Copying and pasting charts or tables directly from Excel into PowerPoint is not a straightforward as it sounds!  When you are embedding charts, tables or (heaven forbid) a spreadsheet into a PowerPoint slide, it’s best to paste the image in as a picture or JPEG. 

If you do a straight Control-C Control-V copy and paste, the original Excel file is automatically embedded in the PowerPoint document and this is not usually recommended, for a number of reasons;

  1. File size Each time you copy and paste a chart or a table, it copies all the data, and if you’re doing a few of them, the PowerPoint document will end up enormous.  
  2. Confidentiality Sometimes don’t want the data to be accessed from the slides for confidentiality reasons.  I’ve heard plenty of horror stories of modellers sending out PowerPoint files to clients and inadvertently including confidential data in the PowerPoint document which can then be accessed by anyone who pokes around in the chart.  In one particular example, a supplier sent through their final presentation for a bid tender submission, and the vendor was able to access the supplier’s entire financial model which contained all their pricing calculations!
  3. Colour themes When we do a straight copy and paste the colours of your chart take on the themes and styles of the PowerPoint slide.  This can be frustrating, when you’ve got the chart looking exactly the way you want, and it suddenly looks different when it’s been pasted.  Use “Paste Options” and select “Keep source formatting” to get around this.
  4. Version control If you’ve got shapes, extra graphics or text boxes on your chart then these have a tendency to move around if you adjust the size or position of the image in PowerPoint.  It’s best to get the image looking exactly the way you want, and then paste it in as a picture to ensure it does not change again.  

Instead of using Control-V to paste the image into PowerPoint, right-hand click instead, and select the “Picture” option. Note that the exact same concepts apply if you are copying and pasting from Excel into Word, Outlook or any other Microsoft product.

Remember that PowerPoint is intended to be used as a presentation tool, not for storing and manipulating data. It’s best to make any changes to the chart in Excel, and then copy it into PowerPoint once it’s finished. The concept is exactly the same as using a PDF to send a final report.  When you’ve put together a report in Excel, Word or specialised software, it’s much more professional to convert it to PDF before sending it out.  This way we can ensure that the final report looks exactly the way that we intended it to without worrying that the end user will make inadvertent changes, or not be able to view it properly due to licensing issues.

Of course, you may still deliberately choose to embed the Excel image, leaving the data in the PowerPoint slide for documentation purposes, or in case you need to make a change.  That’s absolutely fine, as long as you realise it’s there and are able to deal with the problems outlined above.  

To learn more about creating charts and presenting data visually, attend our Data Analysis & Dashboard Reporting course which run regularly in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.