You have seen thousands of presenters talking about how to make a PowerPoint presentation engaging. But if you don’t set up your PowerPoint tables correctly, you will not be able to present confidently no matter what kind of skills you have.

And no, setting a table correctly does not mean addition of fancy shapes or animations etc. It’s a different ball game having its own set of rules. Therefore, when it comes to PowerPoint tables there are lots of basics that presenters often get wrong.

In short, setting a correct table means making the data simple and adding orderliness and neatness to make tables look formal and eye-catching.  

Mind it!

Without applying these basic tricks, it’s going to be much harder for your PowerPoint tables to get more attention. Also keep in mind it doesn’t matter what topic a presentation deals with, these are sure shot tricks that consistently work to boost engagement. 

Now, let’s dive deep to master these tricks that will make viewers love your presentations slides having tables.

To make it easily comprehensible we have given two sample slides below. First sample slide is before applying the tricks and then after applying them.

Now, even a glance of ‘before sample slide’ is enough to prove that it looks unprofessional. The figures are arranged in a higgledy-piggledy manner and hence give an amateurish feel. Contrary to this ‘after sample slide’ following basic rules clearly gives a formal approach.     

First have a quick look at both the sample PPT slides before digging deep. 

Before Sample Slide

Before Sample Slide

After Sample Slide

After Sample Slide

Systematic process to kick tables a notch up in PowerPoint presentation   

Step 1: Give formatting a rest

Presenters often spend hours to figure out and apply the right form of table format. Formatting adds borders and makes tables look colorful. Right? Wrong! 

Presenters need to understand that a table comprises lots of information; hence formatting further makes it look heavy. In fact, addition of unnecessary colors often sidetracks spectators from figures which actually need their attention.

Crux is to leave colors, borders and other arty effects for other slide templates.    

So, first remove formatting by selecting table and then go to the Design tab. In the Table Styles group click on more option and select ‘No Style No Grid’ option. Selecting it automatically removes all sorts of style and grid applied earlier. Check the screen shot given below for reference.

Open the Design menu

Select No Style, No Grid

However, still because of some reason or personal liking a presenter wishes to keep the formatting intact then it’s better to go with ‘light’ styles.

Here’s the final result after removal of formatting.

Table without formatting

Step 2: Use bold font to lay emphasis on header or titles

Header of a table basically gives the information about the figures mentioned below it. To put in other words, it helps viewers to read and understand data easily.

So, differentiating header by making a little modification is judicious. To accomplish this, bold font can be used to lay emphasis on header. Change in font size i.e. increase in header’s font size compared to other data in table is also a sensible approach to introduce a clear differentiation.

Besides this, presenters can also enlarge header’s row size to make a distinction between header and rest of the content. Best is, presenters can easily bring in this effect by dragging the resize pointer. Isn’t it a cool trick to make a table look appealing! Check the final result below.

Table with Bold font

Step 3: Line up text and data aptly

Correct alignment of text in a PPT slide is critical. Text justified in a right way helps presenters to establish a relationship among different figures. Moreover, correctly aligned text looks distinct and requires little eye movement and hence is easier to understand. 

Key here is select center alignment for header, left alignment for text in extreme left column and right alignment for all other columns or figures. 

Left and Right Alignment

Table with proper Alignment

Step 4: Say goodbye to typographic symbols

The main purpose of a table is to cast spotlight on the significant figures related to the topic of presentation. Therefore, it is prudent to declutter unnecessary elements like sign of dollar ($), percentage (%), asterisk (*), exclamation (!), quotation marks (“”) etc. from a template slide.

Bottom-line is that instead of repeating these elements again-and-again with each figure highlight the same in the header row. This helps to give a cleaner look to the table. Note down use of comma (,) in figures is reasonable as it helps viewers to easily get the big figures.  

Table without typography symbols

Step 5: Position figures in descending order 

Sorting of figures in an orderly manner helps spectators to quickly find and understand the information shared in a table. Giving an organized view and arranging figures in a specific order actually helps to make data audience friendly. Even a glance of such user-friendly figures is good enough to figure out the best and worst. 

Further, descending order has edge as it provides a better preview of table. Good thing is that, while explaining and justifying data, sorting in descending order gives presenter a better control on figures.

Here's the final view of sample slide.

Table in descending order

Most exciting thing is that if you are using Excel spreadsheets then single click is enough to arrange the data. Go to 'Sort and Filter' menu and click ‘Custom Sort’. Check screen shot given below.

Excel Sheet

In the ‘Sort’ window, open the ‘Sort by’ menu and select the 2017 Market Share option. Under the ‘Order’ tab, click ‘Largest to Smallest’:

Open Sort menu

The data will be arranged from the largest market share to the smallest:

Arranged Data

Step 6: Go for round off numbers

Rounding off numbers greatly simplifies the figures thereby making a table look clean. So, crux is instead of using 707,695 go for .71M. To many this may seem like a futile and time killing exercise. But mind it, rounding off the numbers support viewers to quickly and manually perform complex calculations so as to understand a data.

Go for round off numbers

Step 7: Follow the rule of division

Well, as mentioned in the first step, division of data in rows looks too packed and hence becomes difficult for viewers to focus. However, introducing a bit of division by dividing data into different related chunks is sensible and data doesn’t look cramped too. In fact, large data presented in equally divided chunks is easier to comprehend. Here’s the sample slide as a ready testimony to make this trick more explicable.    

Table with Division

To add a border, select the row below which you want to add a border. Choose the width and border color under the ‘Design’ tab. Open the ‘Borders’ menu and click ‘Bottom Border’:

Add a Border

Step 8: Add a visual element

Last but not the least, by and large a presentation template having table displays figures and data only. Listeners often feel that such plain slides as boring illustrations. Right? So, right assimilation of few graphics like line graphs, bar graphs or pie charts along with tables makes them more impactful as well as engaging.

Above all as a perfect visual aid, graphics help audience to assess data quickly and in a precise manner. All a presenter needs is right positioning of visual along with numerical data.

Good thing is that, by making little adjustments and removal of unnecessary white space one can easily accommodate graphics. Here’s the final slide having visuals.

Table with a visual element

Step 9- Make the Title More Interesting

What is the key takeaway from the data figures? Put that in the title. The crux of the data should be summed up in the headline for better retention.

Table with more interesting Title

Concluding thoughts

A table isn’t just for PowerPoint presentations meant to demonstrate certain specific subjects. In fact, putting figures together in form of a table has become a proven secret to deliver a winning PowerPoint presentation.

Tables actually support to make data explicable as well as pin point figures that require immediate attention. That’s why tables have taken a prominent space and wide acceptance among presenters to make their template slides standalone.

Best is, just by following few tricks, even a beginner can craft amazing tables that too with in no time. By upholding a right balance of design, color and visual, one can easily craft impressive presentation tables.

In short, tables are here to stay and have full potential to become the key ingredient of presentation world for years to come. 

What other tricks can we apply to make PowerPoint tables more engaging? Share your views in comments below.