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Data analysis and visualisation: Presentation Figures

Make it easy to see

In a large presentation venue some members of your audience may be quite far away, and projectors may introduce some fuzziness into figures and text that looked crisp on a computer monitor. As your visualisation will likely be the primary way that you convey information on a given slide, it's important to ensure that all audience members can easily see it. To maximize the readability of your visualisation you should:

  • make the visualisation as large as possible, it should be the focal point of the slide
  • keep explanatory text on the slide to a minimum - you'll be talking the audience through the figure, so you don't need to write it out as well!
  • pare down your visualisation to only essential points, at a distance any extra clutter and busyness will combine to make the visualisation indecipherable
  • keep essential labels, like (meaningful) axis labels
  • use large fonts for any text elements
  • keep visualisations that need to be compared on the same slide, as it's very difficult to compare images between slides. Make sure that baselines and scales are the same between visualisations that are being compared
  • use a single slide for a single visualisation if you're not comparing them, so that you can make each visualisation as large as possible
  • use high contrast colours, e.g. black on a white background rather than something like yellow on a white background
  • consider any visual impairments, such as colour blindness, that your audience might have, and choose your colour palette accordingly

Static and dynamic visualisations

In presentations you have the option of using dynamic visualisations, such as animations or interactive visualisations, as well as static figures, offering further options for telling your data's story. Animations can be a useful way of showing how data change, or for flying-through a three dimensional visualisation. When using an animation in a presentation, in addition to the points above, ensure that:

  • the frame rate is appropriate - you don't want your visualisation to whiz past too quickly for you to point out pertinent details, but neither do you want to have long gaps between interesting the features of your visualisation
  • you can pause and restart your visualisation to point out features or important things to watch for. If your animation is relatively short, you can instead have it play on a continuous loop and draw viewers' attention to different important details on each play-through, however this is not appropriate for longer animations
  • your animation plays correctly on the computer you'll use when presenting. Animations in presentations are notoriously finicky. Embedding your visualisation as an animated gif is a safe way of ensuring that it'll play correctly, however it can result in very large file sizes, and will likely be unsuitable for longer animations