How to present data with a clear message
by Sid Shetty, President, inGEAR - a division of ServiceChannel
I was watching a show about the news the other day and realized that some of the struggles faced by news broadcasts and talk shows are very similar to those we face when creating a report for our clients. How do you highlight and report on the most impactful information? How do you prioritize it? How do you share the information that is most relevant in an acceptable or limited time frame? In short - how do you provide MUST-SEE TV when it comes to data?
I believe there's no such thing as too much information, but there is something as too much data. Too much data diverts us from the important information that can affect our decision-making process. Data reports, while important, are not effective for decision making. They should be used as a secondary source of information, when you want to dive into the details.
To design a good report, you need to answer the following questions:
- Who is your target audience?
- How much time do you have to relay information?
- How should you present the information so it's consistent with the message you are trying to deliver?
If you're creating a report for yourself or your team, have one created that's to the point and gives you what you need in the least amount of time. If you do this, you'll review reports more frequently and hence have better data to backup the decisions you make every day. Information is key to making decisions, the less you rely on your gut, the better. This brings me to my next point - Presentation!
Let me use the News analogy again. Imagine if you opened the newspaper one morning and there were no headlines, no sections, just text...how would you find the news that matters most to you? How would you find the sports section!? Without some type of topline we cannot easily find the information we need. The same holds true for reports - which is why "data dump" reports are not an effective way to run your business.
Presentation plays a big hand in how information is deciphered and digested. Many times, the same data tells different stories depending on how it's presented. I'm not talking about right or wrong, I'm simply referring to the fact that two team members can pivot a data sheet in two different ways and hence go in two completely different directions - this doesn't help the team and will not get you to your department goals quicker. It's important to ensure that you control how that information is presented so your entire audience gets the same message. That way your entire team is on the same page.
Now that you and your team are looking at the same information and are deriving the same conclusions, you can focus on the actions you need to take to achieve your goal - as a team!