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Communicating Meaning in Data

In a recent HBR Blog,  presentation expert Nancy Duarte advised that “when presenting your data, get to the point fast.”  Her point is that showing off your own data on slides — typically in the ever present medium of Power Point — “puts you at an immediate disadvantage because, people can’t pull the numbers closer in for a closer look, or take time to digest them as they would in a report or a white paper.”

Using the comparison of an “eye chart to a pie chart to a bar chart”  Duarte, an eminent voice in creating visuals that will tell the story and influence an audience, emphasizes the need to simplify and control the interpretation of data you are presenting.  This logic holds particularly if you’re sharing data in a linear slideshow that fly by with a click, click, click.

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If on the other hand, you take the data off the slides and off the screen, and put it on one page, and share that one page with people whose mission is to understand and process it, you have changed the frame of reference.

Data slides aren’t really about the data. They’re about the meaning of the data. And it’s up to you to make that meaning clear before you click away. Otherwise, the audience won’t process — let alone buy — your argument.

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