Editor’s note: Bill Franks is a speaker for ODSC East 2023 this May 9th-11th. Be sure to check out his talk, “Winning The Room: Creating And Delivering An Effective Data-Driven Presentation,” there!
Delivering an effective data-driven presentation to a live audience isn’t the same as discussing technical details with peers or compiling a written document. This is especially true when, as is often the case, the presentation is for a largely nontechnical audience. Entirely different ways of organizing and presenting information are necessary to help an audience that doesn’t have your expertise to do the following:
- Understand what you’ve found
- Grasp the implications
- Take action
You must be purposeful and diligent if you want to develop a presentation that conveys a compelling story while simultaneously avoiding myriad traps that undercut your credibility and limit your impact. Although universities, continuing education, and corporate training programs teach the theory behind how to generate analytics and manage data, they do not typically spend time on how to effectively present that information to others. Below are the core phases in creating and delivering a successful data-driven presentation, which are covered in my book Winning The Room and in my upcoming ODSC conference talk.
Planning the Presentation: Reviewing Strategic Fundamentals
Regardless of the audience or topic, there are core strategic principles that underlie any successful, live data-driven presentation. There are fundamental presentation concepts that you should review and account for as you design, develop, and deliver your presentation. After all, doing a great job with the later phases of the process won’t make up for having a foundational presentation approach and strategy that is poor.
Planning the Presentation: Designing the Presentation
Before creating any slides, you must take the time to design your presentation and to plan how to verbally convey all of the information it contains. If you learn to be disciplined about taking the time to design your presentations, you’ll soon realize not just only how much better and more effective your presentations are, but also but that the time spent in the design phase is far less than the time wasted on revisions to a presentation that wasn’t properly designed up-front.
Moviemakers don’t simply start shooting scenes without a plan or script and then hope to chain them together after the fact into a good movie. Rather, they design the overall story and each scene in immense detail before any filming takes place. You must follow this model to create and deliver an effective data-driven presentation.
Developing the Presentation: Wording and Text
In any data-driven presentation, the text that you place on your slides and how that text is worded are critically important to audience comprehension. You must get your points across clearly and succinctly while using terms and phrasing that your (often nontechnical) audience can understand.
Perhaps the simplest rule of thumb is to always read the content you develop through the lens of the intended audience. That audience will be largely unfamiliar with the terms and lingo that you and your technical peers use, so make sure you’re not displaying text that may as well be a foreign language to them.
Developing the Presentation: Numbers and Labels
For any data-driven presentation, numbers will be front and center. It is absolutely critical to success that you know how to make those numbers audience friendly. With some simple tricks, you will enable the numbers that you show to convey the message you need to convey while minimizing the effort required for your audience to consume and interpret the information.
Your goal is to communicate to your audience the larger trends, patterns, and outcomes your work uncovered while using the fewest numbers possible.
Developing the Presentation: Charts, Images, and Layouts
The charts, tables, and imagery you incorporate into your data-driven presentation and how you organize them within your slides will have a large impact on your audience’s perception of your presentation. As a result, it is well worth the effort to carefully consider what visuals to use, how to format them, and how to lay them out on your slides.
Once you accept the fact that you cannot take raw output and drop it into your presentation, you’ll have no choice but to create your own charts, tables, and imagery to communicate the information you want to convey. When creating them, it doesn’t take much incremental effort to ensure that you create and lay them out in a way that will make your presentation look great while successfully communicating your core messages to the audience.
Delivering the Presentation: Final Presentation Preparation
After you’ve developed your data-driven presentation content, you must prepare for and practice your delivery. Knowing what you’ll say, anticipating the questions you’ll receive, and validating that your spoken words flow smoothly are critical to success. Without proper preparation, all of your previous work will be for naught.
Your final preparation is the last chance to ensure your messaging is on target, your slides are easy to follow, and that you’re able to successfully drive home the points that you want to make. During final preparations, you’ll fine-tune your presentation to make it better and make your verbiage clearer and crisper. Most important, you can adjust your presentation flow for maximum effect.
Delivering the Presentation: Giving the Presentation
When the big day has arrived and you’re stepping to the front of the room, there are specific presentation mechanics to use, as well as some important principles to follow, as you deliver your data-driven presentation.
Your final delivery will have a huge impact on whether your prior efforts pay off, so you must ensure that you make your delivery compelling. If you win the trust and confidence of the audience, you can motivate them to embrace your conclusions and act on your recommendations. This, in turn, will allow your efforts to be a resounding success!
Winning The Room is meant to be a handbook that you keep on your desk so that you can refer to it on an ongoing basis during presentation development. Just like athletes continue to practice basic skills throughout their careers, it is also necessary to constantly refresh yourself on how to create and deliver data-driven information effectively.
In a team setting, giving difficult feedback to teammates is easier and less personal if you can say “It says in the book to do it this way” as opposed to “I don’t think you should do it that way.” By keeping the book handy as a reference, readers of all experience levels and roles will greatly enhance the effectiveness of their own data-driven presentations. I hope to see you at the ODSC East conference in May!
More on Bill’s ODSC East 2023 session: Based on the new book Winning The Room, this session will provide concrete strategies and practical tips to clarify, simplify, and refine data-driven presentations in a way that maximizes comprehensibility without sacrificing accuracy. It will also utilize instructive and memorable visuals that illustrate how you can drive your data storytelling points home and help your audience understand and retain your message.
This blog content is derived from the book Winning The Room (John Wiley & Sons, 2022) and based on a blog originally published by the International Institute for Analytics
About the author:
Bill Franks is the Director of the Center for Data Science and Analytics at Kennesaw State University. He is also Chief Analytics Officer for The International Institute For Analytics (IIA) and serves on several corporate advisory boards. Franks is also the author of the books Winning The Room, Taming The Big Data Tidal Wave, The Analytics Revolution, and 97 Things About Ethics Everyone In Data Science Should Know. He is a sought-after speaker and frequent blogger who has over the years been ranked a top global big data influencer, a top global artificial intelligence and big data influencer, a top AI influencer, and was an inaugural inductee into the Analytics Hall of Fame. His work, including several years as Chief Analytics Officer for Teradata (NYSE: TDC), has spanned clients in a variety of industries for companies ranging in size from Fortune 100 companies to small non-profit organizations. You can learn more at http://www.bill-franks.com.