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Anticipate and answer questions: Delivering an effective data presentation




Anticipate and answer questions: Delivering an effective data presentation

An effective data presentation means more than simply sharing pages of analysis or mapping out data points visually. A good presentation is based on the information derived from studying data and then using it to tell a story; communicating the insights in a clear and engaging way. The goal of converting extracted information into a story is to make the data more understandable, and relatable to the audience, something that is not possible using raw data alone.


Using tools to support your data story

As with all stories, a data story follows an arc, or a progression, much in the same way as in traditional novels. A good data consultant will understand the steps that a story follows and use them to captivate the audience and convey key pieces of information. Before the presentation is prepared for any topic, it is important to assess the audience and determine their level of understanding. This will help the presenter to identify any potential areas of confusion or anticipate questions that may arise.


To bring clarity and tangible insights it is helpful to use visual tools such as charts and graphs, to deliver data clearly and effectively. Communicating information in a visual format helps the audience to grasp the findings and interpret the details faster. The same applies to examples and case studies, which may be used to illustrate key points and make the data more understandable. At the conclusion of the data story, the audience should be given a clear call to action or key takeaways for an understanding of the next steps and how to use the data actionably.


Data tools may include:


Charts and graphs

Charts and graphs are common ways to display data in a visual format. They can be used to show trends, patterns, and comparisons in the data. Different types of charts, such as bar charts, line charts, and scatter plots, can be used to display different types of data.


Maps

Maps can be used to display data that has a geographic component. They can be used to show data such as population density, sales by region, or crime rates by neighborhood.


Infographics

Infographics are a combination of text, images, and charts that are used to convey information in a clear and concise way. They can be used to explain complex data or to summarize key findings.


Interactive visualizations

Interactive visualizations allow the audience to explore the data in a more interactive way. They can be used to allow the audience to filter or drill down into the data, or to view the data in different ways.


Dashboards

Dashboards are a way to display data in a condensed format, with multiple visualizations on one screen. This can be used to show many different aspects of data or to compare data from different sources.


By using these tools, the presenter can draw attention to specific insights, patterns or comparisons that might be overlooked when data is presented as raw numbers or spreadsheets. They can also help the audience to understand the significance of the insights and how they apply to real-world situations.


Anticipating and answering questions

During the data presentation, a consultant or analyst should identify the key insights and findings from the data that are most important for the audience, and make sure these insights are clearly communicated during the presentation.


To follow a predictable sequence of events a data consultant or presenter will establish the key message to be communicated as a central theme that will support and guide the presentation. It will be supported with data and information that is relevant which will be organized into a clear number of steps or stages. This may be communicated using the visual tools mentioned earlier in the article and background information and further details will be added to provide context. Finally the presenter will use animated storytelling, descriptive explanations, and clear language to illustrate the story and bring it to life.


No matter how well the information is relayed, questions will still arise, and a presenter will need to be prepared to answer and respond. This may include having additional data or information on hand to provide further context or clarification to the question being asked. Even so, the main message of the data being presented should be identified and questions that may arise from the core topic will need to be considered in advance.


For example, if the main message is a trend, then the presenter should anticipate questions about how the trend was calculated or how it compares to other trends.


Ensuring that data and supporting evidence are accurate and complete is necessary to limit questions, for things like missing data points, the presenter should anticipate questions about why the data is missing or how and where it will affect the analysis. Checking data for completeness can help to avoid being led down a rabbit hole and finding that the presentation is going off track.



The same applies to any information which may be unclear or potentially confusing to the audience. If, for example, a new method of analysis has been used, the presenter should anticipate questions about how the method works or how it compares to other methods and why it has been chosen or deemed more effective.


Questions may arise based on the makeup of the audience. If a presentation is being delivered to an audience composed of business leaders, the presenter should anticipate questions about how the data will affect the company's bottom line - a key performance metric for many business leaders.


Similarly, a good presenter will assess the motivations and agendas driving the audience and be able to anticipate questions that may arise from their concerns. With an increased emphasis on data privacy, the audience may have questions about how the data is collected, protected, and used. To reassure people in attendance, the presenter will need to be ready with a suitable response to these concerns.


Making preparations for presentation delivery is more than simply memorizing the information, depending on how the audience responds, presentations can operate in a dynamic or fluid manner, to be suitably prepared, a good presenter should have a clear understanding of all the data and the methods of analysis or any techniques used. During the preparation phase of the presentation, it can be a good idea for presenters to practice fielding and responding to questions so they may be prepared to provide additional information or clarification as needed.


Key takeaways


  • Anticipating questions from the audience is a key part of a data presentation.

  • Visual tools will make data more engaging and help the audience understand the significance of the insights.

  • Data will need to be complete and the methods of collection fully understood

  • The configuration of the audience may influence the questions asked

  • Supporting evidence is essential

  • Preparation and practice are needed before presentation delivery


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