It’s a data-driven business world out there, which is great, right? But with so much input now available, presenting data effectively has become its own challenge. You need to do more than just display numbers and charts. You need to convey a clear, compelling story that communicates the key takeaways and resonates with your audiences. This article’s best practices can help ensure your data presentation communicates your intended message.
Know your audience
Any communication is more effective if you understand who you are presenting to. By considering the audience’s background, knowledge level, interests, and objectives you can better tailor your presentation to match their needs and expectations.
It’s your job to simplify and focus the data around a main message. Your entire presentation should revolve around this central theme. Understanding your audience can help you choose the most relevant and impactful data points that support the main message.
Tell a story
It’s best to use the data to tell a story. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but as one data analyst notes in the Harvard Business Review, “Few forms of communication are as persuasive as a compelling narrative.”
Data storytelling constructs a story from the insights hidden in the data. Taking a storytelling approach forces you to interpret and simplify complex information in an engaging way that offers value to your audience. This empowers you to offer a narrative which makes the data more relatable and engaging, thereby helping build your credibility as well.
Start with an executive summary
An oft-cited study statistic from the National Statistics Council tells us the average employee spends 37% of their time in meetings. Help your audience benefit from the time spent meeting about your data by beginning your presentation with an executive summary.
Executive summaries provide a concise overview offering a quick understanding of the key takeaways without delving into all the details. When you craft an effective executive summary, you capture your main message and distill complex concepts into simple, easy-to-understand language to help your audience grasp the main points.
Use visuals wisely
Data visualization is an essential part of data presentation. Visual elements like charts, graphs, and infographics are powerful tools for effectively presenting and sharing data. Still, you’ll want to choose the right type of data visualization to ensure that you are communicating your findings for maximum impact:
- Bar charts with vertical or horizontal bars are useful for showing comparisons, trends, and distribution.
- Line graphs connecting data points with lines are great for showing trends and changes over time.
- Pie charts displaying parts of a whole to help illustrate percentages or proportions.
- Scatter plots show the relationship between two continuous variables by plotting data points on a graph.
- Heat maps use color variations in a grid to show patterns, correlations, or clustering within large datasets.
- Tree maps can present hierarchical data as nested rectangles to show proportions and relationships.
- Word clouds let you show textual data with word size representing frequency, which makes it easy to identify common terms.
It’s also critical to avoid clutter and ensure that your visuals are easy to read. Using descriptive headlines and labels can help your audience quickly grasp what the data is about and what it’s showing.
It can also help to use color, annotation, or emphasis to draw attention to important data points or trends. This guides your audience’s focus to the most critical aspects of your message. At the same time, don’t undervalue the power of white space to reduce clutter and improve readability,
Without proper context, data can be interpreted in various ways. Be sure to include background information, explanations, and comparisons that help your audience understand the significance of the data.
Providing context by explaining the background and circumstances, strengthens the conclusions you draw from the data. To effectively situate your audience in the data:
- Introduce the topic or problem your data addresses.
- Explain why this data is relevant and give background into what prompted the analysis.
- Define any technical terms or industry-specific jargon
- Describe how the data was collected, analyzed, and processed
- Outline where the data comes from, its quality, and any potential biases
- Highlight any relevant trends or patterns that the data reveals
- Compare current and historical data to showcase changes over time or to benchmarks, industry standards, or similar scenarios to put the data into perspective.
- Discuss any external factors that might have influenced the data, such as economic conditions or regulatory changes
- Address any outliers or anomalies, explain why they occurred and whether they impact the overall trends
- Explain the implications of the data sharing real-world scenarios or anecdotes that illustrate how the data translates into practical situations
Rehearse your presentation
Effective presenting and sharing of your data takes effort. You should build in time to rehearse your delivery. Practice your pacing, tone, and transitions between different parts of your story.
It can help also to anticipate potential questions your audience might have about the data. Being prepared to address queries demonstrates your expertise and enhances credibility.
Effectively share and present your data
Remember, your goal is to make your data not only informative but also engaging and memorable. By following these best practices for your data presentations, you can increase the likelihood that your audience will understand and remember the insights you’re sharing.
At Sogolytics we know your data isn’t very valuable if you can’t make sense of it. Our powerful reporting tools give you many ways to share and present your data, even in real-time. Learn more.
If you’re looking for a platform that helps you decode the meaning behind your data with powerful analytics and presentation-ready reports, Sogolytics has your back!
Ready to learn more? Let’s get on a call and we’d love to share how our platform can help!