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- Take steps to really understand your audience
- Build a compelling narrative around your data story
- Ensure you have a clear path/route toward next steps
There are countless ways to deliver the results of your analysis; some methods are more likely than others to resonate and promote action. Clearly stating your recommendation and the points that support it takes the heavy lifting off your audience, making it easier for them to follow your analysis and promote action. But what does a compelling message look like? The five tips below outline fundamental pieces that will help you present your analysis in a way that naturally invokes action from your audience.
Know your audience
Familiarize yourself with the people with whom you’ll be sharing your insights. If you have significantly different audiences, it makes sense to share the story separately, if possible. Splitting your audiences into groups, by role, will allow you to tailor your story to your audience from the perspective of language, next steps, and level of granularity. When it comes to language, you’ll want to consider if your audience is familiar with the abbreviations and acronyms you’ll be using. If they aren’t, your message may be lost or misinterpreted.
Similarly, the level of granularity you dive into will vary from group to group. It’s likely (though worth looking into) that a higher-level audience will appreciate a concise summary, whereas those who are more “in the weeds” may appreciate specific details. The idea is to facilitate cooperation, which means it makes sense to do a little digging regarding the background of your audience. If you’re not sure about your audience’s expectations, roles, and level of familiarity with your topic, ask around; you (and your audience) will be glad you did.
Design for your story
While it would be easy to reuse a chart or graph pulled from an existing report, creating customized visualizations to support the specific story you’re presenting could be the difference between a sidetracked conversation and a focused one. It is incredibly easy for an audience to get distracted by a chart or other visualization that displays information outside of your topic. Designing visualizations specifically for your story will keep your audience on track and focused on your point. Specifically, this might mean reducing the timeframe in a chart; is your analysis focused on this month versus last month? Then, only show the relevant timeframe. While focused visualizations are important, so is relevance. If you’re stating a fundamental point, it should have context. If “sales are up from 30% for Product X,” does that hold true for other comparable products? Are there nuances and outliers that should be conveyed? Providing context facilitates building trust with your audience, which is an important factor when you’re asking someone to take action.
State your point
This likely sounds so obvious you may not even consider it. The reason it sounds obvious may be a result of your familiarity with the message you are trying to convey. Remember, you have been curating this story from beginning to end. You’re immersed in it, whereas your audience is coming in without all the knowledge you’ve picked up along the way. Stating your point has the added benefit of clarifying for you that you are illustrating what you intended to show. When you are able to state your point clearly and concisely, it helps your audience do the same. Clarity is important for facilitating cooperation. Be confident your message is clear so your audience can feel the same.
Provide the next step
The next steps you propose to your audience should be a logical progression based on your analysis findings. For example, if your topic is about ROI steadily decreasing, the next likely step would be to begin an analysis on which channels are contributing to this topic. This means determining the leaders who will delegate this task to the appropriate team. If the next steps are time-sensitive, convey that timeline to your audience and address what the consequences may be if delays occur (missing your ROI goal in Q4, for example).
Practice your delivery
If you’ll be presenting live for your audience (as opposed to handing over a document without a formal walkthrough), do a practice run of your presentation with a timer. Running through your presentation while keeping an eye on time will allow you to keep proper pace with your presentation. Once you feel comfortable with your story fitting in the allotted time, present it to someone else. Repeatedly practicing your presentation will facilitate a level of comfort with your story, and when you feel comfortable with your story, this frees up the mental capacity to tackle anything unexpected that might arise. After you’ve concluded your practice presentation, allow your audience to give you feedback on anything that was unclear.
Proposing a change or recommendation can be challenging if it means adding more work to someone’s already busy schedule. Stating the importance of your recommendation in a way that resonates with your audience is a key part of inspiring action. We’ve all seen situations where good recommendations fall flat or fizzle. The steps above help support ensuring your recommendations are meaningful to your audience and, therefore, naturally inspire action.