Visualizing data through charts, graphs, and diagrams helps you deliver bite-sized information that viewers will understand at a glance and retain for the long run. During my workshops, webinars, and training videos, we focus on researcher-specific considerations: designing with stakeholders’ information needs front and center, using readily available software like Microsoft Excel, and thinking through dozens of chart types—dot plots, small multiples, heat maps, and more—that can be applied to the social sciences. My goal is to equip you with critical thinking skills and technical know-how create visualizations faster and easier than you ever thought was possible.

 

Recent Blog Posts

Read my latest articles about selecting appropriate chart types, applying best practices to your charts, and more.

 

Recent Talks and Articles

View excerpts from my latest conference presentations and read my articles that are guest-published through other organizations’ blogs.

 

Workshops

Is your team overdue to step up your data game? I come to your organization and lead half-day, full-day, or and multi-day workshops. Contact me to discuss your desired customizations and my rates and availability.

Sample Agenda

Each section begins with a discussion followed by hands-on practice. For example, after the color section, we practice choosing custom color palettes and applying those RGB codes to our graphs.

  • Introduction to Data Visualization: What It Is, How It Works, Key Players, Latest Trends, Skills Needed
  • Who’s My Audience? Numeracy Level, Time, Interest, Information Needs
  • How Will I Share My Charts? Data Visualization Considerations for Reports, Handouts, Visual Executive Summaries, Presentations, Dashboards, Infographics, GIFs, Animated Videos
  • Which Chart is Best for My Data? Pros and Cons of 30+ Essential Charts
    • Pie Charts and Donut Charts: Guidelines for Use, Alternatives
    • Bar Chart Family: Clustered Bar Chart Alternatives, Diverging Stacked Bar Charts, Small Multiples, and More
    • Line Chart Family: Slope Charts, Panel Charts, Small Multiples, Shading, and More
    • Everything with Circles: Scatter, Bubble, Dot, Unit
    • Displaying Qualitative Data
    • Geographic Maps
    • Tables
    • … and More! Tree Maps, Sankey Diagrams, and Social Network Maps
  • Which Tool is Best? Strengths of the Big 3: Excel, Tableau, R
  • Which Formatting Edits Are Needed? Software-Agnostic Design Principles
    • Removing Clutter: Borders, Grid Lines, Tick Marks
    • Text: Titles, Subtitles, Annotations
    • Labeling: Direct Labeling, Using Labels Sparingly
    • Color: Custom Palettes, Action Colors, Colorblindess, Black/White Photocopying
    • Alignment: Intentional Ordering, 2D Graphics
  • Advanced How-Tos in Excel
  • Individual Work Time and Consultations
Length
Half-day, full-day, or multi-day. Longer workshops allow for more hands-on practice.
Location
I come to your organization to make participation easy for your staff. Are your staff located throughout multiple offices? We can hold the workshop at the location that’s most central for the majority of your staff, and then include additional staff via webinar. I also hold public workshops–workshops that are open to anyone–in my hometown of Washington, DC and in other cities while I’m traveling.
Ideal Audience
I’ve taught workshops for a variety of for-profits, non-profits, foundations, government agencies, professional societies, and universities. Sometimes, the participants spend 95% of their time working with data (rooms full of applied researchers, evaluators, or statisticians). Other times, the participants only spend 5% of their time working with data (rooms full of communications specialists, program directors, and executive directors). Most commonly, organizations choose to include a variety of their staff in the trainings. I structure the workshops so that both the novices and advanced participants gain new skills and have time to apply skills to their own projects.
Workshop Size
I’ve led hands-on workshops with groups ranging from 5 to 50+ attendees. The typical size is 20 to 30 attendees.
Putting Skills into Use: Sample Remakes from Workshop Participants

In November 2014, I led a 3-day training for analysts in Kampala. Attendees have written several blog posts with their takeaways from the training:

In Spring 2014, I spoke at the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network conference. Stephen Alexander overhauled his pie chart after attending: Who knew dataviz could be so easy?

 

Webinars

I offer multiple webinars on practical data visualization strategies: the Crash Course; Essential Charts; Design Principles; and How-Tos. Take one or all four, in whichever order you choose.

Crash Course

Just getting started with data visualization? Want to get up to speed quickly? Start here! This webinar is truly a crash course in data visualization. We’ll cover a wide range of critical thinking skills:

  • Introduction to Data Visualization: First, I’ll give you an introduction to the field’s history and the key players.
  • Essential Charts: Next, we’ll review the pros and cons of a dozen different chart layouts, like slope charts, tree maps, and dot plots.
  • Design Principles: Then, we’ll review a handful of software-agnostic design principles about titles, subtitles, borders, grid lines, labels, and color so your charts are well-formatted and easy to understand.
  • Sharing Visualizations: We’ll talk about dashboards, infographics, handouts, slidedocs, and other communications modes.
  • Before/After Remake: I’ll share a couple before/after remakes so you can understand how these skills can come together and completely transform your graphs.
  • Tools: We’ll talk about Excel, Tableau, R, and other software tools you might consider using.
  • Getting Started: Finally, we’ll discuss the importance of sketching drafts on paper and I’ll recommend books, blogs, and other resources.

After this webinar, most attendees decide to register for one or more of the Essential Charts, Design Principles, and How-To webinars to continue building their skills.

Essential Charts

Feel like you’ve exhausted Microsoft Excel’s limited menu of graphing options? Use bar charts and line charts on a regular basis, but feel like there must be a better way to display your data? We’ll breeze through data visualization best practices and then dive into the fun stuff: A gallery of 30+ essential charts for researchers, evaluators, and other data analysts. We’ll discuss pros, cons, and tools for creating the following charts:

  • Exploratory Visualizations (e.g., spark bars)
  • Bar Chart Family (e.g., small multiples bar, diverging stacked bar)
  • Line Chart/Time Series Family (e.g., slope graphs)
  • Circle Chart Family (e.g., dot plots)
  • Geographic Maps
  • Network Maps
  • Qualitative Options
  • Tables (e.g., heat tables)
  • Ranges and Dispersion
  • Graphing Uncertainty
Design Principles

We’ll discuss software-agnostic best practices, such as:

  • Reducing chart clutter by adjusting borders, grid lines, and tick marks;
  • Labeling your numbers and axes;
  • Choosing the appropriate amount of decimal places;
  • Ensuring that your text size is hierarchical and readable;
  • Matching visualization colors to your firm and/or client’s logo;
  • Emphasizing key findings with color;
  • Selecting text colors that sufficiently contrast with your background; and
  • Writing titles, subtitles, and annotations that summarize desired takeaway messages.

We’ll conclude with several real-life remakes so you can see how these principles transform confusing, cluttered graphs into great communication tools.

How-Tos in Excel
Ready to roll up your sleeves and move beyond Excel’s default settings? First, I’ll share five big-picture strategies for fooling Excel into making nearly any chart your want, such as inserting invisible white bars and lines to create the illusion of empty space. Next, I’ll provide a step-by-step live demo of 20+ chart designs. We’ll explore small multiples bar charts, panel line graphs, dot plots, heat tables, spark lines, and more.

 

How-To Videos

These short tutorials guide you through data visualization fundamentals in Excel, like inserting and formatting charts.

 

Which Chart is Best for My Data?

Explore the Essentials, an online chart choosing tool.