Data is increasingly valuable for organizations, and increasingly easy to gather. With the right tools, you can gather terabytes, if not petabytes of data on your target customers, top competitors, and other variables that could impact your business. When gathered and analyzed properly, these data can help you make better decisions and better understand your audiences.
However, showcasing data for non-experts can be a challenge; if you’re not familiar with analytics principles, or if you’re not used to reviewing data, it can be difficult to draw the right conclusions, or even appreciate the significance of the findings. Thankfully, with the right tools and strategies, you can display your data in a more intuitive, layman-friendly way.
Using Graphs and Charts
Your best bet is displaying data in some visual way, possibly with the help of digital signage software. Digital signage software can help you take complex numbers and arrange them in such a way that makes them much more intuitive, presenting them for an audience on a TV or similar digital screen.
The human mind is better able to analyze the abstract information in a visual than it is to crunch actual numerical information; graphs and charts help people do this. As a simple example, comparing the breakdown of percentages in pure numerical form can be difficult to understand; you’ll know which numbers are bigger than the others, but may struggle to interpret those data in a way that helps you better comprehend the study sample. If you present those percentages in a pie chart, you’ll be able to visually compare the sizes of each slice.
Obviously, data visuals aren’t perfect; visuals can sometimes obscure important pieces of data, like outliers, and may lead you to misleading conclusions, especially if they aren’t rendered properly. But for the most part, they’re incredibly useful for communicating otherwise opaque and complicated data-related subjects.
Understanding Your Audience
Another important skill is understanding—and speaking to—your specific audience, rather than a general one. You’ll need to adjust your vocabulary, your tone, and even the materials you’re using to present to appeal to the types of people in your audience.
For example, a college graduate with a background in data science is going to need a much different presentation than a high school dropout who has difficulty checking their email.
Customizing the Variables
Data can be better understood when you produce different version of the same visuals, tweaking different variables to showcase different effects. For example, you might look at the performance of a given variable over the course of a day, a month, and a year, or for two or three different one-year periods. There will likely be dozens of different variables to experiment with in your data set, so think carefully about which variables will have the biggest impact—and which ones will tell the most accurate story.
If you’re communicating data to a remote audience, like a client in another state or a thousand individual investors, the best way to communicate is with the help of a physical report. Constructing the report is vital if you want to display your data and ensure it’s interpreted accurately. As usual, data visuals are a big help here, but it’s also important to provide additional context; write a short paragraph or two explaining why each data point matters.
Some analysts make the mistake of cramming as much information into a report as possible, believing that more is always better. However, this may not be the case; it may be better to provide fewer, more significant data points. Always remember the bottom-line conclusions that you want your audience to draw. There’s rarely a need to provide data with no relevance.
Additionally, you’ll need to keep things consistent. Your reports will be much more effective if they have the same structure, and the same data, updated for each new time period.
Utilizing Analogies and Storytelling
It’s also useful to incorporate analogies and storytelling to make use of complex data sets. Storytelling is an effective way to make all your information more relatable, with the help of a narrative structure and real-life examples. Storytelling and analogies can weaken the accuracy of audience data interpretations, however, so tread carefully.
Emphasizing the Bottom Line
Finally, keep all your presentations and interpretations focused on the bottom line. What are the conclusions that your audience should make from these data? Keep in mind that different audiences may require different interpretations.
There will always be more ways to optimize the presentation of your data, so keep looking for new opportunities to reach your audience. After your presentations and conversations, ask for feedback from the people seeing your data for the first time; which parts did they clearly understand? Were there any parts that confused them? Take these findings into consideration when preparing materials for future meetings.