As we swing into the last month of 2015, I’ve begun the process of looking back over my notes – those I take on old-fashioned paper, and those I type into the Notes app on my phone. There is a clear theme: the majority of presenters fail to win over their audience, and the major culprit is not verbal, or nonverbal (though both of those skill sets are a huge contributor to your success). The issue this year has been data visualization.
Yes, Excel is a rock star, and a beast. PowerPoint is a gift, and a curse. Most of us are working at a first grade level when it comes to taking raw data and turning it into a work of art. That’s why you may want to set a new year’s resolution to put aside funds to hire a professional on fiverr or your favorite freelancer website. That investment will pay itself back when you are more persuasive, and you are able to keep the attention of your audience for the duration of your talk.
To offer some inspiration, here are three killer charts I saw this year. I love this first chart. Look how clearly you can read it, and how much the bright blue section stands out on each of the bars. Lots of white space, cool font, and, most important, easy to create.
Next up, the area chart. When you have more than one variable and a time series, this is the way to go. Again, easy to read, just enough on the legend to understand the chart without having to read small print. The only thing I would revise – if this were going into a display deck – is to change the title to a message title instead of this topic title. Give the takeaway right up top.
Finally, this chart from National Geographic cannot be missed. Here is the link so you can see it for yourself. The user-friendly animated chart lets you choose the comparison data point to gauge the actual size of a blue whale. And it has cool sound.
Perhaps it’s time to look at a few of your decks from this past year and ask yourself: what do you want to leave behind? Fuzzy images? Ten-year old Clip Art? 3D charts? Donuts?
Would you wear a suit from 1998 to an important presentation in 2016? That’s what you’re doing when you use graphs, charts, and tables that fail to dazzle your audience: you are undermining your own success.
If you are inspired to learn more, there is a great article called The Fine Line in a Gray Area that offers lots of tips and useful information. And, we have a 12 Minutes to Mastery recording to help you up your game next year.
Let’s say farewell to chart junk!