3 steps to present like a dataviz rockstar – part 2 [Video]

Flaming guitarNeed to present some data? About the best way you can do that is to use a data visualisation.

Most often, a dataviz is simply a chart. But you might choose to use something less mainstream, like a heatmap.

Whatever type of dataviz you choose, I suggest you use this 3‑step method for making your dataviz more effective:

  1. Simplify…
  2. Satisfy
  3. Storify

(You’ll find step 1 in my previous post, and steps 2 and 3 below.)


Step 2: Satisfy their cravingsScroll to Contents ↑

This step contains 3 tips designed to make it easy to apply (and labelled A, B and C).

Here’s what you’ll find in this section:


Why this step?Scroll to Contents ↑

Consciously or subconsciously, your audience reacts to every presentation, dash­board or report by craving answers to those 3 pressing questions (A, B and C above).

In fact, even before you open your mouth (or before people open your dashboard or report), they ask themselves that first question:

“What’s in it for me?”

Make crystal clear what’s in it for them – from the start

That pre-emptive question suggests that to stop people mentally tuning out, you should make crystal clear what’s in it for them – from the start.

Don’t worry though, the table below gives you specific points (and tips) to help you share your data well:

  • Those 3 pressing questions audiences wonder about (and when people wonder)
  • Another way of expressing each question, as 2 of them are quite terse
  • Tips on how you can satisfy these cravings for answers – with links to more details


Tips to respond to pressing questions A, B and CScroll to Contents ↑

People wonder… In other words… Tips – what can you do?
a: “What’s in it for me?”
(at the start)
“Why should I listen?
b: “So what?”
(for each chart)
“So why should I care? State your point
c: “Now what?”
(when about to depart)
“Now what should I do? Call them to action

* In a business, tying your message to the company’s strategy or values is a great way to let people know what’s in it for them and their team.


More about responding to “So what?”Scroll to Contents ↑

Let’s focus on row B of that table, which deals with charts (and where the related audience question is “So what?”). I agree with presentation expert Jean-Luc Doumont, who says about that:

“My strongest recommendation
about the design of slides would be:
Express the ‘So what’ – what’s your point?
Jean-Luc Doumont

To do that well, you can show a title or caption that makes a claim. As an example, the 1-minute clip below shows a slide makeover, and the much-improved slide title explains the point that the speaker wanted the audience to take away from the chart:


Step 3: Storify your messageScroll to Contents ↑


Why this step?Scroll to Contents ↑

When I suggest you “storify” your message, I just mean to overlay some kind of narrative or story on it.

Here’s how Steven Few, author of 3 books on dataviz, puts it:

“When we create a graph, we design it to tell a story.
To do this, we must first figure out what the story is”
Steven Few

You’ve probably heard that humans are wired for stories, which brings 4 key benefits:

  • Stories draw people in by making your content more “magnetic“.
  • When you’re sharing data, stories make your message more varied or “melodic“.
  • They help us see data as being more meaningful.
  • They make your message much more memorable.

To you, this might seem unnatural, mis­guided, or just plain wrong!

But to you, this might seem unnatural, mis­guided, or just plain wrong! So, before we get into the tips for this step, let’s hear from 2 experts on why using story is so potent

Firstly, here’s Scott Berinato (author of Good Charts: The HBR Guide to Making Smarter, More Persuasive Data Visualizations) in a 20‑second clip on the power of story:

After he stops speaking, you might want to pause the clip (and close the More videos panel). That way, you can read his slide about the 3-part story structure he recommends.

Scroll to Contents ↑

And secondly, here’s Nancy Duarte (author of DataStory and the HBR Guide to Persuasive Presen­tations) explaining the benefits of story in 40 seconds:

Despite all that, if you’re still unsure about using stories, I’ve some good news for you. That is, you mightn’t think of the first “storifying” tip below as even being storytelling, which might make it more palatable… 🙂


3a: Use builds (or captions)Scroll to Contents ↑

This tip has 2 parts, according to whether you’re sharing data either:

  • Dynamically (in a presentation or animation) – when you use builds
  • Or statically (in a written report) – when you use captions

If you’re sharing data dynamically in a presentation, you can make your dataviz appear in stages as you explain it (also known as using builds). To do that, you can use the Animations tab in PowerPoint to add very subtle effects (typically a quick Fade).

Let’s see 2 examples. Here’s a 20-second clip from Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic (author of Storytelling With Data):

And here’s Scott Berinato in a 1-minute clip:Scroll to Contents ↑

If you’re sharing data statically, in a report, you can use captions to walk your readers through your data story. For instance, here’s a 20-second video of Cole Knaflic again, showing how that might look:


3b: Make it personalScroll to Contents ↑

When I say “make it personal”, I mean whenever possible mention 1 or more real people affected by the data you’re sharing. That really helps your audience to form an emotional connection to your message, which in turn stirs them to act.

As former president of the National Speakers’ Association, Patricia Fripp says:

“Logic makes us think;
emotion makes us act”
Patricia Fripp

As an example, in the 1-minute video below of an animated dataviz about gun-related deaths in the U.S., each arc represents the life of a specific person killed by gunfire:

While the video’s playing, you might want to click the Full screen button so you can see the text and other details in the dataviz.

You can try out that interactive dataviz yourself, which now has more recent data. (Thanks to Michael Freeman for sharing the link in his 90-minute video-based course, Using Storytelling to Effectively Communicate Data, which you can watch for free.)


Over to youScroll to Contents ↑

As a reminder, here are the main points in this post:

2. Satisfy their cravings

  1. Respond to “What’s in it for me?” (“WIIFM?”)
  2. Respond to “So what?”
  3. Respond to “Now what?”

3. Storify your message

  1. Use builds (or captions)
  2. Make it personal

If you’ve any queries or comments about the points shared in this post, feel free to leave a comment below, or on social media.

All the best with your dataviz – you’ll rock!


Also check outScroll to Contents ↑

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