Dense Presentation Data
What are some techniques for dealing with dense-data slides?
This is an actual slide we received from our clients. There is a lot of clutter on this slide! We want to use statistics that powerfully reinforce something we’re sharing to prove it out. But, slides like this take away from our point because there is so much noise.
Projection is different than printed media
As we think about data, we must remember that projected data is different than printed data. When printing data, you can put smaller numbers, large columns, and tons of information. However, we can’t do that when projecting our data. What we really need to focus on is the meaning of the data. Why are we sharing it? The data must tell the story that we’re trying to share with the audience.
5 Rules for Data Slides
/1 Pick the right tool for the job
Presentation software offers many options for different chart types, so make sure you pick the right tool for the job. Consider which chart type is best for the data you are displaying.
The slide above shows two different options to display the data. Which chart should we use? It depends on what you’re going for. Are you trying to show in absolute terms that 76% prefer dogs, or are you trying to compare pet preferences among several choices? The chart you choose influences how the audience perceives your data.
/2 Get to the point
In any set of data there are lots of stories, so choose which story you want to highlight.
In the slide above, you could choose to focus on the negative numbers, comparing among quarters, or looking at each region.
By highlighting the “Americas” row, you help the audience focus on the data that is most important.
/3 Keep it simple
When projecting data, keep your displays simple and clean!
This is an Edward Tufte graphic. There’s a chart in there somewhere in the midst of that beautiful artwork. Even though it’s beautiful, it distracts us from the content. Anything that prevents the viewer from understanding the content is noise, and should be removed.
By removing the complicated artwork, the chart becomes more easily understood.
/4 Highlight what’s important
To highlight the most important elements, we must first reduce the non-data information. That’s tertiary information like axes and labels. We also remove anything we don’t need, including extra tables and charts. Then, we enhance the most important information. When we de-emphasize the non-essential information and enhance the most important data information, the contrast is apparent, and people can lock in on the story.
Then, you emphasize the most important data, where the story is.
When you combine these, now you have the story. People can go exactly to where the data is, where the story is. Instantly we can say we were in the middle and now we’re up on top.
We want to enhance or emphasize the primary information so that their eyes can get it and we all know what we’re going to be talking about.
/5 Tell the truth.
We also want to tell the truth. Let me try to illustrate this. I’m not talking about whether you should or not falsify your data. If you need help with that, we can probably see what we can do to help you with that.
Here’s another example. We have a similar charting issue with those colors. Here at the front we see what looks to be the Virgin, United, Delta in here. Which of those three is the biggest? It’s really hard to tell. Slight differences in a pie chart are hard to perceive in general. It’s more difficult once we tilt it and put it at an angle. Hard to understand the point.
It’s hard to tell, but the charts above are actually equal. We want to be careful of how the audience is going to perceive our information. We want to be aware of 3D features that are popular in many applications.