The Beauty of Data Visualization

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 0 comments

ted-data-visualisationInformation overload… Information glut… Data dump…

One of the most common questions I’m asked during the m62 Master Presenter Presentation Skills course is, “What should we present when our clients ask, and expect, lots and lots of technical data?” A common mistake made by many is to acquiesce to this misconception, and to then populate their presentation with all the data that they think they could possibly want to see. If there’s one thing guaranteed to make my eyes glaze over, and lose the will to live, is a series of excel spreadsheets pasted on to PowerPoint slides! It was, therefore, so refreshing to come across a recent presentation on TED Talks, that has so much synergy and relevance to the philosophy and psychology that we use to mitigate information overload in sales pitch presentations.

The presentation is by David McCandless:

There are several key points that David makes in his presentation and the key message that he enforces is that the visualization of data is critical. This is because the brain is continually “looking” for patterns and connections when it is working to resolve (c.f.cognitive dissonance) sequences of data. At m62, we use visual cognitive dissonance when we create slides, as this is crucial to achieve the highest levels of audience engagement, understanding and memorability. He is absolutely correct when he says that we are all demanding a visual aspect on data – just think of the dashboard on the landing page of your CRM application.

David has intuitively moved from data overload to data visualization and shows the integration of another vital issue, and that is to present visualized data that is relevant to the audience. Relevance is one of the mnemonics that I am passionate on incorporating in the delivery of sales presentations.

There are several examples of the visualization of data, and the one that appeals most to me is the analogy of the brains processing speed of sensory information to that of bandwidth. Very easy to understand, by being able to see the overwhelming amount of visual information in comparison to small speed of verbal information.

But, going back to above question that I’m consistently asked, the answer I give is, “What is the message and story that you want them to understand (from the data), and remember, and why should they, why is it relevant to them?”

David’s presentation is really good and engaging, and please do watch it through to the end, as the last example of data visualization is an eye-opener!

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