The old adage, “you can make data say anything you want,” has resulted in some data naysayers who don’t always see the value in data presentations, or more dangerously, interpret it differently than it was intended. Because all businesses will encounter these challenges in presenting data findings and implications, it is important to learn strategies to ensure data is received and interpreted in a succinct fashion.
Here are six way to effectively deliver data findings, results and implications:
1. Provide a clear objective. When presenting the results of any data mining activity, a clear objective should be outlined. The objective will set the bar and expectations for the results and provide a clear and logical path for the recipient. The objective should be stated in the beginning to set the tone, and throughout as a reminder of how the findings and implications contribute to the goal.
2. Provide the scope of the analyzed data sets. Results are results, but without fully understanding the sample and origin of the data sets, the recipient always wants to know, “well where did that come from?” It reminds me of the toothpaste commercials. You know, 9 out of 10 dentists recommend [insert name of popular toothpaste brand]. The question I always thought was, “well how many did you really ask?” Providing details on how the data was collected, stored and integrated, the recipient will feel a sense of understanding and the results will build credibility.
3.Use layers. To properly mine data and provide action-driven results, layers should be used to cross-tabulate and compare findings to ensure accuracy. The more layers applied to data, the more complex the process, but the quality of the results will be cleaner.
4. Support the outcomes. If the outcomes or findings are simply stated, there is a lack of a logical connection of how these outcomes came about. The recipient needs to be lead to the final conclusion through a series of logical statements or findings to really absorb and buy into the final outcomes.
5. Use hard numbers. Although percentages can work in certain circumstances, the hard numbers generally speak louder and provide a more solid argument. When percentages are used, be sure to refer back to the sample size to help the recipient grasp a full understanding of the scope and alleviate any concerns they may have about the full impact of that percentage point.
6. Use data visualization…but be sure the graphics are accurate. In today’s society we are driven by visual information, but when using infographics or other tools to show data results, be sure to keep in mind color psychology, eyeline paths, element sizes, and other graphical design components, which could cause the recipient to read the data differently. For example, the largest image in an infographic is usually where the eye is drawn. Be sure that the largest image symbolizes the weight of importance and other components are created using an accurate ratio.