Go Beyond “The Data Varied”

The quickest way to tell a story with your data is to use the title space to literally tell the story. Identify the insights you see in the data and write them out as a full sentence, framing the take-away ideas, sharing with your viewers what you know.

This step, as simple as it sounds, can be difficult for people who come from academia, who aren’t used to being allowed to generate clear headline-style insights. When we practice this step in my workshops and webinars, my well-intended but under-practiced audience members will take a moment with a few friends to discuss a graph. We are usually looking at their own data, so let’s examine this one, created by Overflow Data:

Usually participants will come back to me with an insight like “The data on belief in God varied.”

Uh, yeah.

Got anything more interesting than that?

How about “Midwestern female Democrats are more likely than the US average to believe but have doubts in God or not believe in God at all.” That’s an insight (one that could even be programmed to appear in the title space as different drop down menu options are selected). Or “The majority of midwestern female Democrats have some kind of relationship with a higher power.” See where I’m headed with this? Audiences are on the lookout for headlines that pack meaning.

Now, I can’t hold it against the folks in my workshops and webinars. They don’t own this Overflow Data graph. They are not the experts on it. They haven’t been up to their eyeballs in it for the last 3 months. I only gave them a few minutes to study this. It is no wonder they didn’t knock insights out of the park.

But when it comes to our own data, the stuff we have been swimming in, we are extremely well-positioned to have insights that go deeper than “the data varied.” In fact, I’m confident no one else will know your data better. Audiences are, indeed, coming to you because you are the most knowledgeable person on the data, so that they can learn your insights.

Go beyond “the data varied” and tell people the stories you see in your data.

Learn something new?

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