With so much data and information at our disposal, presenting it in a way people understand is essential to getting your message across successfully.
In this lesson, we’ll explore how to present information based on the specific needs of your audience, and introduce you to popular presentation formats. You’ll also learn how to select the right visual format based on the type of data collected.
We all interpret things in different ways. Some people like colourful image-based visuals, likes graphs and infographics, whilst others absorb numbers and text more easily in tables or lists. Because of this, it is important to base the presentation of your information on the needs of your audience.
Ask yourself the following questions to help you identify your target audience:
What roles or positions do people in my audience hold?
What level of knowledge does my audience have? and,
Which industry does my audience work in?
For example, let’s consider a town’s census data. If you were presenting this data to the Mayor, the key stats could relate to the number of residents eligible to vote in the next election year. This means you would focus on presenting this in a way that the Mayor could easily and quickly understand - perhaps in a bar chart, representing how many people from different age groups are registered to vote. For a meeting with the transport director, you would probably want to highlight different areas of the census data. Their focus would be the transport methods people use to get to work - which could be presented in a pie chart, showcasing the number of people who walk, or take a train, bus, car or bicycle to commute to work.
Regardless of whether the data is being presented in a meeting or published in a report, overwhelming your audience is the fastest way to lose their attention - so avoid packing in too much information and aim present it in an easy-to-digest way.
So, now that you know why it’s important to understand your audience, how do you decide which format to display your data in? When it comes to presentation, aways choose a visual format that best displays the story you are trying to tell. For example, if you wanted to present a trend over a period of time, consider a line graph, which makes it clear to an audience how things have progressed or changed over a given period. Here are some other visual formats to try out, and the data that works best with them:
Tables can be used to display smaller data sets, allowing for comparisons to be made quickly.
Pie charts are useful to display percentages or proportional information in an easy-to-digest way.
Bar charts, are great for comparing related items in a group, where the length of each bar is proportionate to the value it represents.
Line graphs are useful for understanding how data changes over time, for example, whether your website traffic has increased over the past month.
Heat maps are often used to represent performance by area, such as which parts of your website people are clicking on most.
We have now covered why understanding your audience is such a big part of presenting data, and how once you know the needs of your audience, you can then shape the visuals to tell your particular story. Go online and explore the different ways information can be displayed, and see which formats would work best for you.
- how to present your data in a clear and understandable way
- popular visual formats to use when presenting data
- how to match your data to the right format, based on your audience's needs.