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How to Present Data With Effective Visual Aids


office meeting where data is being presented

We’ve all been there: The meeting finally ends and the first thought that pops up is “That was a huge waste of my time!”


Well, the truth of the matter is that creating an effective presentation, engaging the audience, and communicating important information is harder than it sounds. And when you need to convince the schoolboard or staff that a change is needed, or that budget resources could be used more effectively, you should keep their attention by presenting an engaging case built on incontrovertible facts. Even better is when you can incorporate compelling visualizations.


That kind of presentation takes painstaking data collation, chart creation, and basically a graphic design degree to make it captivating. This can be a very stressful experience if you don’t have those skills—or the right software to cover for not having them—and that’s before you’ve even presented your data to the stakeholders!


When you have valuable information to communicate, you need to know how to present data as effectively as possible. If you don’t have time to spend all day tweaking charts and graphs, it would be great to have some tools to automate your visual aids as well!


The Benefits of Using Visual Aids in Presentations


It’s more than just cliché to say that a picture is worth a thousand words. By replacing text with graphs or images in your presentations, you capture your audience’s attention and hold it. In fact, visualizations can be so compelling that as soon as one pops up, you should immediately start talking about it, otherwise it will distract your audience from your current topic.


The following statistics and facts help demonstrate why this works so well:

  • Resonate With Visual Learners. When 83% of human learning occurs visually, you don’t need a second reason to add visual aids to your presentation. Most people are visual learners and benefit more from visual aids than text.

  • Command Attention. Audience interest peaks around 10 minutes into your presentation. If you want to hold that attention, you need compelling visuals.

  • Simplify Your Message. People process information at different speeds, but simple graphics make data easier to understand. Humans process visual information 60,000 times faster than we do written information. We’re also more likely to be persuaded by visuals!

  • Connect Emotionally. Images invoke feelings in the viewer, in ways that words cannot. Your audience will care more deeply about your topic with the right images.

  • Enhance Memory. Your audience’s retention of information three days after your meeting will be six times greater if the information is presented visually and orally, as opposed to orally alone. Research suggests people remember 80% of what they see, but only 10% of what they hear!

If you aren’t already convinced, perhaps what you really need right now is a fuzzy warm feeling to keep your attention. Three days from now, will you remember that article you read with the photo of an adorable puppy?

adorable puppy as a visual aid

Tips for Using Effective Visual Aids for a More Persuasive Presentation


That puppy sure is cute, and undoubtedly got your attention, but that alone doesn’t make it an effective visual aid. For visualizations to enhance your presentation and convince your stakeholders, they need to be clearly relevant to the topic. In this case, the photo is helping illustrate our point about how images can help retain memory. So, use visuals that enhance your point, but keep in mind that anything more can be unnecessarily distracting.


Effective visual aids adhere to these guidelines:

  • Keep it simple. Use a plain background with minimal text, in a readable font that’s all the same size, to make your visual aids easiest to process.

  • Use color. Color increases people’s motivation and enthusiasm for your presentation. Most software has presets for complimentary color schemes, so you don’t distract your group with loud, clashing colors.

  • Avoid unnecessary animation. Unless it has a specific purpose in your presentation, avoid animation or distracting slide transitions.

  • Stick to one key point. Each visual aid should communicate a single key point. Ideally, this is the first thing you communicate. It should also make for, or connect to, a good title for the slide. Anything else you say that is related to your visual aid will support your key point. (And there should only be one key point per slide!)

  • Be consistent. Keep your entire presentation, from beginning to end, consistent with the same layout, colors, fonts, and any other visual elements.

  • Remember that this might be entirely new for your audience. You may be immersed in your topic daily and could use acronyms or shortcuts that will leave your audience in the dust. Make sure you give enough background information so that your audience keeps pace with your points.

  • If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. If you have to add a caveat like “I know this text is really hard to read, but…” then your visual aid is not working. You may not be able to edit snippets that you’re pulling from other sources, but you can recreate unreadable portions so that your audience still draws meaning from it.

This all sounds straightforward, but it’s a lot of work to put together a presentation. One of the most difficult tasks is taking raw data and transforming it into a meaningful graph or chart. A single dataset can tell many different stories, so how do you ensure that you’re focusing on the right interpretation?


How to Use Data for More Compelling Communication


Data-driven decision making has made data literacy a key skill for any professional. And this is particularly crucial in the education field, where every aspect of the budget has to be justified and accounted for. Using data to support new ideas is more important than ever, so knowing how to create compelling visuals from data puts you a step ahead of the rest.


Trying to communicate just raw data to any audience is an exercise in futility. Trying to communicate a graph that has too much data isn’t much better. In order to create compelling communication of your data, your graph needs to support a single conclusion and nothing more.


For example, if your goal is to inform the school board about Grade 3 test scores over time, then 4th and 5th grade scores don’t need to be included. They just add noise and distract from your main point.


When you present data, make sure that the type of chart clearly illustrates your point. You have a variety of options—bar graphs, pie charts, scatterplots—so, if you aren’t sure which one is best, test them out on a colleague and see which promotes the greatest understanding.


Your visual presentation of data should have one spot that clearly illustrates your point, perhaps a large difference between two numbers, or a deviation from the mean. Highlighting this part of the chart really drives home the significance of the data. It tells your stakeholders where to look and what conclusions to draw.


Data literacy is a skill that few people are born with and creating effective visual aids of data is a painstaking process. If you don’t have the time or the skills to create powerful interpretations of your district’s data, you’ll be happy know there are tools that can do most of the work for you.


RELATED: What Is Data Literacy in Education?


Tools to Enhance Your Data Effectiveness


When creating graphs and charts from raw data, it usually takes quite a bit of tweaking to make sure the right columns and rows are showing up in the right ways. Of course, you only have to move one data cell and the whole thing becomes absolute chaos.


With smart software tools, you never have to worry about creating charts again. When you rely on something like Eidex FOCUS, you can be confident that you’re presenting accurate budget data to the schoolboard, all available at the click of a button.


Plus, you’ll have access to data you didn’t know you needed. At Eidex, we believe your data is more powerful when used in the right context. An example of this is that you can easily generate powerful visual aids to show how your district compares to your relevant peers, as well as your entire state. These telling graphs are ready-made for your presentation, simple and clearly support your one key point.

visual aids like this chart help to communicate your data clearly

With the Eidex PRISM platform, you can visualize student-level performance as it pertains to needs assessments. You can easily toggle through different filters to show only the data you need, and nothing more. Share those charts and graphs with stakeholders, to easily transform your data into achievement-oriented insights.


Most districts find that allocating resources effectively is their biggest challenge. Sophisticated data analytics can help you easily visualize and communicate the biggest impact of your academic dollars.


Read here about how one educator used Eidex to show the Board of Education how they used data to guide strategic decisions and save money.


RELATED: Using Achievement Data to Drive Your Budget Planning


Upgrade Your Visual Aids with Eidex Insights


Eidex was built by educators, for educators. We’ve been in your shoes, creating presentations to justify why resources and time should be allocated here or there. For more powerful persuasive visualizations, and for better ways to communicate with staff or school boards, Eidex can help.


We’d love to give you a free demonstration of how FOCUS and PRISM can show you greater insight into your classrooms. To request a demo, click here.


We’re also happy to answer any questions you have. Call us at 844-512-3282 or fill out our contact form if you’d like to chat more about what Eidex can do for your district. Communication is an essential tool for all educators, and we’d love to help your district succeed with more effective presentations.


References


Microsoft. (2021, July 27). 5 reasons to use visual aids for speeches and presentations. Microsoft 365 Life Hacks. Retrieved from https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365-life-hacks/presentations/five-reasons-to-use-visual-aids-for-speeches-and-presentations


Gini, B. (2018, June 21). Using visual aids during a presentation or training session. VirtualSpeech. Retrieved from https://virtualspeech.com/blog/visual-aids-presentation

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