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Art of Presenting Data Effectively

Think for a moment, if someone handed you a sheet with raw data printed on it, how long would it be before you doze off because it was too much to absorb? This is where Data Visualization and Data Story Telling come across. Naturally, the human mind is designed in a way that it grasps graphic content better when compared to raw text. Studies have shown that “Human brains process visuals 60,000 times faster than they do text.”


I am working as a Data Analyst for the past few months, and it has been a wonderful experience analyzing data. My daily routine was spending half my time on Tableau and Excel to make sense of the data. This experience has really made me realize the importance of telling stories to employees using data.


These days you have a variety of tools and methods to build stunning reports or charts, from Excel to modern data visualization software like Tableau, and PowerBI. Be it numerical or textual qualitative big data, your presentation must be clear, easy to understand as well as beautiful, evidential, and persuasive.




In this blog, I am going to share….

  • Clever Tips on How to present data effectively.

  • Effective data presentation examples.


Clever Tips on How to present data effectively.

How you present data can double its impact, so take note of these few ways to ensure that your data is doing its job.


1. Choose the right visuals for the data

Whenever you decide to create some data visualization, use these best practices to make it more straightforward and effective.

  • When doing a comparison among items: column chart, bar chart, bullet chart, radar chart, clustered column/bar chart, bar in a bar chart, etc.

  • When doing comparison overtime: Line chart, multi-line chart, area chart, step chart, bump chart, etc.

  • Composition (part to whole analysis): Pie, donut, waterfall, funnel, stacked bar/column, treemap, stacked area chart, etc.

  • Correlation (relationship between variables): Scatter plot, bubble chart, etc.

  • Distribution of data: Histogram, box and whisker plot, scatter plot.

  • Location analysis: Heat map, bubble map, filled map, etc.

  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): bullet chart, dial, thermometer, big number chart, gauge, etc.

2. Carefully choose the colors

  • Consistency: As a general rule, you should always pick the same color to represent the same thing; be consistent with your color selection and what it represents in your visualizations. Humans naturally perceive color as a pattern, so when they are presented with color across multiple charts, they will assume it is a representation of the same object or entity.

  • Don’t use too much color: It’s also important to not go overboard with your color selections; too many will simply be overwhelming. As a rule of thumb, the Data Visualization Society recommends limiting your palette size to 10 or fewer colors. Once you go beyond this threshold, your audience will tend to have trouble distinguishing between groups in your visualization.

  • Choose a cohesive color scheme: It’s also important to note that you don’t use two light shades for both the background and text of your slide. To make your text stand out, you need to use contrasting colors. For example, you can make the background black and your text a bright shade of green to make it stand out, or vice versa. Just be sure that your text is easily readable.

  • I personally experience, one of the strongest visualization effects comes with the use of grey plus some kind of action color evergreen tells me.


3. Don’t leave a lot of room for words


The key point in graphical data presentation is to tell the story using visuals and images, not words. Give your audience visual facts, not text. However, that doesn’t mean words have no importance.

As we don’t have a lot of room for wording, the little bits that we put into our data have to be really awesome.


4. Focus most on the points your data illustrates


Data slides or dashboards aren’t really about the data, but they are about the meaning of the data. It’s up to you to make that meaning clear before you click away. Otherwise, the audience won’t process.


When you connect data to the essential points it supports, the transition should be explicit and sound like this:

“This data shows…”

“This chart illustrates…”

“These numbers prove…”

These transitions can be as important as the conclusions themselves because you’re drawing the audience’s attention to those conclusions.


5. Label chart components clearly


While you have been working with the same chart for days or weeks, your audience will be exposed to it for seconds only. Give them the best chance of comprehending your data by using simple, clear, and complete language to identify X and Y axes, pie pieces, bars, and other diagrammatic elements. Try to avoid abbreviations that aren’t obvious, and don’t assume labeled components on one slide will be remembered on subsequent slides.


Some members of your audience are visual learners just like me. who process what they see much better than what they hear, so your chart’s visual clarity is crucial.


6. Formatting: First impressions matter


An audience will decide within the first few seconds whether or not they want to listen to what you’ve got to say. You might be the best at what you do, but if your body language and tone of voice don’t support your key message, you’re at risk of being dismissed. Formatting fits into this same category. Formatting and consistency of your presentation is an important support to your overall key message.


Formatting is equally important for slide presentations or any dashboard/story presentation. It shows care when presentations have good formatting. Even when you really do care about what you are talking about, poor formatting can give the opposite impression to your audience. Don’t let blurry images, the wrong brand colors, or misaligned text boxes undermine your key messages, etc. Pay close attention to the details to ensure every part of your presentation supports your overall message.


Effective data presentation examples


1. Team’s performances with a bar chart:




The above graph shows the Top 5 Teams’ performances with their scores in different categories that help to understand which team is leading or losing for a particular category compared to other teams. Now it’s time to show the final score for all top 5 teams and below is the graph for that.



These are one of the best examples of choosing a contrasting background gives a tremendous effect on visualization.


2. Sub-Category wise Sales with Funnel Chart:



Here I have chosen a Funnel chart to show the Sub-Category wise Average sales. This is a very simple chart but an idea to show is formatting. If you notice, I have removed all background grid lines for rows and columns, given the border to the bar, showing the sheet title in bold letters, and the filter on the right corner shows all color codes for all sub-categories. These all techniques make your visualization clear to understand.


3. BUN (blood urea nitrogen) analysis for sepsis Patients with Bubble Chart:



Here, I want to show how sepsis patients are affected by BUN ranges. The analysis I found is, the normal BUN range is 6–24 mg/dl and low levels of BUN can be a sign of malnutrition, lack of protein in the diet, and liver disease. Anything more than 60mg/dl, the BUN value is very high, this can be related to kidney problems. But elevated BUN can also be due to Dehydration, Heart failure, a high protein diet, and even with sepsis. BUN needs to be monitored every 2–4 hrs. till the patient is stable.


The filter on the side shows the BUN range with colors.


4. Pareto Chart:



I have used the Pareto chart to show my analysis for sub-category-wise profit. This chart can now be used for insights such as the business’ three most profitable product Sub-Categories are causing about 50% of the total profit. Pareto Charts are an effective way to quickly highlight opportunities for improvement and provide a scale for how urgently a quality control problem should be treated.


5. Interactive Dashboard with action filter:



The dashboard is the one where we put all our required sheets together on one screen and give them a nice format to make it more effective. There is one more thing you can use here is, the action filter with parameters which helps to send information between sheets.


The above dashboard is my most appreciated visualization from one of the hackathon that I have organized. In that, I have all teams’ evaluations in detail with respect to all criteria. All you need to change is team numbers one by one to display their whole evaluation on one screen.




Conclusion


The above data presentation examples aim to help you learn how to present data effectively and professionally. You surely have got the idea that graphical visualizations must be interesting, clear, and easy to digest.


Presenting data is not an easy task. But it is absolutely possible. What it takes is passion. Don’t think that you have a whole bunch of numbers and charts to show. Instead, present the information with passion, understanding, and dedication.


All the very best for your next presentation.


Thank you.

Appreciate your likes and comments.

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