Top Tips for Presenting Data

If you wish to build credibility, set yourself apart from the competition and help your team to understand a singular point in order to move into a discussion about insights, your data needs to be presented as efficiently as possible.

Unfortunately, too many data presentations end up failing miserably because the discussion never moves past data. While this may work in technical meetings, strategic considerations require discussions about strategy, not data. It may be tempting to share your efforts and techniques for gathering and organising data, but this won’t ensure that your data is clearly presented. In fact, it could end up hurting both your career and the attention of your audience.

Addressing simple errors and adhering to a few rules of thumb can ensure that any data presentation is an engaging and informative one.

No Room For Sloppiness

Believe it or not, the neatness of your data presentation can be directly related to how you and your presentation are perceived. You can have all of your ducks in a row as far as data is concerned, but a less-than-professional graph or chart can really take away from your presentation. It can also take away from your company’s brand.

Neatness is important because those you will be presenting to will know a fraction that you do about the data. Therefore, the neatness of your data may be their first and final impression. It can often take little more than 30 seconds to improve your charts and graphs.

Simplify and Focus

Checking your presentation for any subtle errors before you present your findings can go a long way to keeping your audience focused. Instead of concentrating on the small bits of data that lead to a result, consider the end value that all that small data will deliver to a business.  Focusing on small items will mean an awful lot of information for audience members to wade through, most of it unnecessary.

The key to fixing this issue is to focus on a single primary aspect of the data, while drastically reducing the focus on smaller elements. As well, punching up the presentation with colours to separate different elements can help further to illustrate information that may seem abstract to the uninitiated.

Don’t Make Others Do The Math

Leadership teams don’t have time to calculate the figures for each row of data in your presentation and compare them to discover the difference between one set of data and another. The easiest way to avoid this is to optimise your presentation for your leadership team. First, do the math for them, and then really think about how to present your data most effectively to the team. This can be done by deciding what the key point of your data is and then presenting it clearly.

This will allow your audience to realise the insight of your presentation very quickly, as there will be less data and clutter to deal with. Not only that, but cleaning things up will take the discussion past the data and into the performance of a product or service.

Distractions Aren’t Needed

You may think that surrounding data with arrows, descriptions and boxes is the key to an effective presentation. However, it’s important to remember that the real star of the show is the data itself. As such, the data should take centre stage. Simplifying the title of your presentation, using literal terms to describe the sections of graphs or charts and eliminating unnecessary elements like images can place the focus where it belongs; on the data itself.

What Style Of Data Representation Fits Best?

When choosing the best way to present your data, consider that not all styles will result in easier interpretation by your audience. A line graph may communicate information clearly for one set of data, but not for another. Choosing the right style for your presentation will involve really looking at it to decide whether or not you like it, and whether or not it’s the best way to communicate the information you are presenting.

If you have always presented your data in a certain way, consider whether or not it’s time to change your preferences. Also, think about your audience, as well as the point you are trying to make.

Consolidation and Honesty Are The Best Policies

One of the best lessons is to try and not be tempted to spread data over more than one slide or page. This will only confuse your audience, who will likely not be able to keep track of the flow of information from one slide to another.

Another important point is to be honest. While you might want your audience to believe that one problem is the same size as another or that an issue is worse than it appears, it’s important to showcase data as objectively as possible, using items like colour to illustrate the urgency of one issue over another.

Take Out The Text

This goes hand in hand with simplification. You may feel as though using numbers only will bore your audience. However, the truth is that using too much text can do the same. Not only that, but text that inaccurately describes data can confuse your audience even further. Often, it is easy to become lost in text. But this process can be stopped in its tracks by asking yourself what you would think if you were an audience member. Would you be able to grasp the text and data and how one relates to the other? If not, it only takes a couple of minutes to correct a presentation by removing unnecessary text.

Another consideration is using more than one type of descriptor to illustrate a single chunk of data. One example is using both dollars and percentages when only dollars are really needed. Simplifying data by removing text and excessive descriptors can do wonders for simplifying a presentation.

The work you put into collecting, reporting and analysing your data deserves an end product that optimises that data and allows for strategic discussion to take place.