Data Visualization and Communication with Tableau – Week 4

Lesson 1: Using Visualization Science to Influence Business Decisions

Growing data shows that where people look dramatically impacts what people decide, and what people decide can influence where you look on a visualization.

What does this mean? If we really want to influence business decisions, we really need to influence where the LOOK!

We don’t just want to keep them interested, we want to physically guide their eyes.

Once you figure out your story, we will determine how to best set up our graphs to tell the story.

directing eyes

Lesson 2: Story Boarding your Data Story

Video 1: The Storyboarding Hourglass

Most business presentations should start with the big picture, walk through details, the finish with the big picture. The most important things you show should be at the beginning and the end since that is what most people remember.

Storyboarding hourglass

Top of hourglass

  1. Why? So what? – The business problem we are trying to solve (1-2min)
    1. Motivate the audience to listen to you
  2. Present your recommendation in a S.M.A.R.T format
  3. What am I going to show (agenda slide)

Middle of hourglass

  • Show details

Bottom of hourglass

  1. One more time, link evidence to S.M.A.R.T recommendation
  2. Step back out to big picsture about what we have to gain
  3. Why? So what? using story element, leave audience feel strong positive emotion


Be prepared to discuss assumptions and how you came to conclusions

Detailed technical information in handout

Video 2: Making Your Data Story Come Alive

It is important to add story elements to you business presentation to help it come alive

Common story elements:

  1. Characters
  2. Location
  3. Conflict
  4. Resolution
  • One way is to describe an experience of a character to your problem you are trying to solve.
  • Use a personal story to demonstrate the arc of you solution and what could happen if they follow your recommendation
    • A sense of motion may help guide the listeners
  • Open with a quotation or startling facts
  • Read a customer service request
  • Open with dramatic statistic
  • Engage in actual converstation

Try to find something that is motivating to YOU, because if it is motivating to you it will likely be motivating to your group.

Jana’s Tips and Tricks

  1. Try start in the middle of a story
  2. Use details
  3. If possible, use positive emotional story instead of negative
  4. Use large, high quality pictures, use picture that is looking directly into to other people’s eyes, or makes you feel like you are there

If your having a hard time determining what story/context to use to elicit the appropriate emotion, sit back and think about what excites you about the project, what is it about the problem and the stakeholders that makes you feel the most?

Video 3: Storyboarding Your Presentation

Storyboarding is identifying the key slides/points you would like to make and organizing them in the best order to tell your story. AKA plan for presentation.

Reasons to storyboard:

  1. Clarifies your logic
  2. Highlights gaps in your logic
  3. Facilitates communication
  4. Streamlines slide-making
  5. Companies are starting to ask for storyboards instead of traditional dashboards for different groups in the company

Steps for Storyboarding:

  1. Right down each insight you discovered during analysis that help you arrive at your decision
  2. Each point could be considered a story point that would have its own graph and slide
  3. Each story point should be able to be summarized in one sentence
  4. Widdle down story points to what you need to make your recommendations.
    1. Ideally you will have three points, with three subpoints
  5. Organize them in the most compelling order about your recommendation
    1. If NOT contrversial
      1. start with strongest point first
    2. If it is controversial
      1. Start with least controversial (people are most likely to agree if you get them saying “yes” first
    3. Show the data that supports your point first, then make the point.
  6. Draw sketch of what graph would be appropriate for each visualization
    1. Help you pick up themes
    2. Keep out SD lines etc
    3. Show it to multiple people before you show it to the owners

Lesson 3: Stress Testing your Story

Video 1: The Best Stress-Testers are Teams

Once you have the storyboard built up its time to rip it apart and make sure you have considered everything. Do this with your team!

Consider taking a class in Reason and Logic to feel more confident in your conclusions

Video 2: Over generalization and Sample Bias

You assume that what you see in your data set would be representative of a larger group.

This can also occur when you have a ton of missing data in columns/rows that are you using for your analysis.

Jana’s tips and Tricks

  1. Ask questions about collection methods
  2. Always check how many data points
  3. Test subsets of data for consistency
  4. Look for common characteristics of outliers and missing data

Video 3: Misinterpretations Due to Lack of Controls

Always include comparison groups that should not have the effect you are looking for in you analysis to confirm the effects are due to the events that you think they are due to.

Video 4: Correlation Does Not Equal Causation

When the matches between data elements are close its tempting to believe that one causes the other.

Always be wary of drawing causation conclusions

Video 5: How Correlations Impact Business Decisionss

If there isnt much to lose based on a poor decision it may be okay to assume the correlation in causal.

If the the result of the business decision may cost tons of money it is worth digging into it deeper

The only way to confirm is to run an experiment using the scientific method. One common method is A/B testing.

Get in the habit if asking yourself if there are other variables that could be influecing your correlation.

Come up with complementary but different angles for your questions. Ask the opposite question.

Likelihood you will make more correlation errors increases as the complexity and size of your data set increases.

If you don’t know why two things are correlated you won’t know how to predict when the correlation might change!

Data is meant to inform decision making, not replace it.

Lesson 4: Tools for Conveying Your Data Story

Video 1: Choosing Visualizations for Story Points

Bar charts and line charts are almost the best way when you are giving business presentations. Other graphics can be good for print or other educational purposes.


  • Compare measures in different groups or categories
  • Show aggregated instead of raw data


  • How values and categories change over time
  • Categories in x-axis progress sequentially (education, etc)


  1. You are trying to communicate categories that add up to 100%
  2. You are going to highlight 4 or fewer categories


  • Show relationship between two variables
  • Usually used to show raw data
  • great for analyzing data or are discussing technical items with technical people

 Video 2: The Neuroscience of Visual Perception Can Make or Break your Visualization

Humans have a clear hierchy of how accurate we are at perceiving physical differences

We are great at seeing differences in position or length, but not that good at color or hue.

Video 3: Misinterpretations Caused by Colorbars

Most color bars unit do not equal one unit of value change.

Jana’s tips:

Do NOT use color to convey detailed quantitative differences in the values of continuous variables

DO use colors to illustrate general patterns and code for different categories of categorical variables. Or to Draw attention to something

Video 4: Visual contrast Directs Where Your Audience Looks

When you are analyzing the data you look a the whole picture and try to find something valuable. When you are presenting the data you have already identified what you want the viewer to look at.

Best visualizations for data analysis DO NOT equal persuasive data stories.

You will need to format your visualizations by hand to make sure the items YOU want to stand out, stand out.

Salient: Stand out conspicuously, stand out compared to their neighbors

Use visual contrast to direct the viewers eyes. Don’t just use different colors but use contrast.

Your eyes cannot tell small differences in color but can large ones. Therefore it is useful for identifying what is, and what is NOT important.

It is helpful to take away the borders of you plot/graph or make them the same color as the background of your slide to further minimize distractions.

Data stories require that they only see the parts they need to see to help them evaluate the issue at hand.

Lesson 5: Putting Compelling Data Visualizations into Persuasive Business Presentations

Video 1: Formatting Slides to Communicate Data Stories

Make the “data ink” ration be as high as possible, try to have a majority of what is on your slide actually related to the data.

  • Remove gridlines and tickmarks
  • Remove symbols, markers that show how far along you are in your presentation
  • Don’t be affraid of white or empty space

“Understanding at a glance”- Your goal should be for your audience member to know what is going on with as little eye movement and as little reading as possible.

  • Label non obvious axes
  • Use full words unless abbrev are common
  • Include units
  • If possible label directly on the chart instead of legends
  • Use white or background color as your label
  • Horizontal is easier than vertical, so whenever possible use vertical


Serif fonts for written data (curly cues)

  • Times New Roman
  • Bodoni
  • Garamond

Sans Serif better for poor resolution or presentation

  • Helvetica
  • Calibri
  • Arial

For presentation recommend 30 pt font

To test if you font is large enough, reduce to 66% and see if you can read it. If it looks too small then it will likely be too small from the back of the room.

Don’t Make Your Audience Do Visual Math

  • Use same units for graph
  • White grid lines may be helpful
  • Slide titles should not be there unless they add extra information or tell you what the take home message is

Video 2: Formatting Presentations to Communicate Data Stories

Visual Formatting

  • Consistent formatting across entire presentation
  • You can use different formats for different types of slides but do so sparingly and purposeful
  • You can include transition slides to keep the audience engaged. Typically people can pay attention for 10 before their mind starts wondering.
  • Use the rule of thirds for transition slides, put text and images along the lines instead of centered.
    • Data slides should be front and center


  • Making the items appear on screen as you talk about them can be helpful to guide attention.

Other Tips:

  • Check for Typos at least three times
  • Bold is more effective than italics and underline
  • Use 2-3 colors but others can be used for highlighting

Video 3: Delivering Your Data Story

What you will say:

  • Plan for 2-3 points for audience participation if they are not going to ask questions
  • Transition sentences:
    • Check additional resources
  • Don’t be jargony

How you will say them

  • Try to convey enthusiasm
  • Try to speak slowly to emphasize or more quickly to show your excitement

What you will do before the presentation

  • Practice one part of you presentation over and over again until you feel confident, then move on to the next session

How you will put that to practice

  • Be conscious of body posture
  • Keep arms away from front of body
  • dont cross arms
  • Smile
  • Look at everyone in the room

What do you do after the presentation

  • Ask for feedback from your peers

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