Create meaning for your audience – be inspired by “The Beauty of Data Visualisation”

beauty_data

Images are becoming the new language of content communication.

As David McCandless says … “We are being blasted every day, all of us are being blasted by information design. It’s being poured into our eyes by the web and we’re all visualisers now, we’re all demanding a visual aspect to our information and there’s something magical about visual information.”

The fact that “a picture paints a thousand words” is now mainstream.

As speakers, we use them in our social media. We use them in our blogs. We use them in our presentations.

“By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful.” says David McCandless.

If you’ve watched this TED talk than you will know … if not, then watch right now, and know … that David McCandless inspires with his presentation style, and his amazing ways of designing infographics.

Be reminded of, and inspired by, the possibilities for you as a presenter, and renew your enthusiasm for creating graphics that will allow your audiences, the visitors to your websites and your social media peeps to understand that you have the power to create meaning for them.

[Quick public speaking tip] Data and story

hans_rossling_TEDI teach a lot about using stories. Stories are incredibly powerful speaking tools.

I coach clients to choose stories that support a point, that supplement data and that make data come alive.

But not always.

The image above is, of course, Hans Rossling presenting data. It comes from the Superflux blog And Hans has a wonderful ability to present data – but in this case to a TED audience who respond well to his particular style of data wrapping.

Sometimes an audience is different.

It expects the data, thinks in terms of data, has an inbuilt radar that rejects the stories behind it as irrelevant.

Sometimes, the data tells its own story. It builds engagement on its own because both presenter and audience know the story behind it. It is a language, a communication, all of its own.

For that audience, probably, stories will have their place, but the story placement will need to be very judiciously chosen, using criteria that are very different from those for an audience, say, that needs to have data wrapped up in story… or the visualisation that Hans Rossling has made his own!

Quick tip? … as always … know your audience… and for me as a coach – part of the coaching process it to remind clients to check in mentally with the culture in which they will be speaking.

Public Speaking quote – adding soul to your data

Maybe stories are just data with a soul.

~ Brené Brown

Are you using stories to make your data more attractive and effective?

Is your audience switching off when you present data? – Part Two

Presenting data is a very difficult challenge. The first step is engaging the audience with a strong emphasis on why it is important for them to understand what is being presented. Nevertheless they do need to be able to understand the data you present. While ensuring its relevance is understood is vital, so is it vital that your audience understand each and every piece of data that you present, or they will just as surely switch off, and your outcome is lost.  

Visuals are very useful here. Use pie graphs and bar charts; insert them into your slides if you are using slides. If you are using a whiteboard, draw as you tell the story or make the point. If you are using PREZi you can let the audience look at the data from different angles. The visual representation will reinforce your explanation and the point you are making.

If it is necessary to use graphs, diagrams and charts, make sure they are as simple as possible. While you probably want to impress with your understanding of complicated data, being able to simplify it will have far more of an impact, particularly in terms of getting your message across.

And make sure that everything about those visuals is clear. Sometimes it’s necessary to explain so that all the implications are clear as well. There may have been a very good reason for choosing the axes in the graph. There may have been a very good reason for choosing the increments that are used. While it may seem obvious to you, it may not be to the audience, and it may make the data relationships clearer.   
You can also add to the impact of the visuals. There may be a story behind the points on a graph. It is the intersection of two values and maybe the relationship is reasonably clear. But if you can give the reason why this relationship exists or maybe the history behind it, then it will be so much clearer.  And if you can put a human face on it, with a human story then the relationship and the point you are using it for will have so much more impact. If wages are going down and costs of living rising, for example,  then a story about a family forced to live in a car will make the impact so much more real. Another way to add a human face, or a realistic face, is to use a graphic representing the actual item being quantified. This can be particularly useful in a bar graph. If the bar consists of pictures of dollar coins to represent money, or of groups of people to represent populations or groups, for example, again the impact is multiplied.  

In the midst of all this, it is important to remember, still, that you are presenting points towards a persuasion of some kind. It can be useful to have the point you are making as the heading for the slide that contains the visuals.

And while the visuals should be as detailed as is necessary to make them understandable, too much detail will overwhelm. Remember the visuals only need to make a point, not necessarily present all the data. If all the data is necessary for later inspection and verification, put it in a handout, and leave the slides as simple as they can be.

Visuals are your greatest ally in presenting data. They can add impact and keep your audience engaged with the thread of your message. Your simplification and design of the material to support that message and the thoughtful explanation you add to it, will support the success of your data presentation.

©2012 Bronwyn Ritchie
Please feel free to reproduce this article, but please ensure it is accompanied by this resource box.

Bronwyn Ritchie has 30 years’ experience speaking to audiences and training in public speaking – from those too nervous to say their own name in front of an audience to community groups to corporate executives. To receive her fortnightly free tips, articles, quotations and resources, subscribe now, it’s free!. Visit http://www.pivotalpublicspeaking.com/ps_ezine.htm

Quick public speaking tip: Dates, figures and statistics

You can avoid losing your audience by being sparing with dates, figures and statistics.

These are all very powerful ways to support your points, but overuse them and they just become boring, and your audience will turn off.

If data is absolutely necessary, use your slides to create a visual rendition of it.

Tell stories about it.

Find some way to relate it to your audience – percentages of people like them, for example, or of their country.

Public speaking tip: Are you pushing out your audience by pushing in the dates, figures and statistics?

Dates, figures and statistics are all very powerful ways to support your points.

Overuse them, though, and they just become boring, and your audience will turn off.

If data is absolutely necessary, use your slides to create a visual rendition of it.

Tell stories about it.

Find some way to relate it to your audience – percentages of people like them, for example, or of their country.

Public Speaking tips – What use is information?

Yes you are an expert in your field. Yes you can present mountains of information. But it will not impress your audience, nor will it create an impact … unless you make it relevant. Make it relevant to your audience. How will it solve their problems? How will it make life better or more profitable? Choose the pieces of information that will be of most use to them. Each piece of data or fact should be couched in a point about its usefulness. Use stories and case studies to further make an impact.

How to Tell a Story with Numbers

Lizzie O’Leary, Bloomberg TV’s Washington correspondent, gives her tips on how to effectively tell a story using data.

Is your audience switching off when you present data? – Part Two

Presenting data is a very difficult challenge. The first step is engaging the audience with a strong emphasis on why it is important for them to understand what is being presented. Nevertheless they do need to understand the data you present. While ensuring its relevance is understood is vital, so is it vital that your audience understand each and every piece of data that you present, or they will just as surely switch off, and your outcome is lost.

Visuals are very useful here. Use pie graphs and bar charts; insert them into your slides if you are using slides. If you are using a whiteboard, draw as you tell the story or make the point. If you are using PREZi you can let the audience look at the data from different angles. The visual representation will reinforce your explanation and the point you are making.

If it is necessary to use graphs, diagrams and charts, make sure they are as simple as possible. While you probably want to impress with your understanding of complicated data, being able to simplify it will have far more of an impact, particularly in terms of getting your message across.

And make sure that everything about them is clear. Sometimes it’s necessary to explain so that all the implications are clear as well. There may have been a very good reason for choosing the axes in the graph. There may have been a very good reason for choosing the increments that are used. While it may seem obvious to you, it may not be to the audience, and it may make the data relationships clearer.

You can also add to the impact of the visuals. There may be a story behind the points on a graph. It is the intersection of two values and maybe the relationship is reasonably clear. But if you can give the reason why this relationship exists or maybe the history behind it, then it will be so much clearer. And if you can put a human face on it, with a human story then the relationship and the point you are using it for will have so much more impact. If wages are going down and costs of living rising, for example, then a story about a family forced to live in a car will make the impact so much more real. Another way to add a human face, or a realistic face, is to use a graphic representing the actual item being quantified. This can be particularly useful in a bar graph. If the bar consists of pictures of dollar coins to represent money, or of groups of people to represent populations or groups, for example, again the impact is multiplied.

In the midst of all this, it is important to remember, still, that you are presenting points towards a persuasion of some kind. It can be useful to have the point you are making as the heading for the slide that contains the visuals. And while the visuals should be as detailed as is necessary to make them understandable, too much detail will overwhelm. Remember the visuals only need to make a point, not necessarily present all the data. If all the data is necessary for later inspection and verification, put it in a handout, and leave the slides as simple as they can be.

Visuals are your greatest ally in presenting data. They can add impact and keep your audience engaged with the thread of your message. Your simplification and design of the material to support that message and the thoughtful explanation you add to it, will support the success of your data presentation.