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How To Make a Graph with the Appearance of Massive Growth by Changing the Rise and Run

Updated on May 21, 2012

How To Make Graphs Tell a Story in Powerpoint

Graphs are a powerful marketing tool since the image can tell an amazing story. In the case of many web 2.0 companies, you may have seen the story of Twitters amazing growth. However, you have to really read the numbers - I’m not saying Twitters growth isn’t crazy impressive, just that graphs can tell a story to your eyes, but if you read the data it’s actually very different.

HubPages has had excellent growth since it’s launch in August 2006. Google analytics shows that HubPages has nearly 14 million visitors per month and nearly 40 million page views. I’m putting a presentation on HubPages together that shows the growth of Hubs and how it correlates to page view growth. The three images below have the exact same data, all on the same scale. The only difference is the rise and run of the graph are changed based on how I format the graph to the slide. I'd like to have some room on the slide for bullet points. See how different the story looks based on how I format the graph.

1. The first image shows how the graph looks when you paste it directly from Excel to Powerpoint. It shows excellent growth, but there’s not much room to write bullets for the slide. Let’s see what the graph looks like if I decrease the rise (vertical height) of the graph.

Decreasing the vertical height of the Y axis

2. Image two shows that I’ve decreased the rise of the graph. I now have a nice space above for bullets. But. The graph doesn’t illustrate the excellent growth of HubPages. Note the data is absolutley the same between the first image and the second. Let’s see how the graph looks if I decrease the run of the slide so I have room to the side for bullet points…

Decreasing the horizontal width of the X axis

3. The image below is the exact same data as the data in the first images, but I’ve decreased the run (X axis). By decreasing the run of the graph, it gives the appearance of much more dramatic growth. This is the power of appearance.

Questions & Answers


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      • GmaGoldie profile image

        Kelly Kline Burnett 7 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

        As a former CFO and now a Marketing Director - wow does this hit home! Five stars! As Staci-Barbo7 so aptly stated your explanation is very clear.

      • Staci-Barbo7 profile image

        Staci-Barbo7 8 years ago from North Carolina

        Paul, with choice of statistics and a little attention to detail, spinmeisters could actually apply principles gleaned from this Hub to convince most Americans that we are in fact in a new era of economic expansion!! 

        I mentioned this article to a friend who is an expert in Excel and produces quite a bit of charting for executive-level government officials.  He was impressed with how straightforward your explanation of the differences in the graphs is - easy enough for anyone to understand. 

      • Web D Zine profile image

        Web D Zine 8 years ago from The Interwebs

        Nice tweaking ;) Lies, damns, lies, and Excel Graphs as Eric says.

        One suggestion I would make is to change your legend a little. Right now, it could be unclear to a viewer whether the right or left y axis is the one for the number of hubs.

        If you were to move the Hubs label to the left side of the graph and keep the Pageviews label on the right side, this problem would be solved.

      • Eric Graudins profile image

        Eric Graudins 8 years ago from Australia

        The graphs that are most misleading are the ones that show a change in, say a range betweem 30,000 and 30,200.

        The graph gives the impression of a huge rise or fall, when in reality the change is very minor.

        Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, and Graphs. :-)

      • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

        Patty Inglish 8 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

        Paul, thanks for helping people to learn to read and understand graphs more thoroughly - and use them to best adavantage. This was fun to read.

      • Paul Edmondson profile image

        Paul Edmondson 8 years ago from Burlingame, CA

        @SEO Expert - I made them in Excel and then pasted them into Powerpoint. If you're looking for HubPages data, I have the keys, so to speak.

      • gredmondson profile image

        gredmondson 8 years ago from San Francisco, California

        Paul, I have thought of this very concept before, so I especially like this Hub.

      • profile image

        jkamper 8 years ago

        Good presentation of how a presentation can produce a different message with the same data. Wasn't it Disraeli who said "Lies, damned lies and stastics?"

      • SEO Expert Kerala profile image

        SEO Expert Kerala 8 years ago from KERALA

        dear paul can you give me a piece of information , Where did you get these 3 grapgh images , Iam looking for more information

      • eovery profile image

        eovery 8 years ago from MIddle of the Boondocks of Iowa

        Good Hub

        You are right, a lot of people go by appearance and do not do the math.

        Keep on Hubbing!