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  • Writer's pictureMonica Kay Royal

Storytelling with YOU!

DATAcated goes LIVE with Cole who shares how to Plan, Create, and Deliver a Stellar Presentation!

📝 Plan: The importance of taking time to consider your audience, carefully craft your message, set your content, and use story to guide the path of your presentation.

📊 Create: How to build effective materials—from structuring the presentation to individual slide design—to ensure the story you’ve crafted comes to life through your visuals.

🚚 Deliver: Tips on getting to know your content thoroughly as well as readying you to feel and exude confidence when presenting

For those that do not already know Cole, she is the gal that tells stories with data!

She is the Founder & CEO of storytelling with data (SWD) and author of best-selling books "storytelling with data: a data visualization guide for business professionals", “storytelling with data: let’s practice!" and her newest book "storytelling with you: plan, create, and deliver a stellar presentation”. Her analytical background includes roles in banking, private equity, and a manager on the Google People Analytics team.

She has been a busy bee, sharing her knowledge of storytelling for all us data nerds 🤓 and was most recently on an episode of the DATAcated Show.

In case you missed it, I have compiled all the amazing stories she shares for your enjoyment.

You can also watch the episode here

Kate kicks off the show with a question for the audience, to get the engagement going:

‘What is your biggest obstacle when it comes to presenting?’

Overall, people struggle with presentations and catering to the audience. They want to provide value without losing focus from the audience, all while delicately trying to balance the details of the story without always knowing the data literacy level of the audience.

How did you come up with the idea for the new book?

Cole spent about a decade on all things storytelling from the visualization perspective, but after some time she realized that this was only part of the equation. There is a huge role that the individual plays to make the story successful in order to have an impact with the audience. She stepped outside of her comfort zone to start research while she focused on how the audience would react to the different ways in which she would present the information. She tried things such as walking across the room, changing the tone and excitement in her voice, and using hand gestures. She noticed that whether you are talking to an audience of 10 or 1,000 people, you need to get and maintain attention in the room.

Which tips would you give on determining the level of understanding your audience has on the topic you’re talking about? Because the best presentations are made at the level of the audience, but how do you know that in advance? Thanks!

The best approach is to just ask your audience, if you can of course. Sit down and talk with them ahead of time. Or, talk with someone that knows the audience. If you do not get any insight into your audience up front then you are left to make assumptions, which never turn out good. Give thought to how the audience is different than you, what are they driven by, and what gets their attention. The more you can think of these, the better you can reframe your presentation for the audience.

What would you do if you are presenting at an online show or podcast and don’t really know the audience?

You can structure your presentation to cater to the spectrum of levels in the audience. Start out with the fundamentals before getting into the details by saying something like ‘I am here to talk about XYZ and for those that are new to the topic… < insert definition >.’ In some cases, even those that were already familiar with your topic might learn something new, yay!

Not all presentations will have a data component. How do you know when to incorporate data?

If seeing the data helps you explain it better or helps someone understand it better, than include it. Data lends credibility, and sometimes the audience is going to need to see the data before believing something. However, do not feel that you need to include all of the charts. You do not need to include everything in anticipation to cover all the potential questions.

The first section of her new book includes 4 chapters all about planning. When creating a presentation, you shouldn’t start with the technology (PowerPoint, Canva, etc.). You need to plan out the story that you want to tell first and then you can create slides to help you with that story.

Slides or no slides?

This one was funny, it seemed that only Kate does not like slides. I am a visual learner, so I need at least some slides to look at while someone is talking. Cole likes the start of the presentation to have no slides and then only create slides that will help the story rather than acting as a crutch.

What is the best practice to avoid information overload?

When you know something extremely well, you tend to want to share all the things. A lot of the low tech planning upfront forces you to step away from the data and think more about the message. During panning, think about the audience, what pieces are they going to care about, what do they need to know, what questions do they want answered. This will help you put together the overall message / story.

Do you use Canva or PowerPoint for content creation slides to tell your story?

Any tool can be used well or not so well. In general, pick one or a couple and stick with them to get good at them. Do you let the tool limit what you can do.

What are your tips for presenters that are at home looking into a camera?

Equipment is key! It is totally worth the investment to make sure that people can see and hear you clearly. People online have a lot more competition for attention when there are things like constant emails and chat. Three takeaways:

  1. Limit what you show in the slides, create anticipation and hold attention by showing piece by piece.

  2. Be mindful of your camera frame. If you talk with your hands, make sure that they are in the frame.

  3. How you use your voice is key. Since you are smaller on the screen, don’t talk too quietly. Think about using the dramatic pause. Also, if you are asking a question from the audience, give them enough time to answer.

Randy Knaflic shared this list of equipment they use at SWD

How do you handle fear?

Practice is key for stomping out fear. You can practice in everyday situations and talking out loud to yourself counts. If you think about your presentation as an outline, you are able to put together a few key touch points. Then practice talking about those touch points out loud, without slides. This forces you to think and remember things in a different way. Also, memorizing is not good because if you forget a certain word or phrase, it can throw everything off.

Kate launched a poll a couple days ago:

What’s the WORSE thing a speaker can do to make you leave the conference room / close the virtual presentation?
  • Read their speech to you

  • Discuss overly complex content

  • Talk ‘down’ to the audience

  • Use too many filler words

Both Kate and Cole guessed it would be ‘Reading their speech’... but it wasn’t!

🏆 The winner was: Talk ‘down’ to the audience

Are you planning some kind of workshops or learning sessions to improve our skills?


Check out public workshops here

Cole mentioned that her next project will be writing something for a different audience... Check out episode 57 of the SWD podcast to hear what book is next here

Parting Words
Practice is key
Find someone to talk through your work
Look for everyday ways to practice presenting
Spend more time on you, not the graphs or slides

Happy Learning!!

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