Proper Presentation

What good is data to prove a point if your audience can’t make sense of it? The obvious answer is: not much. The answer is so obvious that we often spend an inordinate amount of time trying to present our data in the most graphically attention-getting way figuring this will get our point across! Lots of colors, annotations, call-outs, 3D bars and pies. I freely admit to agonizing over just the proper angle of my 3D pie chart and just the right size of my vertical 3D bars.

Until now. Having read “Storytelling with data” by Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, I now know that I was probably doing more to confuse my audience than enlighten them. Probably the single most striking advice she gives is: NO 3D. She is adamant about it. Why? Because to render a 3D graph, programs like Excel must make certain sacrifices in accurate placement of the bars and scales on the X and Y axes, which show misleading results.

I always thought one of my great failings when creating presentations about data was that I was not a very good graphic designer (like, not a graphic designer at all). Suddenly I find I don’t need to be, in fact the temptation to make a graph super stylized tends to decrease the effectiveness of what you are presenting.

If you are frequently making presentations that include graphs (or worse, you are just dumping out tabular data) I urge you to check out this book. The author’s sense of simplifying the presentation to make the most impact is dead-on.

The belief that we must present data in almost an artistic manner because it just “feels” that is the correct way is shattered by the reality of how this can actually mislead or even confuse the very people we are trying to convince. Nice to know my lack of artistic sense can be overcome with just a little common sense and the most basic functions of presentation software. Data doesn’t lie, but it sure can be made extremely confusing. Let’s make sure our point gets across simply and effectively.

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