How Nidhal Firoze, Top Digital Analytics Trainer, Uses Technology Tools to Keep his Presentation Audiences Hooked
This episode is focused on the inspirational work of Nidhal Firoze and how he goes about presenting data in the most engaging way possible.
From simple tech choices to strategies before and during presentation, Nidhal has so much value to offer listeners, talking about the steps in his process that he has found to have the most positive effect on his talks. In our conversation, he underlines the value of preparation, color-coding and his new aspirations to expand into writing!
Nidhal is a Digital Analytics Association certified web analyst and associate manager of Digital Analytics and BI at Course5 Intelligence.
He was recently recognized by the Analytics India Magazine as one of the top 5 data science mentors in June, 2020. He's also a DAA Quanties-award finalist in the difference-maker category.
Our guest is a passionate public speaker, corporate trainer, mentor, and he has trained over 2,000 students from 20 plus educational institutions. During his free time, he is a very sought out analytic speaker at seminars, webinars, online events and organizations.
With such a strong set of tools, clear ideas, and the reputation to back it up, Nidhal is the perfect person to weigh in on presenting engaging data stories in an ever-changing world at the end of a very difficult year.
In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
- The influence of data presentation on Nidhal's career.
- Nidhal's secret sauce for his presentation: Preparation!
- The importance of through-line for creating impactful presentations.
- Nidhal's perspective on the current challenges facing practitioners in the space.
- The utility of color and the ways in which it can be employed effectively.
- Techniques and strategies that he currently uses to get his data across and increase engagement.
- Nidhal's new focus on writing to accompany his speaking work.
- Top tool choices for processing and presentation of data for Nidhal.
- Lessons around virtual presentations that Nidhal has learned during 2020.
- Nidhal's advice to his earlier self — boosting confidence through reflection and preparation.
- The benefits of consistency and commitment when learning something new.
People, Blogs, and Resources Mentioned
- Tables to Tableau
- Analytics India Magazine
- Course 5 Intelligence
- Quanties Awards
- ROMI Analytics
- Andy Kriebel on YouTube
- Seth Godin
- My free 30-second online assessment to find out and overcome the #1 silent killer of your data presentation success
How to Connect with Nidhal Firoze:
Thanks for Listening!
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Always remember: viz responsibly, my friends.
[00:00:01] LP: A healthy December to you. Lea Pica here. Today’s guest uses classic and cutting-edge tech tools for keeping his audience as awake and engaged. Stay tuned to find out who’s keeping cool on the Present Beyond Measure Show, episode 62.
[00:00:16] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the Present Beyond Measure Show, a podcast at the intersection of analytics, data visualization and presentation awesomeness. You’ll learn the beset tips, tools and techniques for creating analytics visualizations and presentations that inspire data-driven decisions and move you forward. If you’re ready to get your insights understood and acted upon, you’re in the right place.
Now your host, Lea Pica.
[00:00:44] LP: Hey, listeners. Welcome to the 62nd episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show, the only podcast at the intersection of presentation, data visualization, storytelling and analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to maximum impact as a data practitioner and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights and ideas.
You are here today, either because you are just banging your head against the wall, trying to figure out how to keep audiences engaged and awake and interested, especially in a virtual context now, or you are just really dying to hear the guest secret hobby during that good old wild card question at the end. Get some every time.
This episode is brought to you by my pals over at Supermetrics. Supermetrics is an amazing data tool that picks up all the marketing data you need and brings it into your favorite reporting analytics, or storage platform. Whether that's a spreadsheet, a data visualization tool, or a marketing data warehouse, over 14,000 businesses use Supermetrics to speed up their data processing time to market by connecting your data sources and performing the hygiene that is super boring and cumbersome.
You spend less time cleaning and organizing data and more time analyzing, visualizing and communicating data, which is obviously the fun part about working with data. Visit leapica.com/supermetrics to start your free 14-day trial of this amazing solution for cleaner, faster and more accurate data. Be sure to use my exclusive discount code, Pica, to get 20% off all your Supermetrics solutions.
We are closing in on the end of 2020. What can I say? We're certainly not out of the woods of a tremendously challenging year that offered many lessons to learn. I have to say, I'm just incredibly impressed by the resilience and the fortitude that the data and digital community keeps coming out swinging with. We are really sticking together and help each other. I appreciate that.
There's nothing too much to report at the moment. I have some really exciting projects in the works for next year, including my very first book. I’ll be sharing more information about that as I get closer to editing my first draft. Very exciting. I have some really fun podcast guests scheduled for you. I think you're going to find the next one so fun. It has to do with reviewing some of the most fascinating Waze data was visualized in 2020. It's going to be a new annual segment and I think you're going to love it.
As usual, I'm excited for today’s guest. Never changed. In particular, this analytics practitioner is also turned analytics workshop trainer and professional speaker like me. We became fast friends online. His Charisma is really a lot to learn from. Definitely pay attention to how his passion really turns into a desire to keep his audiences on the edge of their seats. Let's dive in.
[00:04:19] LP: All right. Today's guest is a Digital Analytics Association certified web analyst and associate manager of Digital Analytics and BI at Course5 Intelligence. He was recently recognized by the Analytics India Magazine as one of the top 5 data science mentors in June, 2020. He's also a DAA Quanties-award finalist in the difference-maker category, alongside yours truly. He is a passionate public speaker, corporate trainer, mentor, and he has trained over 2,000 students from 20 plus educational institutions.
During his free time, he is a very sought out analytic speaker at seminars, webinars, online events and organizations. Please help me welcome, Nidhal Firoze. Hello.
[00:05:09] NF: Hello, Lea. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. It’s a great opportunity to be on this podcast.
[00:05:14] LP: So glad you decided to join. I caught wind of you on LinkedIn when you announced your nomination for difference-maker in the DAA Quanties and I was really impressed with your analytics and speaking credentials and also, your seemingly very high passion for the field of data, which I love so much. Everyone loves a great origin story. I would love for you to share with us how it is you came to fall into the wacky, wonderful field of data and how did you get to be here today?
[00:05:45] NF: Yeah. I think my origin story is different from a lot of other’s origin stories in terms of how people went searching for data and analytics, had an interest and going towards that particular field and then ending up there. Mine was more of a coincidence. I was in my MBA post-graduation and there was placement season. Then I noticed this job profile and the state of interviewing techniques by the organization, which is the current organization that I’m a part of. It was completely different from the typical marketing, finance roles. It was a different profile.
We had like a Shark Tank selection round, where we had to pick some ideas, form teas and then we had to convince the recruiters. That was a different kind of an experience. Ever since I got into analytics from my first job, I’ve never regretted that. Because one thing about me is I love math. I love numbers. That's one of the reasons I was a quantitative aptitude trainer and I still love solving those time, speed and distance problems and those kinds of quantitative aptitude problems. Numbers have always been the great interest for me. That's how I found my passion and fire in analytics. Then ever since that, I think DA has been a great stepping stone for me in terms off building out my network, taking part in events and to also start giving back to the community in some form or shape. That's it in a nutshell my origin story.
[00:07:15] LP: That's fantastic. I don't think I’ve met a single person who fell into analytics and say they regretted that decision, or that path. There's a unique mix of skills that makes one really suited for it and I think it's fantastic. You definitely carved a real path and name for yourself in this field. One of the things I'm interested in exploring on this is not only how you present information that is compelling, but how that has influenced your career path itself in terms of becoming a subject matter expert. How would you say that, or what's the role that presenting and presenting data influenced your career, especially now as a trainer?
[00:08:04] NF: Yeah. I think one of the starting points when I started presenting data, again, was during my post-graduation when I used to have subjects where I had to create PowerPoint presentations to go prepared and then start presenting it in classrooms. That's what I started out. I think one of the things that differentiated me from others where I used to have some of these really cool templates, especially when you’re starting out, you depend a lot on those templates and that helps.
Then I used to search and find the right template that fits the team and then use those in my presentations. Later on in my journey, and closer to now, I’ve actually shifted from that approach lightly, in terms of creating my own style, or my own set of slides and those kind of things. I think that's one area where I started out with presenting. Also, standing out a bit from the crowd in terms of how my presentation is seen from other ones.
Right now, I think, so I’ve been doing workshops. I’ve been doing this kind of presentations and analytics docs and at a different types of event. In those cases, what really helps me is putting together a thought process into those slides a bit in advance and then going with the flow. The preparation really helps. Also, having an end-goal in terms of what you're trying to put into the form of slides. That has really helped. Yeah.
[00:09:25] LP: That’s fantastic. I agree with you. I find a things become much easier and also, much more impactful when you develop a process, when you develop a method that makes sense for you and you can come back to each time to get to a certain outcome. What are some of the key characteristics of your process of how you think about putting together a presentation? If you had to say like, “This is one part is my secret sauce,” if you'd be able to share.
[00:09:57] NF: Yeah. I think my secret sauce is really, the preparation that goes behind it. The reason why I say that is because, I tend to have these notes and the notes, I basically even recite those notes. It's not really for learning something by heart and then actually taking it out in a presentation. It’s actually for having that thought process in my mind that this is how my story is going to look like. This is where it's going to start.
These are the points where I probably take a 2-second pause and then emphasize. Then towards the end, what is the key of theme that I actually want people to grasp from the entire presentation? I feel, even the last 15 minutes before a presentation, I feel I am super powerful, because the amount of things I can do in the last 15 minutes, sometimes there are those situations when you’re not prepared also.
You really can't achieve a lot in 15 minutes. You’re able to move things around, get in the right set-up, do a light, sound, or whatever checks. Also, making sure that all the slides are in line. I think, I’ve had some of those game-changing 15 minutes before my presentation, because if I did not have those 15 minutes, my presentation would be trash. In those 15 minutes, I could transfer. I think, one thing I also learned from you, I think in one of your recent talks, you spoke about the through-line that presentations should have. I think, that’s an immense learning for me. I mean, I’ve started testing that out a bit. It’s super helpful. Yeah.
[00:11:35] LP: I appreciate that. I want to make sure everyone is listening. Preparation is the key to success. It's interesting, because preparation, I think touches on the entire part of the process. It's preparing your thoughts and your concepts and data in the beginning, but it's also preparing to speak when you go in there. I tend to see that that's the most – the area of most resistance for a lot of practitioners, because they just don't have any tools to do that. Also, it's not a required part of the process.
You are required to walk into a presentation with yourself and your slides, but you're not required to have really prepared any of those things in a certain way. I appreciate that and I appreciate the shout out for the through-line as well. What he's referring to is that every single TED Talk requires something called her through-line before a speaker can take the stage. It's essentially the theme of the entire presentation boiled down to one sentence. That every single idea in that presentation can fall into that sentence, supports that sentence, and that anything that strays outside of that is going to distract and derail your presentation.
I'm curious. It’s also something I teach in my courses, but I'm curious, have you used the through-line at all in your presentations? Or what struck you as helpful about that?
[00:13:05] NF: Yeah. I think, what struck me as helpful is because, it stitches together everything. There are so many disconnected elements and it’s also hard to get people's attention focused on something. I think, especially when in analytics used cases, there are sometimes these deep times when there is a focus area, there is a core problem statement that you're trying to deep dive, discover, further drill down into. Then the more you get into details, sometimes the more – probably, the more amount of detail, or the more amount of numbers you have on your slides, there are cases when you tend to deviate away from the core, or the theme topic.
I think that’s where it’s super helpful to actually bring everybody back to the point. It's just like, how probably in meetings with set agendas, their conversation sometimes go on the different tangent. Then there's somebody always who’s trying to bring people back on the common team that was initially intended to be spoken about. I think that’s got a good connection there.
[00:14:07] NF: It’s a really good point. Meetings, I think are accustomed to not having a clear theme, or a proper container. Naturally, people will veer off into whatever path they're most concerned about. For me, the through-line acts like a corral for the cats that you're trying to herd for this one hour that you're sitting with them. It is the place to return to. I really appreciate you bringing that up. What do you think are the areas that practitioners are struggling with most when presenting information? Especially this year in a virtual environment.
[00:14:47] NF: I think that’s a good question. I’ve been part of some presentations. When I feel that if I had a chance to make some slight improvements there, there are definitely scope for improvement. Sometimes, there are moments when you can give feedback to that person. There are moments when you can’t. Sometimes it's not really a two-way conversation.
Then, I think there is difficulty in for example, I’ll take a case of a simple Excel table, or a set of columns of data that gets displayed on a slide. You really need to know which are the columns that really add up to your story. If it doesn't add up to your story, so you either need to fair those out, or you need to not display them at all. I think, even with visualization. I’m sure you're familiar with the concept of pre-attentive attributes and how you use those pre-attentive attributes to differentiate those particular data points that people need to focus on.
I think, it’s very simple. For example, if you're using Excel, conditional formatting is very basic; using a green to red, that kind of thing. That really helps people to look at the same point where you don't need to have a stick and actually show that, “Look here.” People will automatically look there, where – Yeah. I think that's one thing, which is very, very simple to implement. However, people need to be I think educated about it. I think there’s scope for improvement there.
[00:16:18] LP: I couldn’t agree more. I always tell people, emphasizing and storytelling with data is actually quite simple. You don't need a degree in Python, or training in R to tell a compelling data story. You do actually need to understand things like pre-attentive attributes, which are elements have a visual stimuli, piece of information that speaks a different parts of our brain, such as color, or boldness, or spacing, gaps. These are things our brains are attuned to look for and interpret for information.
It's so funny that you bring up color, because for me, that's one of the most important pre-attentive attributes to focus on for storytelling. I was working with a client recently. What I noticed was that in one place on a report, the information, like KPIs that were under goal, or projection were colored red, which makes sense from a cultural interpretation standpoint. Then that same exact color red, was used to distinguish the prior year's performance for something. My brain immediately associated that performance with something bad, or something that needs attention, when it meant something completely differently. That's a cultural conversation that this group has to have. That's the thing to be conscious of when you're making decisions. I agree. What do you think?
[00:17:53] NF: Yup. I think, choosing the right colors needs a bit of sensitizing, or training, or letting people know that you can sometimes use these set of colors. It’s an extensive topic. I think I’ve seen at least, a lot of resources, which talk about which colors to use, when it comes to access ability for one people with color blindness, for example; they’re not able to see all the colors the same way.
Also, there are cases where there’s also the color wheel. I’ve heard people quoting if you are using a color, then try to use a complementary color, which it looks better if used in combination with something. Obviously, there are some resources that I always refer to, which have these templates, which you don't need to choose, or think much, but then there's the set of colors that really go well with each other. Yup. I think you have to factor in a few of those things. Like you said very rightly, if you are showing something in red, if it isn’t meant to indicate something negative, people will still by default have that. It’s just difficult to – Yeah.
[00:18:56] LP: Exactly. I’m curious. You are obviously a trainer for analytics. You must have to teach complex concepts and make them accessible for people. What are some of the ways that you train people on such a complex information? Do you use analogies? I would just love to know, because that's one of the top questions that I get from this audience.
[00:19:22] NF: Yup. That’s a great question, in fact. I’ve been doing some tableau workshops recently. There's a concept of joints and unions, which confuses people, which one, which that is drawings with set as unions. One thing I’ve used as you know, visual representation of how it actually looks with actual examples. I did use color coding to basically highlight which cells from each table, or which columns from each table are getting matched with the columns from the other table when you're using a certain type of join, or when you’re using a certain type of union.
I’ve been able to use color as a pre-attentive attribute to actually, visually represent examples of actual – not actual data. Probably dummy data, but then a real-time, or like a real-life scenario, basically. Trying to replicate some of those scenarios, I think, that's one. Sometimes when it gets complex, I think what helps to really break it down and help people understand is if you're able to bring in some practical examples, which they’re able to relate with very easily.
For example, there’s a concept of continuous versus discrete data types. When somebody asks me, “I read so many definitions about it. I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I'm not able to understand what it is.” I look for these very common examples. For example, our age. Age is always a discreet number, because it always increases by 1 unit. Your human weight is a continuous, because it can have a continuous range of values between.
[00:21:03] LP: You just answered a question that I'm not sure about ever since I even started working with Tableau. That's fascinating. Thank you.
[00:21:13] NF: No problem. No problem. I think, that’s something that really helps. Trying to think of those examples. It's difficult to forget or not understand a concept once you have – It really clicks in your mind. Actually, you just need to get that person to that point where they’re crystal clear that this is what it is and then there's no going back.
[00:21:36] LP: There’s never been a more important time for presenting data accurately, confidently and impactfully to your stakeholders and clients. If you're a leader or agency owner whose team is responsible for driving database decisions and keeping satisfied clients, and if you've tried other data storytelling, courses, trainings, or instructors in the past who missed the mark, I get it.
With over seven years of experience, training data and digital practitioners in the unique art and science of presenting data, who knows the unique challenges of this field, having been in it myself for 12 years, I'm ready to help. I offer both live, virtual and online course solutions with ongoing learning support options that suit your specific organization’s needs.
Visit leapica.com/workshops to schedule your strategy session with me and we'll get started on your custom training Solutions today. That's leapica.com/workshops.
[00:22:39] LP: I love that so much. A lot of my guests talk about relating a complex concept, because you'll go to Wikipedia and see the definition of it and you think, “I'm more confused than I was before.” As soon as you choose live examples that are in the real-world that an audience can relate to and picture, especially visually as you said, then it becomes attached as a reference point for that definition. Now, I know I will never forget what the distinguishing between those two, because I have those examples. I can picture them. That's wonderful. That's wonderful.
In terms of delivering presentations, I get the sense that you take care to really make sure you're super articulate. Obviously, you have loads of experience. What are some ideas you have about how you actually prepare for the speaking part?
[00:23:35] NF: In terms of preparing for the speaking part, so if there is an order in which I’d like to share my thoughts or ideas, I keep some placeholders within the slide itself. That helps me give – it's like a cue that there's something. I think one thing that this should very important here is I’ve been in a part of a presentation earlier, where somebody had notes written at the footer of the presentation and it’s visible to the people who are part of the presentation also.
Then that person called out at the beginning of the presentation that these notes are for me. It’s not for you, so don't waste time reading it basically. It won’t make sense to you. I don’t believe in that concept, because we always look out for distractions. I mean, it’s hard to stay focused on a presentation, unless it's super attention catching and if that person is really getting your attention.
I think, people tend to get distracted very easily. One of the reasons why I’ve disabled all the notifications on my phone, because I tend to get distracted when focusing on something else. Then yeah, I believe if there are notes, or visual cues, it should also make sense to the user to see that cue and be able to relate with what I am speaking about at the same time. I use those queues. Sometimes, I think that's something that helps.
While presenting, actually there are a couple of things that actually help me get the flow. I also recall you mentioning about progressive disclosure and how you use certain animations and then just show a bit at a time, so that people don't start reading. Also, I’ve recently discovered a couple of really cool things. In the presentation view, if you're using PowerPoint, you actually have an option to get a laser pointer, which is super cool. I mean, it's how you would use that laser pointer in a physical setting. It's very cool.
There's also the option where you're able to keep the snapshot of one slide within another one. Then in the presentation mode, when you click into that slide, it opens up, zooms and then focuses into that. I use those when there are times when people ask you to put so much of detail into one slide.
[00:25:47] LP: Really? No.
[00:25:49] NF: Yeah. That doesn't make sense, right? Yeah. I’m sure you are against doing that probably.
[00:25:57] LP: No, no. The more on the slide, the better. Nope, not my mantra. It's so funny that you talk about some of these things, like putting notes on a slide and then asking your audience to not look at them, not pay attention. Basically, the best way to get a human brain to pay attention to something is to tell it to not pay attention. It's like putting them in a room with a giant red button and saying, “Whatever you do, don't push the red button.” Of course, that's all they're going to be able to think about.
It really is amazing. As soon as you draw attention to something in the effort to draw away, you're really only drawing too. I'm really glad that you brought that up. That's really insightful. I love some of the tools that you're mentioning in PowerPoint as well. I actually just noticed for the first time, when I was screen sharing through Zoom a presentation, my colleague used their Zoom to draw on top of my slide to point out some stuff. They had the ability to actually mark up on my screen that I was sharing, which I thought was really neat too, if people want to point to things, or ask questions about things.
[00:27:11] NF: Well, yeah. I think I also had a similar experience, but that was somebody trying to go around and –
[00:27:17] LP: Stick figures.
[00:27:21] NF: This is also the option where you can show the name of the person who's actually doing it.
[00:27:27] LP: That's right. That's right. That’s right. Oh, yes. The online environment has provided so many interesting quirks to our presentations. Especially with online now, what are some of the techniques that help you get good engagement from the audience, whether it's a talk, a webinar, training?
[00:27:46] NF: Yeah. I think I’ve been using – I was part of a local meet actually, where they were using a Kahoot at the end of the session. A Kahoot is probably you’re familiar with. It's a quiz where you get real-time scores and then people are able to participate. The quicker you answer, you get more points and things like that.
[00:28:06] LP: Oh, cool.
[00:28:07] NF: Yeah. I think that's a good resource I found, which helps people to – you don't need a summary slide, you'd work a Kahoot. A summary slide is where you do a – show a list of one to five, these are the key takeaways. Rather than doing that, just do a quiz and then people can actually – you see the scores real-time after every question. That's something that super engages the crowd, because they get excited to be – There's also this app called QuizUp. People who are very much into quizzes. I’ve also been a quiz enthusiast and I’ve done that myself before. It's very similar to the concept.
[00:28:46] LP: I just love all these resources that you're dropping. This is so great, because secretly I’m like, “I’m going to check these out.” Yeah, I am only recently really started working with virtual audience engagement tools like that. A client pointed me to something called Mentee Meter. I think I’ve mentioned it before on the show. Yeah, so have you used it?
[00:29:07] NF: Yes. I have used it. I have used both. I think Kahoot is actually slightly better with the amount of yeah, the visual – I think there's some game changers about Kahoot, which I have felt to be a better option. You should check it out.
[00:29:22] LP: Cool. Definitely.
[00:29:23] NF: Also, so apart from Kahoot, I think – in the live session sometimes for data visualization or tableau, I’ve been using version A, or version B, which is two A and B versions of the same visual representation of the same data. Which one is actually better? The question is thrown out to the audience and then they have to choose one of those two and also, justify which one. That really creates engagement. You just need to wait a few seconds before the first person starts off and then it's like a chain and then everybody has opinions. In case you want to really engage your audience, that really helps. I found that to be very helpful.
[00:30:07] LP: Oh, I love that so much, especially getting people involved when they get – whenever anyone gets to weigh in on their opinion, that is a definite engagement piece. I love the idea. Do you do that for things like weighing in on potential test winners? I know that that's a really great use case from a previous episode with Valerie Kroll from Search Discovery, where she would have her audience predict which one was the winner and then reveal the answer.
[00:30:34] NF: Yeah. I actually attended the Search Discovery workshop during the BA1 conference. She has done something similar. It was really a great workshop. I loved some of the insights. I think, one common insight that I found very, very related is that in Adobe Workspace, so if you are into web analytics, in Adobe analytics workspace, if you name your panels with the insight, or the key theme that you want to convey, that makes it super easy for people to read, rather than just keeping a common title, which says, “Sales by country,” or whatever it is. Yeah. I think that's another key insight that I got from there.
[00:31:14] LP: Absolutely. Every time you tell a story, rather than just saying what something is, people are going to do less work to figure out whatever your visual is trying to tell them. It's also going to not bore them to tears from sales by a country. This is not a story.
In terms of speaking again and presenting, I think that every speaker is on a path of growth obviously. What's an area that's opportunity for growth for you? What are you working on right now on yourself?
[00:31:48] NF: Yeah. I think I’ve been focused on speaking a bit. I’ve been focused on analytics talks, speaking at events, colleges, webinars. I think, I want to also get into writing. Speaking is something that I’ve been doing. I’m practicing. When I say practice, this is the actual talks that I’m doing. I’ve been trying to get my calendar completely filled with as many talks that I can do outside of all the working hours that I have, so which consumes my weekends and everything. I think, writing is one area where I’ve started setting up my own blog and I want to put out some content. That's some place where I’m headed.
[00:32:30] LP: Oh. Well, when that's ready, definitely send along the link and I’ll make sure it's on the show notes page for this. I can't wait to see that. Of course, one thing people love to know is what's your tool of choice, or tools in terms of both visualizing data and presenting data?
[00:32:48] NF: Yeah. In terms of if I want to analyze data, especially web analytics data, my tool of choice is Adobe Analytics. The workspace, I think it really deserves a great call out, because of the dynamic nature of how you can randomly drag and drop certain metrics, or dimensions and how you are able to instantly visualize and process a lot of data. I think that's really powerful, especially when even while you are on a presentation with an Adobe workspace report, if somebody asks a question, you're able to drill down immediately and look at certain other dimension and get some answers out of it possibly. That's one of my tools of choice.
The other one when it comes to presenting data, not processing data, then it's PowerPoint. I’ve been using PowerPoint extensively. I know there are other tools out there, like Prezi, but PowerPoint, I’ve found a comfort. I think years of usage has actually helped me find some hacks, which makes me create some slides really quickly and off the fly.
[00:33:53] LP: Are you able to share one of those hacks?
[00:33:55] NF: Yeah. Control D is a shortcut that I use sometimes to duplicate shapes, or duplicate objects, text boxes. Then if I use that shortcut multiple times, it repeats the same step again. That's a shortcut that I use. Then aligning objects horizontally/vertically. That's again, a super design element that I use. I recently used that actually in my CV also to put certain icons of all the certifications that I did, or other tools that I’m familiar with. It's basically like a design thing to equally space blocks of images, or blocks of text. That's a super helpful feature in the Microsoft Office Suite, or even within PowerPoint.
[00:34:41] LP: Yeah. Those are amazing. Little hacks like that are the key to getting things done quickly, so you have more time to prepare. I absolutely love duplicate and alignment. Those are definitely two of my favorites.
Before we start to go into the next segment, I’m curious what has you excited about the future of data storytelling? What are you seeing in terms of trends, especially this year? Did this year teach you anything about how data is communicated? What are your thoughts?
[00:35:12] NF: Yeah. I think the exciting thing to look forward to is being able to actually hold on to people's attention in a virtual presentation. That’s one this year has taught me the most. If you were actually in front of the people presenting, then it's easier to actually get the attention of the folks and especially when people are not turning on their videos during a meeting. You don't really know if people are listening to the things that you're presenting. It's very important to, I think, learn some of those hacks/techniques that actually help you communicate more effectively.
That's where I’m headed. I’m trying and testing out different things, like I mentioned earlier, the Kahoot and those things. Then, you also need to develop your own style without having to depend on some of these. These are obviously enhancing, or adding on some extra features, or functionality, but then you need to also build your own style with it. I think that's where I’m headed.
[00:36:10] LP: Oh, I love that so much. You're right. The future of data storytelling is about communication. I think that people are finally learning that we're not supposed to be lecturing people when we're speaking, or training. It is a conversation. The more that people feel drawn in and asked for their opinion and asked how they're feeling, the more they're going to feel like they're part of something, rather than just witnessing something. I definitely appreciate that advice.
[00:36:40] NF: Certainly. Yeah.
[00:36:51] LP: Okay. We have now entered the segment called The Upgrade, a tool, resource, book, podcast, something that you love that makes your job easier or awesome that you think the listeners would love. What do you got for us?
[00:37:08] NF: Some people want to actually start visualizing, especially when it comes to tableau. It's a difficult tool to catch for first, because there's a slightly bit of overwhelming number of features and the layout and everything. One resource that has helped me catch up is a YouTube video series by Andy Kriebel, by the name Watch Me Viz. That's a series that I love, especially because he has put in a lot of structure in terms of how he starts looking at which are the different chart types that you can use to represent that data and then creates a list of those chart types. Then, he actually starts visualizing the data sets using each of those chart types and then he crosses some of them off the list, because eventually, the data decides how that visual looks.
There are certain attributes of that data, which make it look good. I think there's also design, there's also the visual element, especially when it comes to tableau, because tableau can do it really well in terms of making something look really good. I think that's a really super helpful resource, especially for me.
If you want to start visualizing, I think Andy’s videos are really helpful to understand. How do you start off? How do you understand that data? Even read the background about it. I think that's the extra two minutes that you're doing, or putting in there. Makes a lot of difference, because context really matters before you start visualizing, or before you start. Because you can get easily overwhelmed. That, “What will I do with this?”
[00:38:43] LP: Absolutely. Andy is fantastic. I’m coming for him in 2021 for the show, but he is fantastic. He has some amazing resources. I have not seen that YouTube series, so I’ll definitely put that on the page. You're correct again, sometimes we just dive right into data without some context, or roadmap to what we're even potentially looking for. I’m all about the sandbox approach, but I often find I zero in on what I’m looking for in the visualization once I have a question, or a starting point before diving in.
That's great. Can't wait to check that out. We have arrived at our final question. I want you to really think hard here and imagine this very plausible scenario. You're snapping a selfie while traveling to speak at an analytics conference in exotic Phuket, Thailand. Please, someone schedule one. When suddenly, you trip and fall into a vortex that pulls you back into the moment, you're about to deliver your first presentation. Do you remember what you're presenting about and what advice would you give to yesterday you?
[00:39:56] NF: I’d go back and tell my yesterday me that you've got 10 minutes left. Go and open up your presentation. Go through the slides. Think about what you're going to say. I know you have prepared a lot. You've read about it earlier. You have put in some thoughts into the slides and then you are thinking, “I’ll go into the presentation. Once the slides start showing up on the screen, those things will come to me.”
That's true to an extent, but if you put in those extra two minutes or five minutes just going through those and then let those images, or that that thought process form in your mind, you'll get an additional boost of confidence and also, your story will be much smoother. That's what I would tell myself if I were to go back in the day.
[00:40:38] LP: That's excellent advice. I appreciate that. To wrap, obviously, you're one of the final episodes we have for 2020. This was by far, I think, the most challenging year most of us have experienced in this lifetime. I wonder if you had a message for staying strong for the data community, what would that be?
[00:41:00] NF: My message to the data community would be, if there is a tool that you want to learn, if there is a concept that you want to understand, or if there is something you want to achieve, show up every day, put in time and be consistent in your efforts. There are umpteen amount of resources available out there, but you start slowly. You start with those small steps before you dive in and start getting overwhelmed by what others are doing. Focus on what you did yesterday, versus what you're doing today. I think that makes a lot of difference, because people who are tableau featured, authors, today, nobody looked at how they became that and then started off their journey.
I think there's a lot of effort that goes behind the curtains, which people don't really see. Then, in order to eventually get there, you have to show up every day and put in that consistent amount of efforts. I think that's my piece of golden advice, if I may call it that.
[00:41:59] LP: That is an amazing message. Look at what you did yesterday, compared to what you're doing today. Or have you grown? Have you learned? Have you excelled? I love that so much. That's fantastic.
[00:42:11] NF: It's very similar to how sometimes, you look at benchmarks that are outside of your industry and then try to compare. Sometimes, you just need to benchmark against what was the sales last year, the last month. You're not looking at that internal amount of data that you already have, which you can benchmark against when you start looking out for other industry benchmarks, which may not make sense to compare against, because the background is so different sometimes. Yeah, that was just a random example that came up and I thought I’d probably share that as well.
[00:42:44] LP: That is exactly right. Often, one of the most common “annoying questions” that my students will ask is like, well, what if someone asks for an industry, or competitive benchmark and that doesn't apply? It's through encouraging that you become your own top competitor. There's no one that's going to help you grow than who you were yesterday. You can always look to see what the market is doing and what the trends are, but it's looking towards yourself and your past performance to gain that baseline to begin with, so you actually can measure how far you've come. That's whether you're an organization, or a department, or a single person presenting, right?
[00:43:25] LP: Yes. That's right.
[00:43:27] LP: Well, Nidhal. So much valuable wisdom dropped today. Unfortunately, our time has run out. Please tell the listeners where they can keep up with you.
[00:43:37] NF: LinkedIn is the most active – the place where you'll find me super active. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn. Yeah, I think I’ve also listed out some of the resources that I have contributed in the featured post section of my LinkedIn profile, so you can definitely check that out as well.
[00:43:52] LP: Very nice. Are there any projects that you're particularly excited about right now?
[00:43:57] NF: Yeah. I’m really excited about the tableau workshop that I’m doing. There are four batches that I’ve completed. I and [inaudible 00:44:03] have been doing this. That's getting me super excited to talk to people who are new to data visualization and analytics and creating and shaping up their first dashboard. That's something that really gets me going.
[00:44:17] LP: Nice. Okay. Well, all of the links to that and the list of 50 different tools and things that we dropped here, all of those will be available on the show notes page for this episode. Nidhal, I want to thank you so much for being on the show today. I’m so glad I ran into you in the LinkedIn sandbox. I wish you all the best of luck with how your amazing teaching career is shaping up. I hope our paths cross again.
[00:44:45] NF: Definitely, Lea. Thank you so much for the opportunity. Then it was nice talking to you as well. Thank you so much. Cheers.
[END OF INTERVIEW]
[00:45:02] LP: All right. I hope that you have learned a couple of new tools and techniques that you can use to keep your audiences engaged too. I just really love breaking out practitioners who are really making waves in the field. Nidhal is definitely one to watch. Seems awesome.
To catch all of the links, to register for all of the resources and tools in this episode, visit the show notes page at leapica.com/062. I would love if you could leave a comment or suggestions, because I want to hear about the challenges you face when presenting information. Also, starting next year, I'm going to start answering listener questions on the show. I’ll be giving you a way to actually record your own questions and have them answered, because it's very possible, there's another practitioner or presenter out there who has the same question as you.
Please, if you like what you've heard and you are on your phone right now listening to iTunes, or Spotify, just take a moment to stop what you're doing, hit that subscribe button and please leave a rating and review. Ratings and reviews are how I know I’m on the right track with content for you. They affect the ranking, so that other practitioners like you with the same challenges and struggles can get the help they need as well. I’ll be reading out my favorite ones on future episodes. I’ll leave you with today's presentation inspiration by the one and only, Seth Godin. That is, “If your audience isn't listening, it's not their fault. It's yours.”
Well, my take is while this quote is a bit heavy-handed and I don't like to place blame on people, the fact is that when it comes to keeping our audiences engaged and interested, there is more that we can do as presenters than we have ever thought possible, especially today and especially in a virtual environment. It just takes some effort to go out there and find the tools and techniques that are going to help you keep them interested and not distracted.
Don't forget, take my new assessment to find out what's stopping you from getting the glory and recognition and rewards you deserve from presenting data impactfully. Find out the number one silent killer of your data presentation success at leapica.com/assessment, where you'll get a free customized report that shows and diagnoses your biggest silent killer, and my best strategies for overcoming it.
That's it for today. Stay tuned for an amazing new episode in a few weeks to close out this year. Stay well. Stay safe and namaste.