Chart showing Donald Trump Popularity and Unpopularity over time

How to Use Comparisons to Understand Data

Posted by Ray Poynter, 15 October 2018. Most individual numbers do not mean very much. In many cases, in order to see the real meaning in most data, you need comparisons. For example, if I tell you that the Belgian cyclist Eddy Merckx won 11 Grand Tours, you will no doubt guess that he was a good rider. But, when I tell you that 11 is the most any rider has ever won, and that only one other rider has won 10, and only one other rider has even won 8, then you start to get a sense of how special Eddy Merckx’s was. So, this post focuses on how to use comparisons to understand the story in the data, and how to use comparisons to communicate the story in the data. How Popular/Unpopular is Donald Trump Nate Silver’s FiveFiftyEight.com provides a wealth of data on US sports and politics and provides a really good example of how to use comparisons in their regularly updated series ‘How popular/unpopular is Donald Trump?’ The chart below shows the picture on 12 October 2018, 631 days after Donald Trump took office in January 2017. Note, in the US the election for a new […]

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Will anything replace PowerPoint soon? (a forecast from 2011 revisited)

Posted by Ray Poynter, 29 August 2018. Until 2012 I used to write a blog on Typepad and recently I have been tidying it up so that the blog can be deleted. The post below was originally posted on 30 July 2011 – back in the days when Angry Birds was all the rage. I thought I would re-post this blog now to help emphasise how little has changed and how far we are from having a new paradigm for reporting. “Will anything replace PowerPoint soon? Posted by Ray Poynter, 30 July, 2011. It is hard to imagine anything replacing PowerPoint in the foreseeable future. There are some key elements that a system for delivering results and insights has to have to be a standard, including: Available technology, the system needs to be able to produce PDF files and a file format that can be widely read by clients (e.g. Excel, Word, or PowerPoint 1997-2003), or WMV. The standard deliverable must not need to access the Internet, the intranet, or supporting files. The standard deliverable needs to be static, so that different clients see the same view, this rules out deliverables like What-if models, GapMinder, and interactive tables. The standard […]

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How many significant digits should you display in your presentation?

Posted by Ray Poynter, 27 August 2018 Too many digits can obscure the story being communicated by numbers. Let’s consider a simple example from a trip to your gym and its hi-tech weighing machine. Perhaps the machine says that your weight is 101.7865 kilograms and that it should be 82 kilograms. The story is that you are about 20 kilograms too heavy. To see the story you need to focus on comparing 102 kilograms with 82, not 101.7865 with 82. If your presentation or report displays too many digits you will obscure the story you are trying to communicate. The choice about the right number of digits to display is the choice about how many significant digits to display – the topic of this post. Digits Obscure – Example 1 Consider the table below, which is extracted from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and shows how many mobile phones there were in each of the countries displayed, from 2010 to 2017, per 100 people. If you click on the data tables they get bigger. The data shows four decimal places and is not very easy for most humans to quickly review. This data is not friendly for the analyst looking […]

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Do you understand what sort of Data Visualisation you need?

Posted by Ray Poynter 27 April 2018 Over the past ten years, there has been a rapid and widespread growth in the use of data visualisation. However, this growth has resulted in wide diversity in the quality and usefulness of the visualisations being used. Visualisation helps if it meets the needs of the creator and audience, and for that to happen the needs must be clearly understood. This post looks at six different needs and maps them to different visualisation approaches. The key uses for visualisation are: To help find the story in the data, as part of the analysis process. To present a recommendation or interpretation. To explain/illustrate a concept or idea. To help other people explore information. Data as art. As an instruction or teaching aid. In the sections below, I will take each of these needs in turn and outline the implications for the sorts of visualisation you might want to use. Finding the Story When you are analysing data, looking for: patterns, meanings, and eventually the story, the key needs are: Speed You want to be able to move through lots of iterations to find the views that help you interpret the data. Flexibility In order […]

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Hints for Presenting at International Conference

Earlier this week I attended the IIeX APAC Conference in Thailand and it was a fantastic event – I strongly recommend it for next year. Although most of the presentations were great, there were occasional reminders about things that presenters need to be aware of when presenting at conferences, and in particular at international events. Make your first couple of sentences clear, welcoming, and redundant. When you first start to speak, the audience needs to tune in to your voice, to assess your speed and volume, and get used to your accent. If you have a truly international audience, there is a good chance that 50% of the room will not really understand your first couple of sentences – that is why they should be redundant. For example, I might start a presentation about the ESOMAR Pricing Study with something like “Good morning, my name is Ray Poynter, and I am based in the UK. Today, I am going to be exciting you with five important messages from the ESOMAR Pricing Study”. This sets the tone, is polite, is redundant, and allows the audience to tune in to my voice and pronunciation. Avoid words, examples and metaphors that might be […]

Albert Museum

Storytelling Starts with Finding the Narrative During the Analysis

Storytelling is very much in vogue. There is general agreement that research findings that employ storytelling are more likely to result in action than the reporting of facts and findings. However, the process of story creation is less well established, and the focus often seems to be at the reporting stage. However, I believe that finding the story is an integral part of the analysis, not something that happens afterward. The story or narrative is not a collection of numbers; it is an idea that can usually be expressed in words. For example, a tracking study might find that in two regions there was a dip in the main KPIs of 5% – but that is not a narrative. The business needs to know which of the following narratives is the relevant one: Minor downturn in 2 regions, worth checking further, perhaps during the next quarter. Important downturn in 2 regions, suggest further analysis. Major downturn in 2 regions, action required now. Knowing which of these three is the right narrative requires a combination of knowing about the business, understanding the business question that led to the research being conducted, and an ability to analyze the data in the context […]

Golden Egg

What is the best way to present numbers?6 tips for better conference presenting

A couple of weeks ago I was at a conference in Lisbon and spent five days listening to some very smart people share some really valuable information (see my summary of new findings in mobile market research). However, many of the presentations at the conference were rendered less impactful because of the way the presenters showed numbers. There are some easy ways to make numbers more accessible and impactful, and in this post I share a few of them. Note, this post does not focus on data visualisation – that will be another post. This post looks specifically at six easy steps you can take to ensure that the numbers you display can help tell the story, increase engagement, promote understanding, and make action more likely. 1)  Use Fewer Numbers The first tip is to simply use fewer numbers. Imagine that you had to pay 5 dollars for every number you included in your presentation; you would soon cut back the quantity of numbers. The key question to ask is whether each specific number says something useful. If it doesn’t, drop it from the presentation (even if it stays in the background data, notes etc.) Instead of showing the top ten, […]