No matter what field you are in, giving a presentation is part and parcel of the job. You may have data to share with your team, your managers, or with stakeholders, and presentations are the best way to do it.
But presentations can be tricky beasts—everyone has had experiences sitting through long and dull presentations with too many slides and so much information that none of it can be absorbed.
For data analysts, making a great data-driven presentation is an even bigger challenge. A great presentation needs to not only summarize data, but also to contextualize it without boring the audience.
A presentation is, in essence, a subtle negotiation technique that gives as much as it takes.
Your mission with your presentation is to educate and entertain your audience so that they retain all the information you are presenting them.
So, how do you share your data with your audience in a succinct but cohesive manner, all while keeping them engaged?
By summarizing your data and presenting it to them in a way that boosts retention. Here are the top tips for summarizing data in your presentations.
1. Use Charts and Graphs
When you create your slides using a presentation maker, your focus should be on presenting your data in a way that is easy to recognize and understand.
The best way to do this is by using a combination of charts and graphs in your presentation. Although used interchangeably, charts and graphs have distinct purposes in the data visualization arena.
Graphs are generally used to plot data, showing the relationships between differing data sets.
Charts encompass graphs, diagrams, and tables. Charts have the ability to share large amounts of data in a visually appealing and abbreviated way—you only need to give the data a small amount of context for an audience to understand it.
Common types of charts include:
- Line graphs
- Bar graphs
- Pie charts
When creating charts for your presentation, remember to keep it simple. An overly complex chart may be able to share more data, but it will also be difficult to process for the audience.
As a result, you will have to spend a great deal of time explaining the chart itself, which will slow down the flow of your presentation.
Additionally, a complex chart will not be able to convey the requisite information on its own.
In the digital age, people generally send their presentations to the audience as a reminder. If your charts are too complex, your audience will not be able to recall what the point of the charts you have included are because you aren’t there to explain it.
2. Define Your Core Data Message
Having a retinue of charts and graphs to use in your presentation doesn’t mean that you use all of them—’less is more’ is a motto all presentations need to follow.
When you are creating your data-driven presentation, decide what your core message is supposed to be, and leave out everything else. That data can be used in another presentation.
Think of your presentation as a story—there are several characters, but not all of their plots advance the primary narrative. If they aren’t contributing to the story, remove them.
It can be difficult to be so ruthless with your data, but your goal is to avoid overwhelming your audience.
Decide what is the key point of your presentation’s story is—whether it’s about the increasing number of data breaches around the world or the changing intensity of hurricanes—and use only the necessary data that explains that story.
3. Pair Data with Text
If there is one thing data analysts know, it is that nobody quite understands data the way they do. While data points may look like poetry to an analyst, to an outsider, they will make little sense.
If you want your data to come across succinctly to your audience, simply presenting it in charts and graphs will not be enough. You need to give the data context.
Alongside your data points, add a short line or summary about what the data is and why it is valuable to the audience and your story.
For more effective communication, share an example or two that further emphasizes the data point and makes it relatable to the audience.
If you have quotes from industry experts, professionals, or someone directly involved in managing or mining the data, use those to give your data more authority.
But don’t give too much context or your data will become lost in the wall of text.
If you have used the right charts and graphs -that are simple but effective—you shouldn’t have to write too much text. The important data will be easy to understand without paragraphs explaining it.
4. One Slide = One Major Data Point
To organize your presentation, keep one simple formula in mind—one slide should contain only one major data point.
If you cram multiple data points onto one slide, you will lose the flow of your presentation and could even overwhelm your audience.
Similar to the point about distilling your data into one core message for your presentation, you should have one core data point for each slide.
If you have a group of seven statistics, divide them into seven slides with a short amount of text accompanying each.
This will make it easier for your audience to read and absorb information, and will also boost retention.
If there are too many data points on a slide, they won’t know which is more important, and why, and will likely confuse the two.
Following this plan will mean that your presentation will become longer, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
A longer presentation can still feel much shorter because it looks clear, concise, and easy to follow. As opposed to a short, cramped presentation that has the audience scrambling to remember what they have just read and heard.
5. Use Graphics and Visuals
We have mentioned the importance of using charts and graphs that aren’t overly complex.
But there is another level to your data presentation that will keep your audience engaged even more—using graphics and visuals to share your data.
There are numerous kinds of visuals you can use to showcase your data charts and graphs. These include:
- Data Flow Diagrams
- Stock Photos
A good visual can make your data pop and be more memorable for the audience. The addition of color or an illustration when introducing a new piece of information will break the monotony.
The visuals you choose don’t have to be literal—they can be thematic or tangentially relevant to your data. If your icons are too obvious, they may end up looking comical, instead of whimsical.
With the right visuals, you can make you presentation memorable for your audience so they remember your data well after the end of your talk.
It’s great to be passionate about your data, but data analysts can get too involved in their data, often forgetting that an audience unfamiliar with their numbers is trying to decipher it.
Use charts and graphs in your presentation as they will be more succinct in sharing information than blocks of text.
Instead of trying to share multiple data groups in one presentation, choose one core data message and tell its story.
Don’t leave the data to be interpreted on its own—use text to accompany, not overwhelm your data.
Be concise in your presentation—use one slide for one data point. Don’t add too many points in one slide, even if it means your presentation will become longer.
Finally, the judicious use of graphics and visuals will make your presentation more appealing and memorable.
With these tips, you can make a presentation that will not only engage your audience but will have them invested in your data story.