10 Do’s and Don’ts of Using Data and Research in Presentations

195 views

by Josh Knauer
We’re living in the era of Big Data. We know more about ourselves—our spending patterns, our TV-watching habits, our Web searches, our education levels—than ever before.

For marketers, all that information is priceless. A solid understanding of data can help a marketer target niche audiences, sell more products, win new clients, forecast trends, make smart media buys, and do much more.

But, before any of that, a marketer needs to understand how to look at and how to present data.

How well data and research are integrated into a presentation or pitch can make or break it. But not every marketer is a natural-born data geek. How can you work staid data points into a compelling presentation?

Here are 10 tips for the novice data presenter.

Do: Tell audience members something they don’t already know.

Storytelling is important because stories bring meaning to data. Look for patterns and trends in your data, and soon a story arc will emerge.

A specific anecdote culled from a data set shows your audiences that you understand their marketplace, their competition, their needs, and the context they are operating in. For instance, if you’re marketing a seasonal promotion for a restaurant, find the top five TV networks for viewers in the area who currently eat at the restaurant at least once a week.

Creating and communicating data-driven stories is hard work, but it must be done.

Do: Visualize your data using charts, graphs, tables, and heat maps.

We humans are visual creatures. Most people process information more efficiently when it’s presented visually (rather than via text).

When you’re presenting a great deal of information in a short amount of time, some easy-to-understand infographics not only spruce up your presentation but also go a long way toward getting across your point.

Don’t: Over-glitz your graphics.

Nowadays, it’s easy to manipulate data with multiple dimensions, unclear axes, and spurious 3D effects. Those are neat design tricks—but not necessarily helpful in clarifying your point.

You have a whole presentation to impart your findings; you don’t have to cram all your info into one slide. Keep your graphics simple, clear, and concise.

Do: Make an effort to know your audience.

Who will be in the room for your presentation or pitch? Different audiences will have different tolerances for data-driven presentations.

Be informed about your audience, its knowledge base, its interests, and its aptitude for analyzing data.

The general manager at Acme Car Dealership, for example, is probably not a statistician, but he likely knows his own sales figures very well. In his case, skip the minute details of your data findings and stick to presenting the most pertinent information.

You want to start an engaging, two-way conversation, so make sure you speak to your audience in their own language.

Do: Make decisions.

When designing a presentation of any kind, think of how many points you want to make in a single slide. What data illustrates those points most efficiently? What’s the one thing you want to demonstrate on that page? Decide on that first, and build outwards from there.

Don’t: Overwhelm with data.

Data will tend to complicate things for you, so don’t add unnecessary elements. It’s common for people to present slide after slide of text and tables of numbers. The thinking is that the more numbers on the screen, the more impressive the presentation. But that’s not always the case.

It’s as important to know what to leave out as what to put in.

Have no fear of leaving some of the text on the editing floor. It’s better to have a small amount of data that everyone understands than a lot of info that’s difficult to process.

Do: Provide proper attribution for your data.

Attribution is key. You’re trying to establish trust and credibility with your audience. Always be transparent and let your audience know what your sources are.

Don’t: Don’t ever lie about or misrepresent data.

Don’t take a specific data point out of context and present it as the whole story. Savvy audiences can recognize “spin” from a mile away. If they get just one whiff of fishiness, you’ll come off as disingenuous and you’ll lose your crowd.

Do: Show your presentation to colleagues and get their feedback before going into a pitch meeting.

Which pieces of data are helpful? What makes eyes glaze over? Which data points are useful but should be presented in a more engrossing way?

It’s a good idea to rehearse a presentation. And make sure you have a lot of different voices in the room when you do.

Do: Be prepared for questions by digging into the data.

When using data to support your pitch or sale, you’re really having a discussion. The person on the other side of the table can (and likely will) challenge you on any given statistic you’ve presented.

If you’ve prepared properly, you can defend any number or statistic in your presentation at any time.

Dynamic tools are available that allow you to answer questions that you may not have anticipated—helping you to establish trust and shorten sales cycles.