Introduction:

Visual displays like charts, graphs etc... form an important part of business presentations. They are very useful at displaying data in an understandable form. But simply showing charts or graphs in powerpoint in a business presentation isn't enough, you need to be able to describe them and explain their significance to the audience.

In this online exercise on presentations, we will look at useful English words and phrases that are used to both explain and describe charts and graphs professionally in a presentation. In addition, we will also look at ways to emphasize points and examples in English.

More vocabulary on explaining data, trends and statistics can be found in the Numbers and Figures section.

Click here to see more online exercises on presentations and presentation vocabulary


Exercise: Describing data and a chart

Read the following part of a business presentation where the person doing the presentation is describing a chart.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are and why they are being said. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Speaker:'Let me start the first part of the presentation, with an overview of current employee under-performance. But what does employee under-performance mean? Basically, employees don't do what they are capable of, with the time and resources available.

Allow me to demonstrate this by showing you a Bar Chart. This is a bar chart from a well-known multinational retail company. It shows that over a ten-year period, between 1998 and 2008, that their relative labour cost for each product they sold increased every year. Over the ten years, this meant a 15% increase. Now, lets ask ourselves why this happened? Did the number of staff increase? Yes, it did up to 2006! Did wages increase higher than inflation? No they didn't! Did other costs fall? Yes they did. So while there were efficiency savings in other areas of the business, like in Information Technology etc..., labour was becoming relatively more expensive.

This isn't a one-off case. This next graph demonstrates that this is a trend affecting all companies. It shows the average staff costs as a percentage of total costs over the last 5 years for the top 100 companies in the UK. The average staff cost is represented by the red line, while the dotted blue line shows overall costs. As you can see, whilst overall costs fell by roughly 15% over the last 5 years, the actual average staff costs as a percentage of overall costs increased by over 10% over the same period. And this is just an average, in some cases it increased by almost 15%.

I think that you can agree that this is unsustainable. Companies can not be competitive in the long-term whilst their staff are becoming increasing inefficient and relatively more expensive.

Let me illustrate this with an example. You all remember the American company Samson & Heat? They went bankrupt this July. What do you think the fundamental reason was? Falling sales? Maybe it contributed, but other companies faced similar problems and are still here today! Their fundamental problem was that their overall relative staff costs had risen by just under 30% in the last 10 years, over inflation. To put it is simply, they were out-priced by their competitors.'



Quiz: Vocabulary for describing data & charts in presentations

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. A line on a chart that is made up of small circles, is
         

Dotted:
(adjective) These very small circles are commonly called 'dots'. In Spanish: "linea de puntos".

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Dotted:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. A polite way to say 'this next example confirms what I've just said', is
         

Let me illustrate this with:
(phrase) In this context 'illustrate' has the same meaning as 'demonstrate' or 'show'(which is a little informal). This phrase is used to introduce an example, graph etc... that proves a point or opinion you have made. 'Let me' is very polite and sounds like you are asking permission to do something, even though you're not. It is very similar to 'allow me to'. In Spanish: "Déjenme ilustrarlo con".

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Let me illustrate this with:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. A different way to say 'shows' or 'confirms', is
         

Demonstrates:
(verb) "to demonstrate" is used in this context to mean "to prove" or "to confirm", e.g. 'the fall in sales demonstrates that our products are not what people want'. "to show" can also be used with the same meaning, but sounds less professional. In Spanish: "demuestra".

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Demonstrates:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. Another way to say 'by nearly', is
         

By almost:
(adverb) It is used to give more impact when describing statistics or figures, e.g. 'sales increased by almost 7% last year' In Spanish: "en casi".

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By almost:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. A phrase that describes the quantity of time a graph or chart covers, is
         

Shows that over a ten-year period:
(phrase) 'Over' in this context doesn't mean 'more than', it means 'during'. The time period can be changed to whatever, e.g. 'profits fell by 4% over the last 3 years'. In Spanish: "muestra que en un período de diez años".

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Shows that over a ten-year period:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. A way to focus people's attention on a chart or graph etc..., is
         

As you can see:
(phrase) This is commonly used in presentations when you start to describe data in a graph or chart. This phrase is followed by a description of what happens in the chart or graph etc..., e.g. 'as you can see, profits fell in May'. In Spanish: "como pueden ver".

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As you can see:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. Another way to say 'by about', is
         

By roughly:
(adverb) It is used when it isn't necessary to say the actual figure or quantity, e.g. 'sales increased by roughly 13%'. It has the same meaning as 'by approximately'. In Spanish: "en aproximadamente".

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By roughly:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. A different way to say that something is not an exception, is
         

Isn't a one-off case:
(phrase) This is commonly used for emphasis. It is normally followed by a sentence which gives examples of other similar cases or situations. The opposite of this is 'an exception'. In Spanish: "no es un caso aislado".

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Isn't a one-off case:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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9. A way to inform people what the different lines, bars etc... on a chart/graph are for, is
         

Is represented by:
(verb) This is used to describe the content of a visual. The subject of the data (i.e. profit, sales, income etc...) always goes before the phrase. And the line, bar, pie chart segment always goes after the phrase. For example, 'average sales is represented by the yellow line'. In Spanish: "está representado por".

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Is represented by:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10. Another way to say 'by above', is
         

By over:
(adverb) It is used to give more impact when describing statistics or figures, e.g. 'unemployment fell by over 35,000 in May'. In Spanish: "más de".

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By over:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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Practice

Now that you understand the describing charts, graphs and data vocabulary, practise it by creating your own sentences in English with the new words/phrases.