Making the Case to Make Your Case – Presenting Data – Part 2
Step 2 – Building Your Case
If you’re reading this blog post, chances are that communicating data to others in your organization is part of your job description. And truth be told, others in your organization won’t retain your meaningful data points and metrics for future use. So how can you present your data to share insight, recommendations, and successes? Whether it’s the basis for a project pitch to the CEO, getting buy-in from the team who will have to manage the project day-to-day, or communicating the ultimate successful campaign results in a webinar or a room of 200 people, you need to present that data to tell a story.
The first part of this blog series examined audience considerations. Part two of this blog series will explore the second step in the process – Building Your Case!
Regardless of your audience, the following guidelines can help you uncover the key data points and takeaways.
- Internalize the data: know it back-and-forth and upside down.
- Think about the takeaways. What’s in it for the audience? What do they consider most important? What are your goals? What are their goals? Do they mesh?
- The data will guide you to the proper conclusion, so don’t attempt to force it into a predetermined premise.
- Start an outline. Open up your presentation software and start framing out the story. Create a slide for each takeaway and headline it as such.
- What is the supporting data for each takeaway? Put it in a table on the slide. You can come back to it later and format it. Include a text box that shows why the data supports your case. Put any expositional thought into the Notes section. Consider here what questions might come up as you’re presenting and have an answer for them.
- Define your metrics. And try to use the same set of metrics in your presentation. If you switch them up, be sure to note that you did. Too many different metrics can overwhelm your audience and cloud your story.
- If you’re comparing data, make sure it’s apples to apples. Extract outliers and talk about them separately.
- Speaking of the story, what does the data make you think about? Metaphors that you keep coming back to? Sports? Memes? Music? Emojis? What’s the picture in your head as you’re creating the outline? Here’s where your hook is – stories and metaphors help your audience relate to you (and understand the data).
- Ultimately, you’ll want the audience to find out the conclusion before you reveal what it is. This creates buy-in! Here’s a caveat: starting slow and letting your audience come to a conclusion is a great approach for your peers and lateral departments. But when you are talking to executive level management, a better strategy may be to give them the main point right up-front and support your case afterwards, and then only if it’s necessary. (Executives don’t often have the time or patience for the slow roll. Remember they hired you to tell them what they need to know.)
- Internalize the data; know it back-and-forth and upside down. (First and last step. Yes, it’s that important.)
Now that you’ve built your case, stay tuned for Part 3 – Visualize the Data!