Are Your Presentations Putting People to Sleep?

7 common ways of visualizing HR data

By Shonna D. Waters, Valerie N. Streets, Lindsay A. McFarlane, and Rachael Johnson-Murphy August 10, 2018
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Adapted from The Practical Guide to HR Analytics: Using Data to Inform, Transform, and Empower HR Decisions (SHRM, 2018), by Shonna D. Waters, Valerie N. Streets, Lindsay A. McFarlane, and Rachael Johnson-Murphy. 

When crafting a presentation with data, the best place to start your planning is with the audience.  Knowing your audience is key to shaping your message or story and you'll want to start by addressing exactly who the audience is, but there are several other things to take into consideration:

  • What do they care about?
  • What do you want them to know?
  • What do you want them to do?
  • How do they prefer to receive information?
  • How do you want them to feel?
  • What biases do they have that could make them either supportive or resistant to your message? 

Once you've thought about your audience, it'll be easier to determine which data or pieces of information are most relevant. From there, you can plan accordingly. 

The structure and repetition of your presentation won't matter much if the data are incomprehensible. Rattling off a list of numbers won't move your audience to side with you. 

Where possible, try to present your data graphically or pictorially. Data and statistics become more accessible and easily digestible when they're presented this way. You can absorb more information faster when you're looking at a graph than when you're looking at a table or list of results. 

If you've got some results you'd like to present visually, there are a few guidelines to keep in mind. 

Reduce noise. As with your overall presentation, you'll want to focus on just the main ideas. This will make key relationships or patterns easy to spot.

Determine your question before working on the visual. When you understand what you want the main idea to be, it'll be much easier to decide what kind of graph or image would be best.

Be consistent. Use the same visual cues throughout your presentation. For example, if on one slide you highlight a key relationship by putting a red box around it, make sure you do that in the rest of your slides. This way your audience will know what to look for and where.

Please visit the SHRMStore to order a copy of The Practical Guide to HR Analytics: Using Data to Inform, Transform, and Empower HR Decisions (SHRM, 2018).

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