Two Tips For Data-Heavy Business Presentations

If you listen close enough, data will talk to you.

Yet, many data-heavy presentations deliver lots of information but little insight. The audience is inundated with many numbers and charts but the insight or “so what” is often missing.

Here are two tips to make your next data-heavy presentation shine.

Tip #1: Guide the eye to make your Point!

Below is a typical cost-drivers chart we see in data-heavy business presentations. It is a clearly laid out line-graph. But what should the audience focus on? There are many data-points between 2000 and 2003. What should the eye focus on? Is it the trough in 2001? Or the decline from 2000-2001? Or the increase from 2001 to 2003?

Contrast the above “Cost Drivers” chart with the one below. In the below chart it is clear that the presenter wants the audience to focus on the fact that in 2002-2003 the cost of “40” was hit.

Tip #2: Don’t mislead the Audience.

Data-heavy business presentations can be powerfully. Unfortunately, presenters are tempted to present the data in a form that makes it harder for the audience to understand the true meaning.

Let’s take a look at the chart below.

To the untrained eye or someone in a hurry, the chart on the left looks like a smooth increase to the top-right from 2004 to 2014. However, a closer look shows that it is a cumulative chart. Plotting the data as annual instead of cumulative revenue presents the true and dismal picture of revenue decline.

We have all heard the jab at data-charts, “Don’t let the data get in the way of a good story”. Let’s not mislead with data and give credence to this narrative.

 

 

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