• Scott Stiefvater

Do you present data-based insights? Think like a journalist.

Updated: Nov 25, 2020

The business world is rife with data-dumps – long, arduous presentations characterized by cluttered displays of graphs and charts. How do you rise above giving data-dumps? It helps to think less like an analyst and more like a journalist.

Collect and Analyze Data

Most analysts have this part down. They do their research by collecting and sifting through data while looking for relevant stories. This is where most people make their mistake. They take the noteworthy data, package it all and present it while highlighting their notes. For the listener who is responsible for making business decisions, these presentations can feel like a puzzle; they are left to connect all the dots.

Craft the Story

A journalist knows it's their job to connect the dots, not their reader's.

They know that they have to take a fluid and complex situation and render it into a clear narrative with evidence and accuracy.

To do this difficult work, journalists rely on a tried-and-true process. You should too. And YOUR story-crafting process should go something like this:

  1. Take a point of view based on what the data tells you.

  2. Set the data aside while you develop your point of view into a story.

  3. Select the most compelling evidence from the data.

  4. Design data displays that help to make your story clear and compelling.

For step four, you can't simply take the data you've collected and show it as-is. You have to put it through a design process that simplifies it for quick consumption and emphasizes the relevant points. It's a little like a journalist cropping and editing a photo or video they captured when doing their research. What's published is quite a bit different than the raw image.

Tell the Story

When it's time to present, you must not treat your data slides as the story and simply narrate them. Tell your story and display data when appropriate. You and the story are primary. Your data displays are secondary, serving as visual aids for your listeners.

Whether you analyze testing, consumer or financial data, the value you have to offer is only realized if you communicate your insights well to others. So stop giving data dumps and start telling insightful stories.


© 2021 by Scott Stiefvater,

(anti) Presentation Coach


Tel: 925-586-3517

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