We understand the WHY of data visualization. We know the use of charts and graphs and pictures helps the brain process complex information; that patterns and trends are more readily revealed and recognized in visual data displays than in text-based data delivery formats; how the same data presented via visualization is vastly more efficient, effective, and palatable, than if that same data were to be gleaned from reports or spreadsheets. There’s no arguing data visualization conveys complex concepts in a quick, easy-to-digest, manner that is truly universal.

Now, to tackle the best strategies for creating and delivering impactful data visualizations.

Audience evaluation: Who is your audience?

“Creating nice visualizations and putting them together into dashboards is not just an exercise in providing information to the masses. This is a case where one size does not fit all. You want to do more than simply track performance, monitor behavior, measure effectiveness, and share the results with everyone you know,” emphasizes Emily Rugaber, Sr. Director, Product Marketing at GoodData.

Rugaber suggests identifying the highest priority persona with key questions that will pinpoint the needs of a specific audience.

  • Who will be looking at this data?
  • What are their greatest challenges and the roadblocks preventing them from overcoming such challenges?
  • Consider decision frequency: Is the decision more strategic and only needs to be answered once?
  • Is it operational and needs to be answered multiple times a day?
  • Is it tactical, requiring regular weekly or monthly review?

“Resist the temptation to create a dashboard that meets the needs of every single stakeholder who might one day look at it,” adds Rugaber.

Audience engagement: Making a connection

“Clean, compelling, and credibly sourced visuals draw your audience into the content, encouraging them to explore the data. Both static and interactive data visualizations invite readers to examine the data and to derive the deeper meaning. This fosters a more personal, significant, and active interaction that enhances any type of content,” shares Marjorie Munroe, Professor on HubSpot Academy.

The likelihood of both comprehension and retention of important statistics is increased dramatically by well-designed visualizations versus the presentation of the same numbers tucked within a text-heavy report. Consider displaying charts over several slides to create an animated-type appearance. See more about the use of storytelling coupled with data visualization in Part 2 of this series.

Audience empowerment: The Ultimate Goal

Simple but empowering. Eye-catching but relevant and effective. Memorable but of greater importance, effective and usable. Seek to create and deliver visualizations that align the viewers with the company’s mission and empowers them to action.

Pivot reminds that, “Maximum impact matters greatly for the presentation to be considered successful.” They suggest aiming for data visualization that—

  • Provides an easy understanding of high-level information
  • Offers as much information as needed
  • Delivers readily adaptable data that answers questions and is strategy-ready

“Consider printing several key charts or graphs as full-page hand-outs,” suggests Ann K. Emery, owner of the  design consultancy depict data studio and who chairs the American Evaluation Association’s data visualization interest group. “Your curated handouts will get scribbled on, underlined, and saved for future reference. I often see these handouts taped above meeting attendees’ desks weeks and months after my presentation.”

Evaluate the presentation’s conclusion for—

  • Specific goals
  • Actionable strategies
  • A timeline for progress or completion
  • Timely follow-up or check-in opportunities

Utilize the maximum impact of data visualization with attention to evaluating, engaging, and empowering your audience. In Part 2, we’ll discuss the role of storytelling in the dissemination of Big Data.

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