The keys to communicating data.

So, you have all this data that you have painstakingly mined for and collected. It’s good stuff, really. Now it’s time to interpret that data and share it with your teams.  

Sounds easy. 

Except it isn’t always.  

Best case scenario, you are sharing that data with individuals who understand the data, the lingo, the context, the numbers. Most often that’s not the case. More often than not, you are presenting that information to people who need help interpreting it. Let’s help you do that.  

Ok, but why? 

While it might be self-explanatory, it’s important to understand why data needs to be communicated effectively. 

Primarily, the audience needs to understand the data to be able to process it.  

For example, you can explain ROI metrics and numbers to a marketing client until you’ve gotten to google, but unless they know why that information matters to them, the offering is pointless.  

Data interpretation skills can vary from person to person. Imagine presenting to a mixed team of twenty people. You may have a few junior associates mixed in with executive leaders. It’s important to be able to convey your messaging in a way that everyone understands.  

Think about a time where someone gave you instructions on how to do something and you were completely lost. Maybe it was a recipe that called for methods you’d never heard of, or the person kept speaking in acronyms you didn’t understand. By the time they were done explaining, you probably felt confused, frustrated, and in need of clarification.  

The same goes for people receiving data who don’t have the literacy to understand it.  

Ask questions. 

Euripides once said “Question everything. Learn something. Answer nothing.” While I’m not here to unpack tragic Athenien playwrites, I think he was on to something.  

Asking questions is an imperative step in presenting data. 

Who is my targeted audience? 

Why is this information important to the audience? 

What follow-up information will they need? 

What questions will arise? 

What if they don’t understand? 

Before presenting data to anyone, you should have a basic understanding of the answer to each of these questions. This will allow you to tailor your presentation and ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. 

Make it approachable. 

The data is the most important part. It’s the point of this entire article. But the data is nothing without being understood, and the best way to do that is to understand your audience.  

Are you pitching to colleagues or superiors? Clients or prospects?  

First, consider what they already know. If they work in your industry, using industry lingo is appropriate and to be expected. If they don’t, using industry terms could be confusing. If you are unsure, it’s completely fine to gauge the audience’s knowledge by using terms, asking questions, and confirming they understand.  

Another way to make it approachable is to supply context. Begin with background information by describing the relevancy of the information, then provide the data. Finally, tie that data back to the original point. Let’s call it a data sandwich! 

Use visual aids. 

Sometimes seeing is believing.  

According to Inc.com 65% of the population are visual learners which means the use of visual aids like charts, infographics, and photographs are the best way to convey information to the general public.  

You can spout of numbers but visual aids like the ones below help people (literally) see the info.  

The use of bright colors, different fonts, photos, and lines are a wonderful way to convey messaging in a way a broader audience will understand. This also allows people to learn in the way they do best.  

Speed is key, too. Information is processed in the brain 60,000x faster than text alone. I mean, you probably saw the visual above and skipped all this text because I’m just typing what it says – but that’s the point! A visual aid is the best way to communicate data. 

The takeaway.  

The data is only as good as how it’s presented. With a little help from visual aids, questions, and approachability, you can be sure that your audience will be picking up what you are putting down.  

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