Show Notes

  • 01:40 – A Digital Analyst Turned Data Storytelling Advocate
  • 06:03 – Common Mistakes When Talking About Data
  • 09:07 – The Challenge of Data Presentation
  • 11:44 – Tips to Keep a Virtual Audience Engaged
  • 15:37 – A Persuasive Framework for Securing Funding from Investors
  • 18:33 – Best Format for Telling the Story Behind Data
  • 22:35 – Best Practices to Keep Audience Engaged About Numbers
  • 27:50 – How to Make an Everyday Story More Compelling?
  • 33:53 – Example of a Before and After Data Visualization


AK (00:33):

Hello everyone, I’m excited to welcome our next speaker, Lea Pica. Lea is a digital analyst turned data storytelling advocate who teaches thousands of data and marketing practitioners how to inspire action and impact. She’s the host of the popular Present Beyond Measure Show podcast and the blogger at Lea is also the creator of Data Storytelling Bootcamp and PICA Protocol, her practical prescription for delivering data stories that inform decisions, spark ideas, and drive change.

Welcome, Lea and thank you for joining us at The Business Storyteller Summit.

LP (01:16):

Thank you so much for having me.

AK (01:18):

We will be talking about storytelling and there’s one aspect that is really interesting to me and I’m sure also to the audience. Could you tell us your personal story behind the journey into data presentation? What led you to shift your career path from a digital analyst to a data storytelling advocate?

LP (01:40):
Oh man, I love this story. I have a background in musical theater and performance. Somewhere along the way, I decided that having a stable job in corporate was going to be a better way to pay the bills. What I started to find was that I would present information. I took different roles as a digital analyst, as analytics manager, even on the client’s side. I was in up to seven to eight presentations in meetings a day, like many others and I just found that whether I was presenting or whether I was an audience member, nothing would happen after this meeting. During the meeting, I would see people falling asleep, eyes glazed over checking their email on the fly. And something kept telling me that something was wrong with this entire process. I would go to industry conferences and I would fall asleep in the middle of them and think like this is supposed to be the best of the best.

And I walk out time and time again, wondering what should I do now? That is like the burning question that audience members have when they go into a meeting or presentation. So I was asked randomly to do a presentation for my MBA on social media and I decided to use Prezi to do it, and I was utterly confused by the platform. I decided maybe I don’t know anything about presentation or designer so I picked up a book called Presentation Zen by Gar Reynolds. It changed my entire life, as you can see because I suddenly realized there is a true art and science behind triggering an audience into feeling emotions and motivation and stimulating them intellectually and getting them to take action. And we’re all doing it wrong. That was the first thought that went through my head. So I really went down a very deep rabbit hole and learned everything I could from Stephen Few’s ‘Data Visualization’ and Nancy Duarte’s ‘Storytelling Mechanics’, and started applying everything to my work.

For one particular data scenario we had, I was amazed at the results that I finally generated from using this practice.
It became such a high-profile project that people asked me, how did I do it? What did you do in that presentation?
I feel so invigorated. I suddenly realized that this is a thing that needs to be talked about. No one was talking about it this way in the industry. So I was invited to speak at my dear friend, ForeSee as a client during one of their client’s summit and I begged them to let me choose this as a topic. They took a chance on me and it was my first session ever. And it is still one of their top three highest-rated sessions of all time from what they told me because I think this was such an important topic to finally address. I just feel that there are so many tools available to practitioners, but there’s no preparing us for this and colleges. Now there is but back when I was in college, there was no data storytelling or corporate communication or things like that. So once the momentum began building around me speaking at these events, I think people really just saw that I was trying to fill a pretty big gap in the industry skillset.
It has just been amazing from there.

AK (05:32):

That’s a great story. I love it. And I also love that you mentioned Nancy Duarte because she’s also one of our speakers. There is some synergy here, but from this experience, you mentioned that it was so boring at the beginning, and then you read the book and you started deep diving into this.

What do you think are the biggest mistakes that people actually do when talking about their data or trying to visualize the data?

LP (06:03):

There are many and I think we’ll talk about this a bit when I take you through kind of this before-and-after that I have prepared. I don’t want to give that one away so I’ll say one of them, but the first big mistake is saying I’m going to present what I think, what I want to present and I think what they asked for. But what practitioners are not always equipped to do is instead put themselves in the shoes of the audience on behalf of the customer or the end-user and say, “What does my stakeholder or client need to make this decision to be successful, to love what we’re doing so that the end customer benefits from that? But in order to enact that change, you have to frame it in how it’s going to benefit the stakeholder.

Part of that is also inspiring empathy for the customer, which is part of what I teach. But you have to speak the stakeholder’s language. You have to understand what their aspirations are. What’s the top project on their list? What’s keeping them up at night? What’s their biggest obstacle and how are you going to make their life better?
And when you frame your data analysis and the insights that you bring to that presentation within those questions rather than they just said give me everything or they want visits. Instead of listening to the words that are coming out of their mouth, which may not actually represent what they really need because they’re not trained in our language, you’re literally the Rosetta stone between your data – the raw numbers and their needs.

AK (07:59):

That makes sense. I think also like sometimes people try to show too much data and then like the audience is just overwhelmed with this as well.

LP (08:08):

Yes. Not a lot of people know that we’re not able to really carry more than three to five chunks of ideas or actions in our brain at once. So we’ll go in with 50 different data points that don’t necessarily relate to each other and then we’ll recommend a hundred different recommendations for that or maybe the recommendations don’t even tie to the insights that we’ve presented. We’re just trying to go through and kind of a docket-style way, and it’s just too much for their brains to handle. So I always say, “What are the things, the decisions that they can make now that will have the most impact that is going to get them to be successful in the immediate term?” If you’re planning for the longer-term, then make that holistic but focus on the biggest impact with usually the least amount of effort.

AK (09:01):

Why do you think it is so challenging to talk about data?

LP (09:07):

Well, 2020 actually put a magnifying glass on why it’s so hard to talk about data, especially when there are emotions involved. You might think that data-driven organizations and cultures mean that I’m devoid of any emotions and I’m dispassionate. It’s not true. Until machines are running company decisions entirely, there’s going to be emotions and opinions coming into play. Part of this is kind of separating fact from fiction. What are the true pieces of observational data versus my own interpretation and my own biases of this? How can I instill that trust in my stakeholders so that they don’t feel I’m bringing too much of a bias to the table. With 2020, it’s so emotional that it’s almost like what is true anymore? There are so many conflicting things.

I recently had professor Alberto Cairo on my podcast. He’s the night chair of data visualization for the University of Miami. Right before COVID, he released a book called ‘How Charts Lie’. So timely because it focused a lot on how the media often can create misinterpretations of data because the chart isn’t designed in a user-friendly way. One of the things that he said on my show that I really loved was that it’s not about getting total accuracy to build trust.
It’s about communicating your level of confidence and why, and saying this is the best decision that we can recommend to you based on this level of confidence. It’s transparency if you don’t have 100% accuracy that builds trust. So I thought that was amazing.

AK (11:03):

I definitely need to check out this podcast. I’m glad you mentioned this for 2020 because I wanted to ask you about it. It definitely is bringing new challenges for data storytellers as well. There’s a lot of challenges, but also on top of it because many of us work from home, it means that annual reports will need to be presented remotely as well.

What are some strategies you would recommend for keeping a virtual audience engaged during such a presentation where it might be boring and the audience is not even in the same room?

LP (11:44):

So doing it virtually definitely presents unique challenges, whether it’s a long annual report or a pitch. What you have to remember is that however energetic you feel you are in a live environment where your body is creating a field of energy and you have their mostly wrapped attention, now you’re fighting against browser tabs and notifications and social media dings and pets and kids and everything. So I actually taught a whole masterclass this summer around building a home office fortress and nailing Zoom meetings.

For me, the biggest keys are how you start, how you kick things off. I have something called a meeting superhero script that I’m going to be actually blogging about very soon. That is like this full-proof script to get people to shut off their phones, to pay better attention, how to get their questions answered. All of these things that just shows that you are taking the reins of that meeting. That immediately gathers people’s attention right away and then understanding the different psychological triggers and dynamics that happen such as when you’re presenting online. If you don’t stop and ask a question to the audience, or you don’t change things up with a video, or you don’t allow for any conversation or dialogue, just one run-on sentence, you might actually lose them much more easily because you’re in a small square.

One of my favorite things is if I’m relaying an insight, I like to split it into multiple slides and build anticipation that way. So I might say, you asked us to look into this and when this is what we found and it was interesting. However, when we dug a little deeper, we were actually surprised by something else. And you pause for a second and pauses snap people’s attention back because we’re designed to be alerted to sudden silence. Then you make your big reveal. This is what we found crazy, right? And everyone’s like whoa! And you’re letting it sit with them. So there are psychological triggers that can be used that I teach in my material that are sourced from cinematic practices from movies and TV because these are how stories are best told in the most compelling ways. Those can translate to a meeting environment.

AK (14:37):

That’s amazing. I love this example like you can take some tricks from movies and also apply them to your presentation. Not all of us would think that it’s possible but it totally makes sense now that you told me this as well. From the tips with the pausing and building this anticipation, is this something that you could use for pitch presentations? I’m asking about this because quite some of our attendees at The Business Storyteller Summit are founders of startups who are preparing to raise money and obviously, the data part is a very important aspect of an investment pitch.

Maybe you have some tips like how to grab the attention of investors because they see a lot of this presentation, so you need to stand out?

LP (15:37):

Absolutely. I love this question because I teach a framework that I’ve adapted from another consultant in my courses and workshops. It was based in a persuasive framework geared towards securing funding for venture capital. I adapted it to be a persuasive format for our digital analytics or data analytics readout, or a conversion rate test. But many of the mechanics are the same. Even though the data is really important, there’s nothing that triggers an audience to feel and remember, and take action more than a well-told story. If you can contextualize, for example, if you’re pitching for a non-profit, don’t just rattle off the numbers of like we sent bottles of water to this many people. Contextualize that number and like we sent as many bottles as there are stars or galaxy, or like could fit in a state, a sports stadium. Bring a real relatable real-world concept to that.

The absolute thing you have to do is make that story relatable also to the benefit to the investor. Again, they are the stakeholders going to help you move forward and make that decision. So how is it going to benefit the investor and how is it ultimately going to serve your customer and your mission? Because naturally, they want to get behind a mission. What I find happens, whether it’s software vendors or consultancies is right away, they focus on them. They focus on the story of the company, the features of the technology, but they are not engaging them in this big why. Why should we invest in you? What are the stories that you can illustrate for us that will demonstrate the impact that we will have by choosing you?

AK (17:53):

That’s a good tip because the definitely is the most important aspect if you are competing against other founders for investment. You have to show what makes you unique and why they should invest in you.

Another question is about presentation formats as well. I would be interested to know from your experience, which format is the most effective one for telling the story behind your data? Is it a dashboard, an infographic, a presentation? What do you think resonates the most with the audience and why?

LP (18:33):

So I’m a little biased because I specialize in a live presentation format with the linear type tool like PowerPoint or Google Slides or Keynote, simply because you’re able to leverage the step-by-step storytelling mechanics and dramatic dynamics of a narrator. I imagine someone standing in front of a campfire and telling their tribe this amazing story of ancestors.

I actually had a recent post on LinkedIn on why I don’t equate dashboards with data stories. For me, they are very different formats because a dashboard if really well done is like a car dashboard. It empowers a driver or user to be able to read the vital systems of their business and be able to make very fast decisions with total confidence. A well-designed dashboard in my view does not require a weekly presentation or saying is this right. It should empower those decisions and that frees up an analyst to do much deeper analysis work that would be presented during a larger format where they have to act as the narrator. I always say like I don’t get in my car and my dashboard says, “Lea, it’s almost out of gas. She has to get eggs. We’re not going to make it to the gas station. What will happen?” This is not what happens.

I know I’m low on gas. I know I have to go to the station. But if my oil light or some kind of alert light is going on and I don’t know how to solve that, then I bring it to a mechanic to be solved. So for me, the data presentation is going to the mechanic and getting the full story in a language I can understand. And then I’m empowered to make those decisions, but I don’t have to know how a carburetor and an engine and all of the car parts hook up. So now people are starting to combine these things where rather than a dashboard, because if you present a dashboard during a live meeting, you will lose your audience. They will look at every single number on there at once and they’ll stop listening to you. That’s what happens during a live session.

However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a Tableau workbook with you that has an interactive graph where you can actually explore the data together. You might have a solid story framework but you’ll say I wanted to show you guys a little behind the scenes of the data and we can kind of take questions or you can explore it together. And then on the fly, you’re also seeing how they can help you understand your story better. Those are some starting points for understanding the difference, but when it comes to actually relaying a step-by-step story, I do favor the presentation.

AK (21:39):

Me too. It’s also not that easy to create a dashboard that is really effective. It’s an art by itself. I think especially since we do have a lot of startup founders attending this summit, I have a question related to this – when you are communicating the company’s growth, it’s quite crucial as well to do it on a regular basis, either weekly or monthly.

How can you make sure that everyone is aligned and focused on the goals? And what are some best practices you would recommend to basically keep your audience engaged and everyone across the board, across the company, excited about the numbers?

LP (22:35):

So the very most important thing is whether you’re sending handouts or an email report. It’s going to depend on the environment, but you really want to use a narrative voice and tone when you’re sending information. You don’t have to only be in-person to give a narrative structure. Look at comic books. They are a visual medium with some texts that illustrate a story, but they inspire you to turn the page and learn more. So that is the question, how can we make it so that it’s in a language that everyone understands and it’s relayed in a way that creates excitement because people really understand what’s happening. But they also understand things like what will they gain if they decide to go forward with this project? Is it more efficiency, more revenue, more profit, higher customer satisfaction? Maybe more importantly though, what will you lose if you don’t take action?

There is a psychological dynamic called loss aversion where humans would actually forego a gain or a benefit. If it meant not losing something. They’d rather not lose something than gain and it depends on your audience. You might have an audience that’s very optimistic so they want to hear everything in terms of like what’s the upside. But for the most part, we’re survival-oriented and we want to make sure we don’t actually lose footing. So oftentimes I’ll try to pitch results in terms of like, “By doing nothing and if we let this continue, we could be leaving this on the table.” I have found that to be a really powerful motivator for audiences.

AK (24:44):

That could be also used as a tactic as well for engaging employees. Because let’s say if you talk about revenue, there will be specific departments that will be interested in it, but maybe it could be a bit more difficult to interest the developers in the revenue aspect. So how could you use this tactic of what would you lose and gain with an audience like that? Let’s say you want to make sure that the whole company is excited about your revenue goal. Like we have to double the revenue within the next quarter or something. Obviously, departments such as sales and marketing, which are a bit closer to revenue goals. For them, it will be easier to get them excited about this, but it might be a bit more challenging for other departments like the engineering department or product department.

Is there anything from the static tactics you mentioned about losing something or gaining something that founders could use to make sure everyone is excited? Because obviously the engineering team and the product team will also need to be caring about it because they are building the product that enabled revenue as well.

LP (26:12):

Well, it’s kind of interesting because when you think about people not in a decision-making capacity, they kind of have to. If a decision comes from above, they have to do it in most cases. It’s not about motivating them. Unless things have changed since I left corporate, but it makes sense to want to get practitioners or the people actually executing excited as well.

And again, it’s all about what are the benefits? That I think is a role for the leadership. Because for me, the practitioner is trying to show the benefits to the decision-makers. The decision-makers are going to have to go out and motivate their staff to get excited. I don’t know that it’s the practitioner’s role to translate the benefits from a particular decision to each involved department necessarily. That sounds like an amazing aspiration to take on, but I do think that is where leaders have to get more involved and create cheerleaders for their decisions out of their departments.

AK (27:25):

Yeah, that makes sense. This is actually a question from one of our attendees who is also a founder, he asked how to turn facts and numbers to be more interesting when my story is just normal and how to make an everyday story more compelling?

LP (27:50):

This is a very common question and I think there’s a couple of things at play here. First, the results might not be in translating into a direct benefit to the company. What are these numbers actually saying about our success? Are we on track? Are we off track? If we’re on track, let’s celebrate and then make that celebratory and say how can we grow from here? If you’re not on track, you’re like what’s the plan for getting back on track? We have to do that.

Another thing is that I had to deliver weekly dashboards to my agency clients. And the story felt the same week after week, except if it was a holiday cause I was in e-commerce. I actually think that that’s part of the issue. I like decision-based meetings. I like that we’re meeting because we have a series of decisions we’re interested in making. We want to understand what we can do. The dashboards are great for these sorts of taking the pulse of things. But if you’re presenting data week after week and it never changes, why are you presenting it week after week? Couldn’t everyone’s time be used better?

Sometimes that’s a cultural shift because people get very attached to the way that they meet and the regularity and they feel safe. But this is about empowering the stakeholder to feel more confident in between presentations so that when you are in front of them, you have a whole month of data to talk about with them with larger data sets like that. Inevitably, you’re going to have an easier time finding something interesting to focus on. With these small data sets, it’s kind of finding like a microscopic needle in a very small haystack. So make the haystack bigger in a way, and you’ll probably find more needles. I suggest people kind of do some soul searching around the frequency of meetings, establishing a very clear objective and purpose for meetings. No more campaign overview or data review style meetings where no one really understands what the purpose is and what roles that they’re playing.

And then the last thing is that I love this idea of translating numbers to a relatable concept. This is kind of what I mentioned before where you could just say 50,000 people did this or that or the other. Or you can translate that to a grouping of some kind. How many times would that wrap around the earth? How far would that lead to space? How was it different in terms of time? Like I heard this amazing comparison that if you earn $1 million, think of that as one week of your life. And then the difference between that and $1 billion. It doesn’t sound a whole lot different to us is 33 years versus a week. And that put into context, a lot of the income inequality issues that we’re seeing crop up, especially this year with everything going on, where certain companies have reached trillionaire status and many people are really in deep hardships. That kind of comparison. Like what you just did when you said wow. I don’t think you had seen that difference before in that way. So, there are lots of great ways to contextualize numbers to something tangible in this world.

AK (31:38):

It makes it as well, way more accessible because it builds a story around the data and makes it more understandable for an audience that maybe would not be able to imagine or assess it in their mind. I think that’s also the difference between being data-informed and data-driven. Because often, like you mentioned that if you do this weekly updates on data, nothing is changing because it’s just too frequent to see anything. You are maybe data-informed but that doesn’t particularly have an impact on you, but there is a difference between being also data-driven.

LP (32:21):

Yeah. I am going to give a slight spoiler alert. I’m actually writing my first book, which I’m hoping will be coming out next quarter Q1 (2021). The key is that it’s not around being data-driven. It’s around being story-driven. So I’m really excited about that little shift in perspective because it’s the stories that motivate people to act at the end of the day.

AK (32:48):

Yeah. That’s even better. I will definitely read the book. The teaser is already very interesting so I’m sure the audience will be also interested. We are excited as well so we are crossing our fingers that it is going to happen in Q1.

Before this session, I also asked you to prepare an example of a before and after data visualization. I thought that obviously because we are talking about stories and visualization, I thought that this would be more tangible for the audience than just us talking about it. It would be better to show them something and make them understand. It would be great if you could pull up the slides and maybe guide us as well through the process of how you have optimized the slide.

LP (33:53):

Okay. Something that I actually gave a clue to this before, but I left you with a cliffhanger on purpose cause I said I’d mention it. So the key missing piece that I find from most people’s data stories and their presentation is actually going to surprise you. It’s an actual story. People will think, what does that mean? This might be a slide that I would have presented years ago and it’s got all of the regular things. It’s a title, it’s a graph. It’s got bullets. What could possibly be wrong? There are all different reasons why there are issues with this. But the biggest is when you look at this, if someone had a business question, believe it or not, the business question would be, how did our website redesign affect visitor abandonment on our top navigation pages?

You look at this and there’s a lot going on here. People’s eyes are zooming around. The graph is all over the place. So in this case, I won’t describe why I’m choosing this chart type, but I would choose something else that looks like this. This is called a slope graph. A slope graph is an excellent chart choice for visualizing before and after change, or differences in cohorts of some kind. Like if you have like men versus women answering a study, a survey of some kind. Anything that compares to points where there’s change. This is a fantastic thing. On my blog, I actually have a detailed post on how to create one of these. So people think that if I choose the right chart, that solves the problem. No, because this is just data, but this is not actually a story.

That’s the distinction I want to make very, very clear. I’m going to show you the exact mechanics of what that story means to me specifically. There’s something called narrative arc and it’s this invisible structure that is in every well-told story. It is a rising and falling effect where there is a transformation that a hero undergoes under the guide of some sort of expert like Yoda or Mr. Miyagi. The arc looks like this and you don’t see it. You don’t do it this way in your PowerPoint. I want to make that distinction, but you’re starting here where this line is, or the audience is starting here. This is your business or project or test where it is today. This is where it’s called the exposition.

So here we meet the hero. Here he is and he’s walking along and life is okay. Life is just where it is, but there’s probably something missing. This is where you establish context for your analysis and past performance and maybe review KPIs. You’re literally setting the stage for your audience to understand where are we today.

Then the next part is called rising action. Things are starting to get interesting. You’re starting to reveal your first insights that these are questions that they might have asked that they don’t know the answer to yet. You’re giving them that information, but you’re hinting that there’s something that you might have surprised you or that something they’re afraid of would happen might be happening. You’re kind of weighing on these pressure points of where are people invested in that story? So as you’re building your insights and you lead up to something where you really want to inspire a change.

That’s when you build the climax. Things are very precarious right now. If you don’t take any action – this or this, or our abandonment is really high, or something that is going to weigh on the emotions, or our customer satisfaction is down and we think it’s because of this. And if we don’t take action, this is what we might lose. You want to agitate that problem to the point where the audience has to know the solution to this, or they’re going to leave very uncomfortable.

That’s when you begin the falling action. This is where you go through methodically. “Don’t worry, we have a whole set of recommendations. We have a plan for you. We’ve thought this through. These are what we’re recommending. This is how we should go about it. These are the folks I would probably make the most sense to do it.”

And then finally you have your resolution. You walk out of that meeting not having completed the story loop. That’s for the next meeting. But you walk out with a plan that alleviates the concern that the story has created by giving everyone a roadmap of exactly where to go next – to provide a resolution to that problem. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see this arc in most of the corporate presentations that I see. Definitely none of the ones that I used to do. So I’d love to show you if I can how that would translate to a data scenario.

So here is our data. What I might do for the first part of this insight is say, “Okay, I’m going to show you. You asked to see what was the abandonment rate on our main pages before and after our site update. So we started here.
These are the three main pages we looked at – the home page, about us, products. Really great news! When we looked at after, all of our pages decreased in abandonment rate. This is really great news. So congrats everyone, great job!” I’m like trying to get people excited.

“Now, the thing is, though, there is one major navigation page missing from this chart, and you might be guessing what it is already and there’s a reason why we didn’t show it to you yet. This is what we’d like to focus on. First, it’s amazing that our home page abandonment decreases this way. We really want to call that out. That was a big reduction, but now we’re looking at the contact us page. So unfortunately something about our redesign actually increased abandonment by a certain percentage after this update. We think it’s possibly due to the fact that the form was pushed below the fold. We didn’t actually realize this was going to happen in our UX redesign or whatever people are doing there.”

Notice here when I’m doing. Notice that for like great news, I use an inspiring blue color to highlight the point that I wanted people to see. But when it came to the news around something we lost, I’m using an impactful deep red to say, “We can celebrate tonight, but tomorrow we have to focus on this because this page is connected to our customers. This is a very important page.” So here you can additionally annotate saying, “Here’s what we recommend. We want to work with user experience to move that form back up the fold as soon as possible. And you know what, we’re getting a lot of traffic to that page now thanks to the redesign. But we might lose over 500 increases per month. That could be $50,000 in sales per month.”

You see how that might like really lean on a pressure point for the audience rather than just saying, “Well, it decreased, thanks guys.” At this point, this is that real climax and I’m starting to create that falling action. When I present the actual recommendation and opportunity costs, I am providing a resolution and that resolution is who are the teams that are going to work on it, who’s going to do it by when, who’s going to make sure that they’re working on it, and is it achievable in a reasonable timeframe? Having that plan when you walk out is what will allow people to feel resolved. That for me is the biggest missing factor from data presentations.

This can actually be done in a printed report that you might send over email. This one actually encapsulates all of those points where someone is reading to themselves that we decreased homepage abandonment, which is great but contact went up and in very succinct sentences, I’m showing the interpretation of data and what the recommendation is for action.

AK (43:17):

So this could be a one-pager that you could maybe send it via email if let’s say you cannot present it, right?

LP (43:27):

Absolutely. It’ll be more potent. It’ll be, it’ll be more powerful in that live format. However, you can absolutely create a story over email if you want.

AK (43:40):

Yeah. It was great. When you’ve shown the first slide, it was really confusing but I didn’t notice that the contact us form, I immediately looked at the survey and I was like, what is going on? Is it like good or bad?

LP (43:56):

Right. Exactly and you are going to be able to pick certain things out. But for the most part, unless you’re looking at data as a regular part of your role, you’re just going to get overwhelmed by all of that text and different colors and the colors aren’t pointing you to a particular insight. You’re not sure where the story actually is. The more work that you create for your audience while you’re speaking, the less they’re going to listen to you. You want to keep that attention on you as the narrator.

AK (44:28):

Probably even difficult to listen because you have so much information there and like you are even having a hard time reading the graph. You cannot listen at the same time while you are trying to understand what is on the slide as well.

LP (44:42):

That’s right. It’s a very interesting mechanic where when we have a PowerPoint deck or some kind of deck with us, there’s a split-second where our eyes are tuned to the motion when we switch slides. Our eyes are inevitably drawn there away from the speaker. And they’re looking to corroborate what they’re seeing with what the speaker is saying. As soon as it does that and it keeps talking like the slide just has words and it talks over you, they stop listening. We are not able to pay attention to two different things at the same time. Multitasking is a myth.

AK (45:24):

That’s very true. That’s why you have to have an interesting story so that the audience focuses on you.

LP (45:32):

That’s right. It helps to be interesting.

AK (45:36):

Lea, thank you so much for all of these amazing tips! I could actually talk with you for one hour more because I love talking about data visualization, know how to improve it, and how to incorporate it into the presentation. I’m sure that the audience will want to learn more about it as well. So I wanted to give you a chance to talk a bit about the workshops that you offer. And also you prepare something for that and there is a free assessment for data presentation skills that they can find on your speaker’s page as well.

LP (46:13):

Yes, absolutely. So first I have converted all of my corporate training packages to be delivered virtually anywhere around the world. It’s no problem whether it’s a company keynote or a two-day workshop. So absolutely visit my speaker page, come to my website, I’m happy to get in touch with you. But for you guys specifically, I spent all summer hammering away at creating a new online assessment to help practitioners and leaders understand where their biggest blind spots are in terms of presenting data effectively.

There are these silent killers that we don’t know about that are hurting our chances of success. This assessment is designed to point to your biggest one, a few strategies of how to overcome that quickly, and a resource I offer to help plug those gaps right away. If you are a practitioner as well, I do offer online courses that you can take in a self-guided or a guided perspective with me and all that information will be available there.

AK (47:22):

That’s amazing. So it’s on the same website as the assessment as well and they can find the workshops.

LP (47:28):

The assessment is a slightly different website. It’s And then my website will have lots of information about courses and the different options available to everyone.

AK (47:43):

Great, we’ll definitely check it out. Thank you so much, Lea, once again for joining us and for sharing all your expertise and knowledge. It was really interesting!

LP (47:52):

I’m so happy you had me on. Thank you so much!


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