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Three Stages for Mastering the Art of Data Storytelling To A Live Audience

June 20, 2023

In today's data-driven world, the ability to communicate and present the results of analytics and data science projects is crucial for success. While educational institutions and corporate training programs emphasize the technical aspects of generating insights, they often overlook the equally important skill of effectively presenting that information to others. This is where the book Winning The Room by one of the authors of this blog, Bill Franks, comes in. It sheds light on the common mistakes made by professionals when delivering data-driven presentations to live audiences, as well as the best practices that should be followed.

Unlike discussing technical details with peers or creating written reports, presenting to a largely non-technical audience requires a different approach. It is essential to enable your audience to understand the findings, grasp the implications, and take action based on the insights. Developing a presentation that tells a compelling story while avoiding pitfalls that undermine your credibility demands purposefulness and diligence. In this blog, we will provide an overview of the three essential steps –  planning, developing, and delivering – that underpin a successful data-driven presentation.

Planning: Reviewing Strategic Fundamentals and Designing the Presentation

Planning the presentation involves two pivotal aspects. Firstly, it entails reviewing the strategic fundamentals that serve as the bedrock of any successful data-driven presentation, regardless of the audience or topic. This involves understanding and incorporating the core principles that govern effective presentations, ensuring a strong foundational approach and strategy. It is important to recognize that excelling in the later stages of the presentation process cannot compensate for a weak initial strategy.

The planning phase also involves designing the presentation itself. Prior to creating slides, it is essential to invest time in crafting the structure and content of the presentation. This includes determining the narrative you wish to convey, the sequence in which information will be introduced, the level of detail to be covered, the key takeaways you want the audience to retain, and the desired actions you want them to take. Moviemakers meticulously plan the story and individual scenes before filming begins. You must follow a similar approach to ensure the effectiveness of your data-driven presentation. By adopting this model, you can create a well-structured and impactful presentation that effectively communicates your message to the audience.

Developing: Wording, Numbers, Charts, and Images

When it comes to wording and text, the way you present information on your slides is crucial for audience comprehension. While incorporating figures and charts is essential, it is equally important to convey your points clearly and concisely, using language and phrasing that can be understood by a broad audience, including those who may not be technically inclined.

Numbers play a central role in any data-driven presentation. It is essential to make these numbers accessible and easily comprehensible to your audience. Your objective should be to communicate the broader trends, patterns, and outcomes revealed by your work while showing the fewest numbers possible.

Lastly, the charts, images, and layouts you choose to incorporate into your presentation significantly impact how your audience perceives the content. Paying attention to the visual elements and organization of your slides can greatly enhance the overall effectiveness of your presentation. By investing a little extra effort into creating visually appealing charts and graphs, you can ensure that your presentation not only looks great but also successfully conveys your core messages to the audience.

Delivering: Making Final Preparations and Giving the Presentation

In the final preparation stage, it is important to practice what you will say, anticipate potential questions, and ensure the smooth flow of your spoken words. This last chance for preparation allows you to validate that your messaging aligns with your objectives and effectively emphasizes your key points. Fine-tuning areas that can improve the presentation and refining your language for clarity and conciseness are also essential during this phase.

When the day of the presentation arrives and you step to the front of the room, there are still important aspects of your delivery that you must focus on while presenting. These include where you focus your attention, how you move, and how you handle audience questions. Compelling delivery is vital, as it allows you to establish trust and confidence with the audience. By winning their trust, you can motivate them to embrace your conclusions and act upon your recommendations. Ultimately, this engagement and influence will enable the resounding success of your efforts!

Content derived from the book Winning The Room (John Wiley & Sons, 2022)

This post was developed with input from Bill Franks, internationally recognized thought leader, speaker, and author focused on data science & analytics.