Data visualization is an integral part of any good presentation. Whether you’re a consultant, CEO, project manager, sales manager, or anything in between, better data visualization will help you sell your ideas. However, having better data doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to present it effectively.

“Data” is only as valuable as you make it. You have to be able to gather it, understand it, visualize it in a compelling way, and then present it with context and analysis. This is an earned skill that you can only get by sitting down and doing the work. If you’ve ever had to present data in front of an audience, you know how important it is to have a visual that compliments your findings. That’s why we created SlideShop InfoBlocks, a fancy internal product name for functional data visualization tools for real people.

To give you real, tactical tips on how to better leverage data visualization in your presentations, we teamed up with Archana Kshirsagar, a thought leader in analytics, data science, and data visualization. She has over 15 years’ of experience in researching, designing and implementing data warehousing, business intelligence (BI) and predictive analytics products and services. Archana is the founder of VueInsights LLC, an agile, self-service analytics firm providing Business Intelligence, Data Science and AI consulting to startups and large companies. She is also the Senior Vice President of Global Operations and Strategy at JLL.

Here’s an excerpt from the eBook written by Archana Kshirsagar.

Data Visualization in Practice

It’s time for your meeting. People are filing in, nodding, laughing and chatting about the latest episode of Stranger Things. Soon everyone sits and settles, and all eyes shift towards you, the storyteller, who Steve Jobs once said is the most powerful person in the world.

Right now, in this room, you’re the storyteller. You’re at power. What story do you plan to tell?

If your story involves data visualization, then chances are that you, like most business leaders and executives, fish from a bountiful, never-ending stream of real-time numbers and letters–a stream supposedly designed to help you make smart, strategic business decisions with ease. But that’s not always what happens. Sometimes, despite best intentions, you struggle to make meaning from the myriads of data visualization reports, most of which don’t tell a clear business story. So, where do you start?

In Archana Kshirsagar’s experience, four key elements stand out in data-based stories that engage and inspire audiences.

Here we go!

How to Answer the “So-What?”

What’s the story, the hook, your data supports? First and foremost, gain a clear understanding of the business challenge your data solves for. Analyze what happened. Figure out “why now?” Determine what’s possible based on the information. Illustrate your story with key statistics. And then use what you’ve learned to build the so-what narrative most executives are looking for. Without situational context, you risk losing your audience early on.

What Stories to Tell Different Audiences

Yeah, yeah … everyone says to know your audience. When data visualization is involved, sharing the right message with the right audience at the right time is crucial. The same story may not apply to every listener. Executives may want to know about the quarterly financial impact and business risk, while business leaders look for weekly actionable insights and functional knowledge. Managers may look for daily operational indicators, while analysts focus on the data sources and technical aspects of the reporting.

How to Implement Effective Data Visualization

Data visualization is where most presentations fail. There are either too much clutter and cognitive overload, with pie charts and graphs everywhere, or a disarray of scattered visuals. Either of those scenarios will leave your audience confused and searching for the thread of the story. A good data visualization presentation, on the other hand, is easy to understand, draws an audience’s attention without inundation, and layers an interactive, exploratory framework for logical decision making. When you eectively communicate the underlying theme and clearly state your vision, your audience will lean in.

Why Building Stories Around Your Data Visualization Drives Your Point Home

To create a great story, look for ways to unite ideas, arouse emotions and inspire audiences to question the status quo. Does your fourth-quarter report point to the increasing competition? Maybe it’s time to consider lapsing old products or tapping new markets. Is a new partnership between marketing and purchasing bubbling under the surface? Let numbers tell the story a new partnership will reveal. Then, add to those story elements strategically positioned repetition, clear calls to action, and thoughtful, enlightening questions, and you’ll drive your point home to applause.

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