“Graphs are a lot like jokes. If you have to explain a joke, it doesn’t work”
-Brian Edwards (Participant in recent 2Connect program)
Brian, a recent participant, was praised by his leader for being one of the best presenters on their scientific team. Here are 3 simple steps to ensure you are getting similar praise for your next presentation’s graphs.
3 steps to follow when sharing data:
1. What is the bottom line?
If you think the audience has time to analyze the data you present…well…you are wrong. They need you to analyze that data and share a conclusion. You should be able to complete this sentence for any data set you share – “The take away from this is…”. Think about putting this as the title of your slide.
2. What type of visual best conveys what I want the audience to walk away with?
Now that you know what your bottom line is, what helps you tell that story?
- Line Graph: Great for when there is a trend you would like to show over time
- Bar Chart: When the point is to compare quantities in a category or group
- Pie Chart: Only appropriate when dealing with percentage or proportional data
- Tables: When you have multiple dimensions, precise numbers are important, and when your audience will have time to review the table prior to the presentation
3. How can you simplify so that the audience can take in the visual in 5 seconds or less?
2 tips that can get you there quickly:
- Streamline your axes. Chances are you can use fewer lines and labels.
- Use color to purposefully draw attention to what is important and move supporting data to the background.