy to avoid. Why? Well, firstly there is almost never a need to include a table! Avoid them wherever you possibly can. And secondly, formatting tables in excel to look good – and to look the same as in powerpoint – is not difficult. It takes just a few minutes of effort to recolor fonts, use your house font, make the font size correct, remove gridlines, etc. These are minutes well spent.