The purpose of market research is to provide meaningful insights through data. The purpose of a chart is to help you understand these meaningful insights. It is important that your market research team work with you to develop charts that make the meaning of data readily apparent. In a single glance, your management team should be able to discern the relationship or trend you’re trying to convey. Unfortunately, choosing the right chart isn’t always easy.
If you think your data presentation could be improved, try the following steps the next time you need to create a chart:
Step One: Define your message.
Clearly define what message you’re trying to express with the data. Are you comparing individual items? Are you showing a trend over time? Are you displaying the relationship of parts to a whole? If you don’t have a clear message, you’ll end up communicating nothing.
Step Two: Use the best chart type for your message.
Different charts show different relationships. For example, you wouldn’t use a pie chart to display a trend over time between multiple variables. For a little extra help deciding on chart types, try the following tools:
- Check out Chart Chooser (courtesy of Juice Analytics). Chart Chooser allows you to filter charts based on the message you’re trying to convey. For example, if you’re trying to show a comparison between two variables, simply check the “comparison” box in Chart Chooser and 9 chart options pop up. The great thing about this tool is that you can download the chart type directly into Excel or PowerPoint. It doesn’t get easier than that!
- If Chart Chooser is not for you, try this straightforward flow chart (courtesy of Andrew Abela). Simply begin in the middle and work your way out. This is just another effortless way to ensure you’re displaying your data in the most effective manner.
Step Three: Eliminate superfluous data.
Remember to keep it simple. If you look at your chart after the first two steps and still don’t understand the gist of what’s going on within moments, there’s too much information crammed into the chart.
Step Four: Show the chart to someone random.
Ask someone to explain what information the chart is suggesting. A chart should be able to stand on its own. If you need to complement your chart with a paragraph of text or a verbal explanation, you’re using the wrong chart type or your chart contains too much information. Furthermore, if a random person doesn’t understand what’s going on in your chart, chances are your management team won’t either. Begin again at step one.
Remember: choosing the wrong chart prevents your viewers from understanding your message. Keep your viewers engaged by taking the time to choose the correct way to display your data.
This post is part of the Perfect Presentation Series. For more posts on how to create amazing, captivating, market research presentations, simply click here.