Two weeks ago, I challenged readers to re-create the “after” version of a side by side bar chart. You can read the full post here.

Congratulations to the 9 contestants! Click on the contestant’s name to see their chart.

Now it’s time to post the how-to guide.

Step 1: Study the chart that you’re trying to reproduce in Excel.

We’re trying to re-create a side by side bar chart like the one shown below. We’re comparing how Coalition A and Coalition B scored on Innovation Network’s Coalition Assessment Tool.


Step 2: And the secret to making side by side bar charts in Excel…

…is that we’re going to make two separate bar charts, one for Coalition A and one for Coalition B. When we copy and paste the charts from Excel into PowerPoint or Word, they’ll look like a single cohesive chart.


Step 3: Type the data into Excel.

Make sure you choose a purposeful order to your data, like the highest percentage on top and the lowest percentage on bottom.

Excel often flips the data table upside down when creating charts, i.e. if you want the overall scores to be at the bottom of the chart, then you need to put the overall scores in the top of your data table. (Or, you can reverse the order of the categories later on.)


Step 4: Create the first bar chart.

You know the drill: Add data labels inside the end of your bars. Choose a color palette that matches your client’s logo or your own logo. Use an action color to draw the reader’s eye where you want it (in my example, the overall score). Delete unnecessary ink like the tick marks, grid lines, and border. Use gray to de-emphasize things like (n=7) and the axis labels. Reduce the gap width.
Beginner Excel users: If you need extra instruction, check out how to make a basic bar chart and my Excel for Evaluation chart tutorials.

Step 5: Copy the first chart.

Rather than re-create the wheel when making the second bar chart, let’s save some time by simply copying the first chart.


Step 6: Populate the second chart with Coalition B’s data.

Use the “select data” feature to put Coalition B’s percentages into the chart.


Step 7: Adjust the second chart’s bar color and title.


Step 8: Delete the second chart’s axis labels.

Yep, you’re right, the second chart’s bars are going to get waaaaaay too long. We’ll fix this in Step 9.


Step 9: Re-size the second chart.

Here’s my super scientific secret for making sure each chart is the same size: I measure the plot area with a business card.

First, adjust the first chart's plot area so that it's the width of a business card or post-it note.

First, adjust the first chart’s plot area so that it’s the width of a business card or post-it note.

Next, I adjust the second chart's plot area so that it's the same width as my business card.

Next, I adjust the second chart’s plot area so that it’s the same width as my business card.

Step 10: Paste the charts into PowerPoint or Word.

Select both charts and paste them into PowerPoint or Word at the same time. Here’s what it looks like on a slide. Looks like a single chart!



Click here to download my Excel file.