Laptop computer displaying logo of Power BI, a business analytics service by Microsoft
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If you want to drill into your data and understand trends, outliers and the details of what’s going on, you want all the visualization and query options that are in Power BI. But when the time comes to explain that to someone else or use it to help make a decision together, how do you show them the figures?

The most common way people share and explain data is in PowerPoint presentations with graphs and charts or screenshots of a Power BI report. The problem is that you can’t dig in to the data to see what’s going on, and it won’t get updated as new data arrives unless you do it yourself.

SEE: How to export Microsoft Power BI data to a Microsoft Excel file (TechRepublic)

Adding Power BI reports to PowerPoint

The new Power BI data storytelling add-in for PowerPoint lets you add fully interactive, live Power BI reports to a slide.

If you have a Microsoft 365 license and you use the Office Insiders beta channel, the Power BI button should automatically appear on the Insert ribbon in PowerPoint. Click to get the Power BI placeholder, and then paste in the URL of the report.

Choose Export > PowerPoint > Embed Live Data when you’re in the Power BI report to get the URL, and click the Open in PowerPoint button on that dialog if you want to create a new presentation with it in. You can also use a filter or slicer first if you want a specific visualization from the report.

If you don’t see it and you have access to Power BI (even a free account that lets you view reports), choose Get Add-ins from the Insert tab and search for Microsoft Power BI (Figure A).

menu in Office to install Power BI and other integrations
Figure A: Install the Power BI add-in to embed reports into your slides.

Dive into and share Power BI data through PowerPoint

If you’re giving a presentation, you can stop and dive into the Power BI data on your slide to answer questions using the same filters, slicers and tools you have in Power BI on the web as long as you’re online, as the add-in is a WebView2 control.

If you’re sending the slides to someone, they’ll need to have access to the Power BI report to see that slide. You can set that up when you use Share to get the report URL (Figure B); if they don’t have access, they just see a notification that lets them ask for access.

Embed live data in Power BI (Preview) menu
Figure B: Copy the URL from Power BI for the report you want or start a new slide deck with it in.

If you don’t want them to get the live data, you can click on the arrow in the top right corner of the add-in and choose Show as Saved Image. That turns it into a static image, which is also useful if you need to give the presentation when you aren’t connected. But, you can click again to remove the check mark from Show as Saved Image to get the live data again (Figure C).

a PowerPoint slide with a Power BI report embedded in it
Figure C: Insert a report in your slide, and you can slice and filter it or turn it into a static image.

How to set up Power BI reports and alerts through email

Slides aren’t the only place that we need to use data to ask questions or explain what we’re planning to do. While you can link to Power BI in Teams, a feature that will soon be integrated in mobile Teams, a lot of people still have conversations and share information through email, especially to send regular status reports. Fortunately, there are several ways to use Power BI with Outlook.

When you share Power BI reports and dashboards using the Share button on the service, you can email a link. Note that people outside your organization can see but not edit reports. You can also subscribe to get snapshots of Power BI reports and dashboards by email if you have a Power BI Pro or Premium license. Click Subscribe in the toolbar (Figure D), and fill in your email address (or someone else’s) and choose how often to send the mail.

Subscribe to emails menu in Power BI
Figure D: Subscribe to a Power BI report.

If you want to email a report when something changes rather than at regular intervals, set up Power BI data alerts, and choose Use Microsoft Power Automate to trigger additional actions.

If you want to send Power BI reports out by email regularly as attachments, you can automate that with Power Automate. Create a flow, and set how often you want to send the reports and what format (like PDF) you want to send them as.

Accessing and creating Power BI reports in the Office hub

Having Power BI as a separate service with its own website means it’s not like using the other Office applications. The Office hub, which is both the website and an app on your PC, now has Power BI reports on the list of documents you can create, alongside Visio drawings and familiar Office documents (Figure E). You can also add the same Power BI app you use in Teams to the list of apps that appear there, like Outlook.

A Power BI report opened in the Office hub
Figure E: Putting Power BI in the Office hub makes it easier to find.

Currently, if you make a new report from the Create list, it will open in your browser, but Microsoft says that will change. With the change, if you start from the Power BI app in the Office hub app and create a new report, you stay there (Figure F).

The Office hub Create menu with Reports highlighted
Figure F: Create Power BI reports straight from the Office hub.

Using Power BI in Outlook

If you’re using Outlook on the web or on Windows and you have the Power BI app installed in Teams, the Power BI app will also appear in the Outlook navigation along with Microsoft To Do, Yammer and Bookings (Figure G). This is rolling out as part of Microsoft 365 First Release for Outlook web and Office Insiders Beta Channel for Outlook on Windows, but that can take some time to reach everyone, even if other people in your tenant have it already.

The Power BI app menu from Teams in Outlook
Image: Microsoft. Figure G: See the Power BI app from Teams in Outlook as well, alongside your emails and calendar.

This lets you explore reports and dashboards without needing to switch to another application. Right click if you want to open that in a new window rather than switching views.

In the future, when someone emails you a link to a report or dashboard it will open in the Power BI app inside Outlook instead of opening a new web page, but that doesn’t work in the current preview. Currently, you also can’t export or download files, paste in data, or view content full screen, so if you need to do that, you can click on the globe icon in the Power BI app to jump to the web version.

But having Power BI in a second window or another tab, even if it’s more convenient to get to than a separate website, isn’t integrated into the emails you write. When you get the Power BI app in Outlook, you’ll be able to insert a report in an email as if you were attaching a file (Figure H), with a similar picker that shows the reports and dashboards you’ve used recently. And it lets you search for ones that don’t appear on the list. That doesn’t embed the report into the email though; what you get is an Adaptive Card, which Microsoft is now also calling Preview Cards.

An Outlook email with text highlighted that a report will be embedded in
Image: Microsoft. Figure H: Insert a Power BI report into an Outlook email as a preview card.

Further down the line, pasting in the URL of a Power BI report will also create a Preview Card Microsoft calls that “unfurling,” and it’s a bit like the smart paste options in Office documents. The idea is that instead of a URL that might go anywhere, the person you’re sending it to sees the name of the report and where it lives in Power BI, so they know it’s official data that’s relevant to the discussion—because the data isn’t going to help if people don’t trust it.