Presenting at the C-level: Data, Charts and Graphics

When you are presenting to the C-suite, you want to make your time as powerful as possible. What this means is that you need to maximize the ‘insight density’ of your time, while remaining clear-sighted, cogent and compelling. One way to improve all these areas is through the way you handle and package data. Here are a few ways you can make your data jump off the screen.

Selecting Your Data

It’s all very well making your data look pretty, but unless your number are foundational to the story you are trying to tell they will fail to hit the mark. A good way to ensure that your figures and facts are of the highest possible caliber is to think like a literary editor or a novelist. Ask yourself the sort of questions a brilliant editor would ask; what does this data bring to the story? Has this been said elsewhere? Is this data redundant? Is there a data set which would better illustrate the point you’re trying to make?

Time is the scarcest resource at the C-level, and so you want your numbers to be as crunchy and hard-hitting as possible. This is the first way to ensure that your own time is as valuable as possible.

Depth of insight

The best analyses are able to confer meaning at several different levels. The main thrust of your argument should be superficially obvious. However, a smart selection of data will also allow a more sophisticated point to be developed if your audience has time. If they wish to drill down into the details of your point, you will need to be prepared to engage with their questions.

The best way to prepare for this is to have pre-considered what questions you yourself would want to investigate more closely if it were someone else giving the presentation. And build these opportunities for drilling down into your presentation to create a really top class analysis.

Packaging your data

The way you package your data has a significant effect on the way both you and your presentation will be received. The basic idea is to let your data work for itself with as little ‘noise’ as possible in the way it is presented. The key to this is simplicity. In the same way that when you were selecting your data you were asking yourself critical questions in order to distill the key information, take the same approach with the way you package your data. Aim for cleanness and concision.

Is that extra bold font necessary? Will your audience still understand what you’re talking about if you get rid of that axis label? Do you really need that border around the chart? Sites like this have more in-depth and really helpful advice about how to clean up your charts. You’ll be amazed by how much the minimalist approach can make your whole presentation look more professional!

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