TL;DR— The final mile in your work will always be communication. Learn to present things like a pro and you’ll boost your value as a professional and future-proof your career.


So many investments of one’s time at work end up falling flat, but not because the end product itself is lacking.

Even if your job is less about presenting or releasing/distributing the work product (be it data dashboards, collaborative management decisions, technical products like apps or software, or something else), this will surely shift the road. Incredible advances in computing increasingly automate our work processes, and it’s no longer good enough to be the technical expert.

That’s why the SPU Continuing Education certificate programs exist: to marry technical and soft skills, and future-proof your career. No matter how you slice it, the things you create need to be consumed, used, and understood in order for the capability to add true value to your organization.

Expertise in communicating analytics is something we all can acquire. Once you’ve put the work into creating your product, these 6 steps will have you presenting your work like a pro when you step into the conference room:

 

Before you speak:

1)      Assess Your Audience

Jim Stikeleather, in his article “How to Tell a Story with Data,” describes 5 audience “archetypes” that will influence how you present your findings or go to market:

  • Novice: first exposure to the subject, but doesn’t want oversimplification
  • Generalist: aware of the topic, but looking for an overview understanding and major themes
  • Manager: in-depth, actionable understanding of intricacies and interrelationships with access to detail
  • Expert: more exploration and discovery and less storytelling with great detail
  • Executive: only has time to glean the significance and conclusions of weighted probabilities

So, know your audience! Use these archetypes to clarify your approach, plan for the right types of explanatory material, and fully address your audience’s needs.

 

2)      Polish Your Delivery

  • Avoid overusing past tense in your descriptions. As an example, “In support center B, we’re seeing that it takes customers 30 minutes…” versus “Customers took 30 minutes….”
  • Pull out a quote, if you have one (Shneiderman’s Mantra: “Overview first, zoom and filter, details on demand.”)

Don’t forget Cervantes: “A speech that is brief, if good, is good twice over.”

 

3)      Remember Your Structure

  • Have your beginning, middle, and end in your back pocket—that is, memorized. (Everyone can remember three things when stuck.)
  • Feel free to skip over findings if they seem to distract from your core message. You can always use them to answer specific questions.

 

When you begin:

4)      Start with a Pause (and a Bang!)

  • You’ve probably heard this:  “You only have 7 seconds to make a first impression.” Your opening statement should be exciting, gripping, and intelligent.
  • Pausing before you begin brings everyone into the room, signaling to them to take the time seriously.

 

5)      See—Stop—State Your Findings

If you’ve ever spent a presentation looking at slides and not your audience, you’re not alone. This quick tip will help you avoid losing the potential impact of your findings. The following order of events will direct both your thinking and your body language:

  1. Look down (or sideways) at your slide
  2. Look back to the audience and pause
  3. Deliver what you want to say
  4. Look back at your slide and re-state or take in what you’ve said.
  5. Then move to the next point. Deliver another point in your story.

 

6)      Finish Strong

  • What’s the one thing you want your audience to come away with?
  • If applicable, give recommendations and state next steps.

 

It’s your job in any presentation to lead your audience on a journey toward understanding the insights you’ve found—to give them that Ah ha! moment that allows them to understand their company or opportunities a bit better through your work. Curious about other ways to take your career to the next level? Subscribe for more info and ideas here.