The most annoying Magic 8 ball answer would be “The answer lies within.” Because, it’s like, why would I even be consulting you, Magic 8 ball, if I already knew the answer?

Yet in reality I can’t even believe how often this is the case. People will actually tell me the answer without even realizing it.

Here’s what I mean.

Despite all of my prompting, nudging, cajoling, and demanding, some people still struggle to figure out what to say at the top of their slide. There’s some DEEP unlearning we have to do if we want to effectively tell stories with data.

So here’s my trick to sneak the story out of someone. I ask them:

What’s your goal for this slide?

Amanda Peden even v-o-l-u-n-t-e-e-r-e-d this information for me, when she sent me tricky viz to address in an Ask Me Anything session that I held with the folks at Oregon Health Authority.

Amanda emailed me, “I’m really getting especially stuck on the diagram on slide 4… The goal of slide 4 is to give an overview of how telehealth work is spread across the agency and highlight the type of work that each division does. I also thought I’d highlight where the leadership sits.”

Ok, here’s where Amanda started with her slide:

If you are coming in from the outside, like I am, sure yeah this is busy and confusing. I don’t know what half this stuff means. The quote marks around “Division” are throwing me off.

But if I look at Amanda’s goal for the slide, I don’t even need to know what half of this stuff means. I just need to see that “telehealth work is spread across the agency” and that leadership sits in two of these columns.

This is so easy to fix!

I just replaced Amanda’s old title with the goal she said herself (and I added some highlights to leadership):

Regardless of whether you are an insider or an outsider, you get the point. Because it’s at the top of the slide.

If you are struggling to figure out how to tell a story with your data, reframe your thinking and ask yourself, what’s the goal of the slide? I promise, the answer is already in you.

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