Corporate Education Group

How to Present Data that Tells a Story

CEG offers Corporate Training and Consulting, as well as traditional and virtual instructor-led courses in management and leadership, project management, business analysis, business process management, agile/scrum, and lean six sigma.

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300 Brickstone Square • Suite 201 • Andover, MA 01810 USA • 1.800.288.7246 • +1.978.649.8200 • I REMEMBER IT like it was yesterday. Our team had made a breakthrough discovery about a process problem that had plagued our organization for years. We needed to show the leadership team the findings and convince them to invest in a new system. While the upfront investment was significant, the broader cost savings would justify it. I was nervous, but confident they would jump out of their seats with appreciation for what we had uncovered. As I scanned the familiar faces looking back at my slides with deer in the headlights type of looks, I feared I had lost them. My fear was validated when the general manager raised his hand and asked me what the heck he was looking at while we showed them a boxplot graph of data. He said it looked like someone's DNA chart. I learned on that day there is a difference between exploratory analysis and explanatory analysis, and I invite you to learn from my mistake. • Exploratory analysis is used to understand the data and discover patterns and new insights that often lead to deeper analysis and questions. • Explanatory analysis offers an explanation of that analysis in a way that tells a story. There are four key questions to consider in explanatory analysis. 1. Who is the audience? Focus your presentation toward a specific audience. If you are presenting to a general audience, focus on the audience that will be using the insight to make a decision or approve a solution. 2. What do want to tell your audience? In data analysis there are times when you discover root causes through elimination of theories that don't prove to be true. Be careful not to spend too much time talking about what you disproved and get to the things you proved. 3. What do you want your audience to do with the information you are providing? Make sure the audience is clear as to why you are telling them this information. It is rarely a good idea to just present problems without recommending solutions. 4. Is the data you are sharing key to telling the story? Select charts and graphs that advance the story in a clear way. Telling the story in a clear way requires a presentation of the data that the audience can read and understand. Below is a poor example of data that is shown to demonstrate a change from year to year. What information can you get from this chart? What is missing? Your audience will scratch their heads looking at these two pie charts. How to Present Data That Tells a Story M A N AG E M E N T A N D L E A D E R S H I P

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