What to Look for in a Data Visualization Workshop

Data visualization workshops are an investment into your growth as a leader in your field.

They should, if they are good, produce immediate returns on your investment which should show up as significantly increased use of your work, attention from existing and potential customers and partners, and more revenue. My workshop clients have seen all of these impacts and more.

You should be investing in professional development in data visualization and design, no question. So let me give you some insight as to what you should be looking for when shopping around for a high-impact data visualization workshop.

  1. The workshop should be based in research. The more that data visualization becomes a popular topic, the more we see subjective opinions about what makes data visualization good, bad, or ugly. Too often, those opinions are positioned as The Truth. Luckily, the more that data visualization becomes a popular topic, the more we see research conducted on it. You want a workshop that is based in the research. Your presenter should have a readily available reference list of research articles that have informed the workshop’s recommendations. Presenters with doctorate degrees in areas related to data visualization and reporting are the surest bet.
  2. At the same time, the company should be known for making the workshop fun. Who wants to spend a day listening to someone walk through study after study? Ick. The presenter should be smart AND relatable. Even funny. Moreover, the workshop should be highly interactive. Get on the phone with a potential presenter and ask what kinds of activities they’ll incorporate. A phone call will also give you a good idea about the presenter’s disposition and ability to make things fun.
  3. The company should have a strong, credible reputation. You should know their name by word-of-mouth. Feel free to ask for references from past clients.
  4. The workshop should include some redesigns of your work. It should be customized to meet your needs. While the workshop should show examples from a broad range of industries, you should see yourself in the slides regularly.
  5. The presenter should be familiar with your industry or at least willing to study in advance of the workshop. You want someone who can speak to your specific circumstances, data scenarios, metrics, and reporting methods.
  6. The presenter should be demonstrably culturally competent. I followed a presenter last fall who repeatedly demeaned the women in the room. Needless to say, he was not getting invited back nor recommended to anyone else.
  7. The company should have published some snippets of their ideas and philosophy, where you can get a pretty good idea of the things they’ll cover in a workshop. This doesn’t have to be in a book, per se. Look for blogs or even tweets that provide evidence of their style and thinking.
  8. Relatedly, the company should have produced many examples of their own data visualizations, in print or online, so that you can see they are walking the talk. That will tell you that the workshop is likely to include their own work, which indicates they’ll have richer insight and more empathy. You do not want someone whose content is just a critique of others’ data visualizations.

Keep in mind that the shorter the workshop, the less useful. I sometimes have folks who ask me for a 60-minute workshop. We’ll barely be able to scratch the surface and your audience will just want more. Give space for learning.

All skilled data visualization workshop providers are booked months in advance. Anyone worth their salt would be. Be sure to start conversations with potential workshoppers at least 6 months before you want the workshop to take place.

At the end of the day, you should feel heard and understood and well-educated. That’s how a data visualization workshop – heck, ANY workshop – will have the most return on your investment because your team will be more likely to take up the lessons provided throughout the day.

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