Effective Data Presentation Techniques to Guide Data Strategy

Monday, February 24, 2020

Man with microphone stands on stage in front of line and bar graphs.

Effective communication can impact every facet of a business. It can shape the relationships inside and outside of a company, foster innovation, help prevent conflicts, and increase productivity. It also can play a vital role in a business environment increasingly reliant on data analytics. Organizations can use an array of data, everything from sales to customer demographics to market analysis, to plan their strategy; but to do so, they need key communicators who know how to translate otherwise inscrutable information into meaningful insights that can help guide better decision-making.

All too often, the individuals making critical business decisions don’t know how to interpret or use the data in front of them. As our world becomes increasingly more digital, and as we collect more and more data, data analysts will become only more important in businesses, nonprofits, education and government. These professionals will need to be experts in using many effective data presentation strategies to help bridge the gap in understanding, clearing away confusion and transforming data into language that makes sense to those without technical expertise. Even more importantly, this will help organizations make smarter decisions based on real data rather than on assumptions.

To demystify the data they work with, data analysts need the right training. Master of Science in Business Analytics programs prepare professionals to leverage multiple analytics tools and effectively use data presentation techniques that make data more accessible and meaningful. Additionally, they sharpen professionals’ skills in analytics programming, data mining and interactive data visualization so they are prepared to turn big data into actionable intelligence for organizations

Tools

Charts, graphs, handouts and other tools can facilitate data presentation. When choosing which one to use, data analysts need to consider a few important details. To start, they must clarify the message they want to send. Next, they need to organize their data and discard extraneous information that does not make their point. Then, they must determine which tools can best communicate their points. For instance, a pie chart may allow an audience to clearly see the distribution of data sets; however, if a presenter wants the audience to easily compare the data sets, a bar chart may be a better tool.

Anytime data analysts present their findings to their colleagues, they may find that the number-heavy nature of their work falls on deaf — or confused — ears. One method to avoid confusion and improve focus is the strategic use of color. Data analysts can use graphics with specific color choices that draw the eye to targeted information. Using gray and muted colors for all the data a presenter does not want emphasized allows the audience to focus more naturally on the most significant points. Providing an audience with handouts is also an easy way to ensure that everyone has the information to review or reference even after the presentation ends. Additionally, a sheet of paper with the data printed on it or an email with a presentation’s key points summarized and synthesized into a few graphics is equally effective.

Storytelling

Another effective data presentation technique is crafting a narrative around data. The challenge for data analysts is to find a relevant personal story within their data and use it to persuade or bring understanding to their audience. For example, instead of talking broadly about a brand or sales campaign’s demographic, they can create a hypothetical customer who meets all their demographic criteria and then tell their audience how their company can reach that persona.

Storytelling helps make data more memorable, increasing its relevance by allowing others to visualize an actual person or scenario they can respond to. In fact, Harvard Business Review found that storytelling during presentations results in better listener understanding and even greater recall of key points up to three weeks later. Advanced business analytics degree programs teach professionals methods to turn data into narratives that answer questions about what is happening in a business and why. These skills benefit anyone looking to move up the corporate ladder. Knowing how to communicate using data points to back up a story can help any department director or manager secure funding for their department, as well as help them sell ideas to top management.

Audience

Data analysts must show their co-workers how their data maps onto the company’s business strategies. This requires a clear understanding of the target customers. In addition, the way of conveying information needs to shift depending on the audience. C-level executives and marketing teams have different tasks to perform, so gearing data presentations to a specific focus will affect to what degree audience members connect the data’s relevance to their roles. Presenters also need to establish their expertise to gain the audience’s trust. Conducting additional research in the form of customer surveys or audience research on Google Analytics can go a long way toward gaining others’ trust and attention.

Effectively impacting an audience requires giving listeners useful takeaways pertinent to their duties and responsibilities. Presenters must consider how the data affects the work of the listeners and present it accordingly. For example, after displaying statistics about company sales, a presenter might offer specific insights about why and how the data may be important to different departments in the organization.

Explore the Benefits of Earning an MS in Business Analytics

Data analytics can prove invaluable in forming successful business strategies, but exploiting data analytics’ full potential requires effective communication through skillful data presentation. When organizations employ professionals, who can give meaning to data, they stand to gain important insights that can help give them an edge over the competition. 

The University of San Diego School of Business’ Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) equips professionals with the analytical and communication skills they need for success in not just the business world but also in non-profits, education and government. Through a comprehensive curriculum and real-world projects, students develop their technical skills as well as the presentation and other soft skills to stand out from the rest. Explore how USD’s Master of Science in Business Analytics prepares professionals to work with data fluidly and make its meaning clear to decision-makers.

Faculty/EA Questions

  1. USD School of Business has called its Master’s in Business Analytics program “experiential learning.” In what ways does the program prepare individuals for work in the business world after graduation?

USD’s MSBA program combines rigorous technical training in data analytics methods and soft skills such as communication and teamwork with multiple “real world” experiences where students complete projects for industry partners.  These projects allow students to apply the methods and tools they learn in their classes to address real problems faced by real companies and organizations.  The experiences include working with local non-profit and government organizations on a data for social good project, traveling abroad to complete an international consulting project with a company outside the US, and participating in a 3-month capstone project with a San Diego-based company.  This gives students a portfolio of project experiences that prepare them to hit the ground running once they join a company after graduation.

  1. What skills are most essential for a successful career in business analytics? How does the USD School of Business help professionals master these skills?

For a successful career in business analytics, students must develop solid data analytics skills, learn how to ask the right questions of the data, build excellent communication skills, and become effective at working in teams. USD’s MSBA program helps professionals master these skills with a curriculum that combines courses on data analytics using tools such as Python, Tableau, and SQL; application classes that use analytics to solve business problems in accounting, finance, marketing, operations and supply chain and to solve problems with broader societal implications faced by non-profit, government, and education sectors; courses developing communication and professional skills; and several team-based projects of varying scope and focus.

Professor Andrea Flynn is an associate professor of marketing in the USD School of Business and the academic director of the Master of Science in Business Analytics. In the MSBA, she teaches technical communication and is the professor who mentors students in their international consulting project.

 

Sources

Duarte, “How to Display Data the Right Way in Presentations”

Forbes, “5 Top Tips for Presenting Data More Effectively”

Forbes, “If You Want to Succeed With Analytics, Effective Communication Is a Must”

Harvard Business Review, “Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling”

Houston Chronicle, “Importance of Good Communication in Business

Marketing Land, “7 Ways to Get to Know Your Audience Better”

Medium, “Data Presentation Techniques That Make an Impact”

Contact:

Renata Ramirez
renataramirez@sandiego.edu
(619) 260-4658