Workshops Data visualization isn't supposed to be hard. My one-technique-at-a-time teaching style breaks everything down into practical, bite-sized steps.

Workshops

I focus on data visualization and pull in additional modules as needed for your staff. Training modules include:

  1. Data Visualization (The core content: 0.5 to 2 days)
  2. Page Layouts (Optional module: 30 to 90 minutes)
  3. Dashboard Design (Optional module: 30 minutes to 3 hours)
  4. Spreadsheet Strategies (Optional module: 0.5 to 2 days)

 

1. Data Visualization

Core content: 0.5 to 2 days

I walk attendees through my step-by-step data visualization design process.

  • Who’s the audience? Analyze the audience before analyzing the data. Their interests and information needs drive every aspect of the data visualization’s design.
  • How will I share my charts? The next phase of data visualization planning involves narrowing down how the completed chart will ultimately be shared with your audience. Will your graph go inside of a longer report? Will your graph become the star of a one-page handout? We talk about which mix of formats is the strongest fit for each of your audiences.
  • Which chart is best for my data? Once you’ve narrowed down your audience and dissemination format, it’s time to think about which chart you’ll use: a bar chart, a line chart, or something else altogether. Chart-choosing is both an art and a science; I teach staff to: uncover preliminary patterns with exploratory techniques (spark lines, data bars, and heat maps); sketch on paper; solve common problems like 3D exploding pie charts, cluttered bar charts, and spaghetti line graphs with effective alternatives; and complement their quantitative graphs with qualitative data through color-coding, annotations, and diagrams.
  • Which Tool is Best? I don’t care which tool you use so we don’t spend much time here. If your organization hasn’t selected tools yet, I can talk about the pros and cons of major tools like Excel, Tableau, R, and Carto.
  • Decluttering: Research-based principles for removing unnecessary ink and focusing viewers’ attention on the data.
  • Emphasizing the message with text: Staff write titles and subtitles that state the graph’s takeaway message; add contextual clues with call-out boxes; and label their graphs with techniques that are legible for viewers with colorblindness.
  • Emphasizing the message with color: Staff reinforce branding by using your color palette and guide their viewers’ eyes towards the most important pieces of the graph’s story with saturation.

For more information, skim the 37-page book that all attendees receive as part of the training.

For more information, skim the 37-page guidebook that all attendees receive as part of the training.

 

2. Page Layouts

Optional module: 30 to 90 minutes

Once you’ve designed one great graph, it’s time to combine multiple graphs together for your report, slideshow, or handout. The key techniques include:

  • designing page layouts within a grid system,
  • sketching layouts on paper,
  • ensuring that there is adequate white space between chunks of content, and
  • establishing a visual hierarchy within individual graphs and for the publication as a whole.

You view real-life examples so that you can see how grids, white space, and visual hierarchies are applied in each setting. In this example, I needed to produce a one-page summary of a longer annual report. I began by sketching drafts on paper before I sat down to the computer. Information is grouped into chunks—Who We Are, What We Do, and Join Us. Finally, I used a five-level font hierarchy to guide viewers through each section. The fonts and colors matched the organization’s logo for enhanced branding.

I share a variety of real-life examples so that staff can watch how grids, white space, and visual hierarchies are applied in each setting. In this example, I needed to produce a one-page summary of a longer annual report. I began by sketching drafts on paper before I sat down to the computer. Information is grouped into chunks—Who We Are, What We Do, and Join Us. Finally, I used a five-level font hierarchy to guide viewers through each section. The fonts and colors matched the organization’s logo for enhanced branding.

 

3. Dashboard Design

Optional module: 30 minutes to 3 hours

Why wait until the end of the year to write a lengthy report when you can share data early and often with dashboards?

Dashboards often fall into one of these types:

  • comparing categories;
  • comparing categories over time;
  • tracking progress towards goals;
  • tracking progress towards goals over time;
  • a series of matching dashboards; or
  • a combination of any of these types.

You learn dashboard best practices; see my sample dashboards; and select the style(s) you’d like to create from scratch in Excel.

My dashboard module is quickly becoming the most popular, and for good reason—why wait until the end of the year to hand your audience a lengthy report when you share data early and often with dashboards?

 

4. Spreadsheet Strategies

Optional module: 0.5 to 2 days

Do your team members feel like it takes forever to calculate the numbers that feed into graphs?

  • Importing and Merging Datasets: Datasets come in a variety of formats – from MS Access, from SPSS, or from CSV files. The first step in the data analysis process is to import, export, and merge multiple datasets together into a master dataset that you can use for further analyses.
  • Navigating Spreadsheets: When you’re staring at a spreadsheet for hours on end, a little organization can go a long way. To stay organized, I create new sheets, freeze panes, insert filters, and set up Excel Tables.
  • Cleaning Data: Before you can analyze your data, you’ll need to check for missing data and recode some variables.
  • Exploring Preliminary Patterns: Quickly explore your data and find initial patterns.
  • Calculating Descriptive Statistics with Formulas and with Pivot Tables: Summarize your data by finding the mean, median, standard deviation, and other descriptive statistics. We’ll cover one of my favorite features of Excel—pivot tables. Pivot tables are the fastest, most accurate way to summarize your data – and they’re easier than you think. You can use pivot tables to summarize anything from demographic information to satisfaction survey responses.

Watch a video to see my analytical style in action.

 

Length

How many skills can staff learn within a half-day, full-day, or multi-day workshop?

  • During a half-day workshop, we might cover the core data visualization content, with or without laptops.
  • During a full-day workshop, we might cover the core data visualization content in more detail and add the dashboard module.
  • During a multi-day workshop, we might spend a half day on time-saving spreadsheet strategies, spend a day on the core data visualization content, spend a half day on dashboard design, offer time for small group work, and schedule one-on-one sessions to coach your staff as they continue applying these skills to their own projects.

Multi-day workshops are the most popular, and for good reason. You can’t become an expert in just a couple hours.

 

All Workshops…

  • … are customized. I review your reports, slideshows, handouts, and dashboards. We might find that we should spend significant time on x and skip y altogether.
  • … include dozens of before/after makeovers so your staff can see how every edit makes a difference.
  • … are interactive. In low-tech workshops, we remake graphs through group discussions and sketches. In high-tech workshops, I provide Excel files—inspired by your real-life projects—so that everyone’s working from the same examples.

Here’s one training’s dataset with a dozen activities:

I introduce a topic and then give participants an opportunity to immediately practice that skill. I offer both low-tech and high-tech workshops. In low-tech workshops, we remake graphs through group discussions and sketches. In high-tech workshops, I bring Excel files—inspired by your real-life projects—so that everyone’s working from the same examples. Here’s a screenshot from one workshop’s activity file in which attendees created two graph styles, one providing a birds eye view and the other including specific values.

 

Learn More

Read the reviews, skim the book, and contact me.