You’re very proud of the insights you just obtained from your PPC/SEO work, and you can’t wait to show them to your stakeholders or customers on your coming presentation.
Will you just copy and paste your data graphs on your slides or will you take the extra time to create tailor-made charts and find the optimal words to present them? Taking a shortcut might not be the best idea.
No matter how proud you are of your reports, your job is not done yet. Put yourself in your audience’s own shoes for a moment, and you will discover some potential problems. There are at least three big problems:
1. Graphs don’t show the insight per se
If you show a graph as it is—for instance one of the magical reports Supermetrics creates—you will force your audience to gain insight by themselves. Their job is not to analyze your graphs and get insight. It’s yours, as a data analyst. C-suite executives or customers will not have either the time or patience to dig deep into the graphs. They all rely on you as the expert who can bring light out of a sea of data.
2. PPC/SEO reports don’t show the context by default
Beware that in the analyst’s mind are both the insight and the context in which the conclusions were drawn. In contrast, a decision maker looking at your report and its insight can see only a part of the whole picture. The context is missing unless you present it explicitly. Only then, your audience will be able to understand how you gained that insight and ultimately will either agree or disagree with you. The context is usually outside the report: industry benchmarks, other marketing channels on your organization, qualitative data, etc.
3. Looking at heavy graphs and listening to a presenter is multitasking
All of us have attended presentations where the speaker showed text-heavy slides while speaking to us (to make things worse, often reading the slides). The result: we had to choose between reading what was on the screen and paying attention to her words. Human brains can’t do both things simultaneously, can’t multitask.
Similarly, heavy graphs force your audience to multitask while listening to you. Instead, simplified graphs can be quickly understood and followed in sync with your words. Elon Musk’s Tesla Powerwall Keynote is a great example of showing the right dose of data in the slides.
Lack of insight, lack of context and heavy graphs, put altogether can make your presentation a complete failure. Do your best to avoid these problems.
Now, how can we transform your brilliant insights into an effective and successful presentation?
Consider the following three elements:
1. Craft storytelling
The main problem with numbers is that often they are difficult to relate. That’s why it’s crucial to make them as concrete as possible. Going a step even further, a story will help you to illustrate your findings in a more emotional and sticky way.
Chip and Dan Heath, the authors of “Made to Stick” summarize the idea in this memorable quote: “Data are just summaries of thousands of stories – tell a few of those stories to help make the data meaningful.” Go and rewind back, find a story to illustrate each insight.
Imagine that you have to show “200% increase in social traffic during Q1” in a slide. First, begin with the story telling “It all started when our colleague Laura posted a photo of our building completely covered by snow, and it went viral on Twitter.” Then move on and explain the data.
2. Do not copy and paste. Re-draw your graphs yourself
If your charts and tables look awesome in MS Excel, they will probably look bad in your presentation slides if you just copy and paste them. OK. The obvious solution would be using default charts’ templates by PowerPoint or Keynote, right?
Not so fast. After hearing a number of presentation design experts, I still haven’t heard anybody who recommends using the default charts that PowerPoint or Keynote provide as the best option. Maybe for a school assignment they are OK, but not for serious business. Just forget about them.
The best solution is to re-draw your graphs yourself. This will be really beneficial for you. As re-drawing can be an intensely manual work, this will force you think twice before making an exact copy and you will rather draw a simplified version. The resulting simplified graph will make your presentation a thousand times more effective. You can draw simple graphs with the tool of your choice, either online [some suggestions here] or offline (such as PowerPoint itself).
In cases where you really need to copy and paste a specific graph from MS Excel to PowerPoint, Lea Pica’s best practices will be of help.
3. Simplify the message, both words and numbers.
This also applies to creating a great dashboard: you can’t just fill it with numbers and numbers. You have to use words. Some data analysts recommend that a dashboard should contain 50% words. However as we well know, it is easy to go from one extreme to another and fill a presentation slide with words. Let’s aim for the perfect balance.
One of the most valuable techniques is the “McKinsey title” which consists in writing the insight as the title of your chart. For example, instead of “Referral Traffic” write on your slide’s title “Twitter was the best referral channel in June.”
Your ability to communicate the results and recommendations of your hard work analyzing data will make a big difference in how you are valued. You can really inspire action. That’s why it’s well worth learning the skills of presenting data like a star!
About the Author
Oscar Santolalla Host and Producer of the public speaking podcast Time to Shine. Oscar has spent more than three years as a Product Manager in the software industry. Either onstage or on blogs he advocates making technical presentations and product demos that engage and inspire. He is currently writing the book Create and Deliver a Killer Product Demo