Data is becoming more relevant in virtually every field as a way to better understand consumers and make choices that will enable innovation, enhance efficiency, and improve stakeholder satisfaction. Data-driven decisions provide organizations with a solid foundation for decision making, allowing them to make more accurate, informed, and strategic choices that align with organizational goals and objectives. That said, this data is only useful if you have strong data analysis and can communicate those findings to your relevant stakeholders. Learning how to present data effectively is a significant part of a data analyst's role.
A data analyst’s job is two-fold; the way you read and understand data is often more complex and technical than how you’ll want to explain to non-data analysts. In this sense, your role is not only data analysis, but synthesizing the data in a way in which the average non-data analyst can understand and make use of it. Learning soft skills to help you better communicate findings with clients or co-workers is a crucial part of the job. We’re here to offer a few presentation tips for data professionals that will help you be more successful and make greater use of your findings.
Why good presentation matters
There are a lot of great ideas out there, that said, backing them up with data is what transforms a feeling into a strong proposal. However, data is only important if it can be communicated and utilized by folks who may not have technical data analysis skills. The presentation is crucial whether you’re pitching new business clients, explaining findings to current customers, or making a case for a new business strategy or product. Backing up that pitch with credible data in a way that non-data analysts can understand is one of the most important skills for tech professionals today.
A well-tailored presentation of your data is necessary in communicating your findings to clients, co-workers or potential investors. No matter how great your technical skills are, if you can’t present those conclusions to the necessary audience, then your hard work may go to waste. The presentation is important in showcasing that you’re confident in your findings and feel proud of the work you’ve done. Luckily we have a number of tips for you as you prepare for the presentation.
Tip 1: Know your audience
Instead of focusing on presenting your findings, data analysts need to focus on presenting to their audience. In preparing the presentation, it’s easy to fall into preparing a PowerPoint that includes every last detail and aspect that you found important during the analysis process. However, your audience needs to be the central part of your presentation preparation. Thinking through who they are and what they need to know from your findings will help you frame your presentation.
This doesn’t mean your data shouldn’t be included, but it needs to be included in a way that’s digestible and gives credibility to an argument or conversation that your audience is more familiar with. If not, even the best of presentations may fall flat if the audience can’t follow the analyst’s form of communicating their findings.
Before making your presentation, ask yourself:
Who will attend this presentation?
What is their level of technical expertise in data analysis?
How familiar are they with the subject matter?
What are their specific needs, interests, and expectations?
What is the mental state of the audience? Will they be exhausted after a whole day of meetings or a long conference?
Is the setting formal or casual?
From there, you’ll have a clearer idea of what needs to be communicated and how your data can be utilized to enhance your presentation. Keeping in mind folks’ expertise, what you want their take-aways from the presentation to be, and what the setting will be like will guide you in creating a stronger presentation.
Tip 2: Use visuals
We’ve heard it a thousand times, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Everyone has sat through a lecture where the presentation is text heavy, confusing, and fails to communicate something that a graph or pie chart could have clarified in a second. Once you know your audience, figuring out how to present to them becomes the challenge. Visuals are often extremely helpful in communicating findings and making a compelling case to back up your argument.
Keeping in mind your audience, make sure that those visuals are clear and that they are data representation tools that your audience is familiar with. Use bar graphs to represent trends and compare them in different years, or pie graphs to break down demographic differences, or flow charts to visually connect various parts of a process. Your presentation will be more visually pleasing and communicate effectively to your audience if the information is presented using easy-to-understand images.
In looking over your presentation, ask yourself:
Is the data properly labeled and annotated in the visuals?
Are there clear titles, axis labels, legends, and units of measurement?
Are colors utilized in a way that makes clearer my findings (as opposed to potentially overwhelming my audience)?
Are the slides uncluttered and the data presented in a clean way?
Are all the visuals presented with a goal of communicating a specific finding to my audience?
Asking yourself these questions will help ensure that your data is presented in a clear, concise way that your audience can easily digest. It will make your presentation stronger and help your audience walk away with a clear understanding of your data driven proposal.
Tip 3: Keep it simple
We know that we can easily get excited in preparing a presentation. And we should. If we’re proud of our work and feel like a lot of the content is important, of course we want the world to see it. That said, if we overwhelm our audience, all our work may go to waste. Keeping our presentation simple is key in effectively communicating our findings. Here are a few reminders for creating a clear and concise presentation; when it comes to visuals:
Avoid cluttering your visuals or using too many images
Avoid excessive information
Use colors strategically to highlight different information
Stick to a consistent color scheme and text styles for the presentation
When it comes to written content:
Keep written text brief
Use language that’s inclusive, easy-to-understand, and relevant to your audience
Bold or highlight specific key words or findings to emphasize their importance
Keeping your presentation clear and simple will ensure that your audience can follow your argument and walk away having understood your key points. There’s no need to make it complicated.
Tip 4: Drive it home by relating it to the bigger picture
A crucial part of your presentation is convincing your audience why they should care. Using real world examples will help your audience relate to the material and connect to why your presentation is paramount. Use real world case studies or examples that your audience can relate to, sympathize with, and understand the importance of your work. It’ll make your presentation more engaging and connect them to the data on a practical level. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
If you’re presenting to a company, look into their company goals, values and mission. How will what you’re presenting help benefit their specific organization?
If you’re presenting to your co-workers, how does your work connect to their work? It might even be worth chatting with them before so that you know how to best connect those dots.
If you’re presenting to a large group, keep up-to-date with industry ongoings, current events, and greater topics of conversation that your work can relate to. Weave those examples into your presentation so that there’s no doubt that your work is relevant.
You’re helping the audience connect the dots between your work and their work or their lives. Many people need to find a way to connect to someone’s presentation before they’re fully engaged. Relating your work to contexts that they understand may be the best way to bring folks in and convince them of your proposal.
With strong data analysis, organizations can gain a competitive edge, drive innovation, and achieve better outcomes. Yet, that may only be achieved if that data is presented in a way that’s understandable and relevant to those who will utilize it in making data-driven decisions. That said, the role of a data analyst is also presenting their findings effectively and making data-backed proposals to folks who may not have a technical data analyst background. Preparing a strong presentation is crucial in making greater use of your findings.
Interested in learning more? Practice these skills at Ironhack’s Data Analytics Bootcamp.