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Tim Wilson Grumps About Why Analysts Need to Present Data Better

Today I feature my very first guest! Tim Wilson, Senior Partner at Analytics Demystified and well-known analytics thought leader, is here to set the record straight on how to get better at presenting data, dangit.

He’s run a business intelligence department for a $500 million high-tech B2B company, worked at a leading digital agency to help consumer brands ranging from Hewlett-Packard to Purina to act on their digital and social data, and consulted with multiple Top 50 Internet Retailer brands on digital analytics.

But most importantly, at heart, he is an analyst who has had to present analysis results internally at all of the organizations where he's worked. And over the course of his career, he’s definitely learned a thing or two about what works in getting your insights paid attention to and acted upon.

He’s also a rising star on the digital analytics and marketing conference circuit.  Catch him next in September 2015 (with me!) at the LovesData Analytics Conference in…Australia!

And away we go!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • How Tim evolved from a small-time technical writer to an in-demand analytics thought leader through presenting himself right
  • How he engages with stakeholders to help them understand and act on analytics data
  • His biggest pet peeves about how web analytics present data today
  • Advice he has for digital analysts who lack confidence in their presentation prowess
  • Tim’s top tools of his data visualization and presentation trade

People, Resources and Links Mentioned In This Episode:

How to Follow Tim

Upgrade Tip of the Day:

  • Using conditional formatting to create horizontal bar graphs in Excel: Tim’s tutorial
  • Use pivot table slicers to easily manipulate your data: tutorial here

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or question for Tim? Leave a note in the comments below, and one of us will get back to you!

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As always, viz responsibly, my friends.


Click here to view the transcript for this episode.

Hey guys, it's Lea Pica here. Today I have my very first guest who's known as the Grumpy Cat of analytics and arising star in the digital conference speaking circuit. Stay tuned to find out who's crashing the Present Beyond Measure Show Episode 3.Welcome to the Present Beyond Measure Show, where you learn the best tips, tools and techniques for creating and delivering data visualizations and presentations that inspired data driven decisions, change hearts and enlighten minds. If you're ready to get your insights noticed, remembered and act upon, you're in the right place. Now your host, Lea Pica.

Okay, I'm so excited to invite my first guest onto the show. He is a well-known analytics thought leader in the industry and he's now senior partner at Analytics Demystified. He's worked with many dimensions of marketing and customer data for over a decade and consulted for multiple Top 50 Internet Retailer brands on everything digital analytics. He's truly a marketer friendly data geek which is a rare find in this industry.

He also now officially is on the conference speaker circuit having presented multiple times in eMetrics and ACCELERATE from coast to coast, all kinds of places including later this year Australia with yours truly. But most importantly, at heart he is an analyst who has had to present analysis results internally at all the organizations where he's worked.

And he told me he has yet to do one of those presentations in a way that was perfectly delivered but always continually improving on that front. You may also know him from his irreverent and very popular blog Gilligan On Data. He is incredibly fun to work with, as a Team Demystified Consultant I can say that, and a great mentor and friend.

I give you, Tim Wilson. Welcome!

Tim: That is quite th build up. And we're out. It's good talking to you. See you later!

Lea: Nice to see you. Thank you, thank you so much. What's up?

Tim: I'm excited to be on your second episode. I can only help maybe listeners has taken off yet. So, I completely embarrassed myself would be limited to smaller audience.

Lea: It's pretty much just my mom. So we're good.

Tim: Hello Lea's Mom!

Tim’s Origin Story

Lea: So I want to start this off by telling everyone, and mom, how you fell into the whole analytic shindig? Like, what's your origin story?

Tim: Oh my quick origin story is I started out as architecture relies interestingly my design talent was sufficiently limited. That, I did not want to just be doing at building construction management, construction documents for my entire career. And I did not have the talent to be a great designer, so which is a little ironic so now we're about to talk about. And now from that I've went from technical writing which I did enjoy that! And that kind of move into some sort of internet and then internet kind web mark role. Kind over serious internet job hubs.

And along the way I'd picked up the web analytics platform at the time which was a logfile analyzer SPSS Net Genesis[LINK]. Which was terrible and I just kind of inherited it. It was kind of a “well somebody on the web team has to own this” and you know I was not in the room when they showed a hand.

So I inherited it but kind of got to where I joined that went to realized we had to move to another kind of whole page tag-based thing and kind of manage the transition to a new platform on that front. And then went to actually offload that platform to our BI team because my web MARCOM role was killing me and I did not have time to kind of own the web analytics.

And as left that meeting and they said sure what take it make sense it's all data and I said this sucks because I’m getting rid of one thing I enjoyed the most with my job. And they said come back to conference room and let's talk a little bit more. So that was the last conversation have me moving into BI but really as kind of a web analytics expert and then actually went broader into, broader BI for a while, customer data management, managing that BI Organization, but really going to gravitated back to the digital analytics world.

Tim: That was the short version. That's it. And then we'll do one more topic and we’ll be 45 minutes.

Lea: So throughout, I mean, were you asked to present on your findings throughout that evolution? And if so, you know, was that something came naturally to you at first or were you resistant to that aspect? Because I know a lot of practitioners I think, kind of see it as necessary evil component of their job.

Tim: I think I've never from day one been satisfied with what I get out of web analytics platforms from the data so I don't think ever as a matter of course, matter of course when sharing whether presenting or emailing, ever wanted to use screen capture out of, I mean countless platforms. They’ve like always looked to me like, wow this is too much work to look at! So I actually pretty early on when I was managing that BI team.

One of the things, I don't really remember the specific genesis of why but I've looked at what some other people on the team were producing and it was so terrible that, I admit I was like `I want to make stuff look better. And at that time I was still little clueless like my kind of signature thing was to drop a blue to white radiant at the background of my charts. So I wasn't doing 3D. I wasn't violating, that one was fairly serious but,

So I came up with, I was in the engineering company with a couple thousand people and lots of the product managers and sales team that we were servicing had direct access to the platforms and at that point I said, nobody knows if a chart gets presented or whether it came from our group that actually knows the data. And this was CRM data, this was sales data, this was web analytics data, or if it was some a product manager we delivered the stuff to and they presented it.

So I think that was kind of the reason, I said we need to sit down and have a style guide for just our data visualization. We're all using Excel. We're all dropping stuffs into PowerPoint. Started a little task force that I was actually not part of have, someone the team kind of run it and there were, I think maybe 8-10 people on it. We pulled somebody from the internal design group, interested in data visualization. They're the ones who pretty quickly came across Stephen Few, so they’re like, hey can we spend, you know, hundred and fifty bucks on buying these books? I said sure.

And what they came out with was a style guide and I'd then read the book and totally embraced it. So, I don't know that I was being personally being asked, you need to present on your results. I knew that my group, myself included, I was an individual contributor as well, was producing stuff and delivering it to a whole bunch of different people and recognized that needed, that stuff needed to be clear and it was going to serve us well as a group that other people wouldn't be recreating our style, but they would know when stuff came out from, not only it was accurate but it would kind of give them the confidence that, oh this is like professionally produced. This is not, you know, to default Excel, Excel color scheme.

Lea: But the default scheme is so lovely. No sarcasm, whatever.

Tim: This was something prior back in Excel 2003.

Lea: Oh that was just pure vomit.

Tim: Maybe. Yeah.

Lea: Yeah. So you mentioned something where clearly you're ahead of your time because you mentioned a design chart style guide and that's something I only came across in last few years when I read this book Data Fluency[AZON] by Chris and Zach Gemignani from Juice Analytics. And the last part of that book was a gold mind of exactly how to lay out a data and chart style guide for people communicating data internally, and based on your color palette and branding elements and stuff. You know I probably can count like one, two, three companies I know of who have them, yours being one of them. And you know, what would you say about having a person starting that, saying like, how do you advocate for a resource like that in an organization where people might be resistant and go, eh, that sounds like a lot of work.

Tim: Well this was interesting because BI, and I, I would love to say this was just managerial genius and I don't think it was. I think it was the team because third to a half of the entire department was involved in that group. So the scales were falling from their eyes like all at once. And so part of what they were tasked with doing was okay, how do we actually roll this stuff out. Because really the style guide was one thing but they realized people are everybody is not kind of get and remember.

So they actually had a little sub team in there were two or three people let's say we're going to build in Excel and in PowerPoint. There are few macros they set up and said here's your book., your sheet.xlt, whatever was needed. And then they literally went around to everybody they said here's the instructions, go through them yourself if you want to. We're still going to check what you said is checked. Or we are just going to do it for you.

They're only twenty people so within that group I went and it's kind of happened. And what we still do and again it's sort of the group bought into it. So we would say these are the three or four people who act really know this style guide inside and out. And they are on call to do a review of your stuff before it goes out.

And thinking in being in purely looking it from the style guide. So I think on the one hand maybe ahead in my time, that was purely a style visualization. It didn't go to the communication. It didn't go to the narrative the story which I think it's softer and harder and it's much more difficult to kind of codify. So that sort of, instead they were reviewed stuff, they were reviewing what they had to, oh you know, oh you forgot you had rotated text on your X axis or something. So as they would review it and said this is the feedback, as you’d expect they would get better at it. And maybe I'd never really thought about that I spend a couple of years as a technical writer in that company that had a very rigorously established and good style guide for all documentation we were producing hardware and software. And the people who were doing the editing there had this crazy eye for like, nope, looks like your first line body text has 6 points instead of 9 points above it. And all of those of edits would get back.

Lea: That's intense.

Tim: I probably bringing some of that in as well with got into a whole debate on it, saying,well if my standard is the bar is at one spot, and really we're going to aim for that spot and know that we're not going to hit, we're not going to hit a hundred percent. Nobody is going to really notice anything that is between 90–100 percent of exactly what we specified. We have to aim for 100% to make sure we're clearing 90% if that makes sense.

Lea: That's really interesting. So I think that if an analyst really wants to, especially for bigger teams, maybe an agency with a large team, where everyone is presenting data and it's the same client, you know. Having different clients with different palettes might be a little challenging.

But even then you can re-purpose the same best practice in a style guide and just change different elements like fonts and color palettes. That would be something good to check out. That's really interesting. I think we're talking even about tools that are so under-utilized by people in this industry and just general corporate America for helping to save time. So that stuff is stuff they should look into.

So you're intellectual rants on what practitioners are doing wrong, in a very helpful way, are legendary in this industry. You have to have pet peeves about the presentations that you see practitioners, industry speakers giving. So give us the Gilligan treatment on what we're all doing wrong.

Tim: It's funny thinking about because even like presenting I do, like the public presenting I do is primarily presenting to analysts presenting to marketers. So I'm presenting not so much data in case studies as sort of how to approach analysis in reporting. And in that format, although also even in conferences they're often, there'll be a practitioner who's talking through, you, know, what they did, and how they did it.

And I think my number one pet peeve is most probably a tie. It's between a lack of energy and a lack of care. So what I'm looking at is your initial draft of you just built slide by slide and put everything on that you wanted to cover. And then you stood up and you went through it and that kind of lack of respect for the audience. And it is the first time you’ve spoken it out loud. But I think the other part is in analysts, because we're all, we had talked about this before. We shut, our tendency is to shut down. I remember actually Jim Sterne telling me that once. Because you know you're lively and enthusiastic, and just by nature when people step on stage, you know they just back off four to five notches and I look at somebody who's the first time they presented or even the fifth time they presented, who is really nervous about it and they’re clearly not consciously,  they are not recognizing how much into a shell they’ve . And it just kind of kill me, if you're not showing enthusiasm for what you're talking about then there's no way to hold the audience. You've got to be excited about what you're presenting. And that goes for internal stuff too I think.

Lea: Oh I almost, for me, I think it worse internally, because they haven't paid money to come see you in this big event, the energy is high and you have these production values, and it's like a show internally it's like a firing squad of people staring at hoping you don't get tomatoes thrown at you because you're wasting their time. You know I've seen that so much, people retreating into a shell, it's literally like a different personality takes over where the most bubbly person just becomes this  withdrawn nervous wreck.

And I think there are number of ingredients in that recipe, like you said lack of care. Lack of preparation I think is huge. Everyone is really busy and again I think people look at presenting, especially internally, as sort of something they have to get through, it's like a chore. And they don't see it as opportunity to take a big leap in their career and increase their exposure. I think if they did see it that way they would be happy to set aside 10-15 minutes and just read through the slides, practice your intro and your conclusion just for 5 minutes.

You know, so the lack of preparation and confidence I think is huge but the other thing that I struggle with is I think is what they called that Impostor Syndrome where you walk in think, I don't know more than these people. These people are going to cut me down. And you know, you have to tell yourself, I know more than them about what I'm going to talk about,  that's why I'm coming in.

So what advice you have for practitioners to help build their confidence as a subject matter expert, even when they may not feel that way inside?

Tim: So, I mean personally, I am kind of a fan of not presenting, maybe this is a distinction, maybe it's a false distinction. I'm thinking earlier this week I was presenting, I got kind of an analyst nightmare thrown at me of, hey we bought this company, they have a website, we got you their GA login. Can you just go and do like, an initial announcement on their site. Never met the people who run that. Know very little about even why they were bought or what kind of purpose they have on the site. And I found some things that I was, seemed little odd to me, but I thought,  I'm not about to walk in and say you know, this is broken. Because I don't know enough.

You know, and so in that case I walked in and I said, look I don't know, I'm excited to do this. It's fun to poke around your site. I'm kind of giving them a sort of overview and then I got a few things that seem like I found that I put a lot of care into saying, I'm pretty sure that they didn't do this segmentation. It's pretty comfortable that 95% of the time for presenting to marketing users they did not build a custom segment. So anytime you build a custom segment it should be the stuff that you know that they don't know. But I said some of the stuff maybe wrong like if you have an explanation I love to hear, I love to dig in farther.

So I don't know if that really gets at the question. There is definitely you know, something if you're going to massive earth-shattering finding that makes me really nervous that I'm going to do everything I can beforehand to  say, it's an earth-shattering finding and I'm probably still going to present it saying, I hardly believe this myself but I look at it, I've let other people look at it and it's what it seems to be. And that seems to be an opportunity for a dialogue.

Internally it's rare that I'm presenting where I'm just talking for 30 or 40 minutes. And I don't think analysts generally should. I mean I tend to say if you're presenting an analysis results you better only have, you know, 10 minutes, 10 minutes of core content. Maybe with some stuff in the appendix, but like you don't need an hour to tell somebody the results of A/B test result and we had 30 minutes schedule to get through it and the main person was 15 minutes late and we finished 5 minutes early you know. And had some follow-up emails, like I'm fine with that. Yes it took me a number of hours to go through it but the length of the amount time I put into it has should have absolutely zero relationship to how long it takes me to communicate.

That's probably another pet peeve on the internal front. Is the the three act play, I think we've have discussion. Maybe it's Brent Dykes who actually made a pretty compelling case. I like to say presenting all its results is not a three act play. You're not trying to build to a climax 45 minutes in like, you want that to hit immediately so you have the rest of the time to build credibility or to get talk about what you're going to do about it. And to his credit, Brent made a really strong exact counter case, you know, from a build. And I think we're probably not actually that far apart, we talked about it after. But that was again, putting the care in and this is not showing every rat hole you went down, every table of data, everything you stumbled into.

Every caveat  about the data and analysts kind of feel like a lot of time seem to feel like that's how they get credibility. And maybe it goes to their confidence as well. If I show them every single thing I did, they won't attack me for not being right, because I would show them all the things I did and either be like, wow I couldn’t do all that. You know, or I just will have, I don't think constantly overwhelm them with numbers. It's just you want to share your experience with the stakeholder you are presenting to. It was like, no they don't want you to share your experience, they just want the freaking answer. You know, and they want to feel confident that the answer is valid.

Lea: Right. And you know it's funny that you talked about that lengthy three-act play and you know, room for dialogue. You know, these aren't huge TED talks but even TED talks are almost like a dialogue. They building in dramatic poses and such, and you almost feel like they're having a dialogue with you. But obviously the format is extremely different than your average internal meeting. So I do like to allow questions throughout. I don't want people to feel like they have to bank their questions until the end because usually they are not paying attention to you. There going “don't forget the question..don't forget the question”. And inspires that dialogue which going to help keep their attention throughout and keep them, you know, hanging on. And some people might feel like that would drive them off track if they allowed for that but what I, some of my favorite moments are when someone asks me a question that I know the answer is coming later on. And I’m going  “oh stay tuned that's coming”. They get so excited that you've already anticipated their needs and their question. And then they're really really paying attention. So, I think little tricks like that can really help.

Tim: That's like an important, the.. cause two things can happen. Somebody asks the question and either you are going to cover it, and you can say you know what that's like 3 minutes and if I don't cover it then. Make sure you call me on it. And really part of it is remembering when you get to that point make that eye contact and say hey this is what we're talking about that thing you asked. Make sure what I am covering, that it is what you're asking.

The second thing that can happen which I think scares analysts is like, what about this. And you're like, in the moment you're like..I did not look at it that way. Oh my God, my credibility is shot. But I don't think it's so much oops as hey, you know I looked at a ton of stuff and I had a finite amount of time and that's a good point, I'm going to look at that way too.

Because it doesn't take that many variables for you to multiply it out to where you've got an infinite number of ways to slice things or if you just take the simple, I'm looking at my site traffic, I'm breaking it down by traffic source and breaking it down by device type. As soon as you say I want to break it down by traffic source and device tag, and we haven't talked about anything specific to the landing page of the campaign, which is automatically going to introduce another dimension.

So there's a level of, you need rigor as a good analyst you should be taking a reasonable approach. You should be drilling down into specific combinations that make sense. but it's kind of ludicrous to think you've be looking at it every possible way. And it's even worst to look at it every possible way and walk them through how 89% of them didn't show you a damn thing.

Lea: Right. And you know, I think that's a really good point. It's like, that's why we are where we are and you, stakeholder,  are where you are. We're all bringing something to this table or else this meeting wouldn't really be happening and I think some of the most successful analytics readouts that I've had are ones that prompted more deeper questions for follow up afterwards because that meant  it was a lively engaging conversation that prompted additional thought and will allow you to continue that conversation. I hate the ones where you leave and it's like, well, alright, thanks and see you in 2 months.

Tim: I mean that goes to another like rant of mine. When marketers, the organization would seem so come in it mean it happens so often. The marketers want, they sort of toss the, here's the request, here's the campaign, here's they toss over the wall. They don't really wanted to engage with the analyst on the front end. And the  analyst’s response is to go produce a bunch of stuff and then get up and present it or send it, like throw it back over the wall. And if that ongoing dialogue of more bite sized stuff isn't happening, then, which isn’t to say that they are only to be kind of these narratives ones. But honestly a 10- 12 slide deck for presenting analysis results is about as far as I want to go. I may have another 25 of things that I would look at and screamed. Hello you want to see what creative actually looks like? Sure I've got that in the appendix as well. Because I'm way way happier when it's you know, what about this one thing. Okay you've given me a bite-sized question I can now provide a bite-sized answer and I can shoot you a single visual, embed it in an e-mail and then we can decide whether we need to meet and discuss it further. And maybe if we're going to meet for the e-mails, what about this, this and this and now I need to put together another 10 slide presentation where I present and try to have a narrative structure.

But it's much more fluid and organic than I think an analyst kind of want to check it out for a list. It's like we did a big deck here it is. And then when somebody still look about this other thing, we're like no, I already check that off my list I don't want to go do it more. So we're kind of feeding this cycle of these bloated presentations trying to answer every possible question. And then that took us so long and we're so worn out. We don't want to dig into it anymore.

Lea: Yeah, you know, the presentation structure, you mentioned my favorite word, is so important. I think most of the presentation I see don't follow a specific structure and I think that can be a big mistake because it's obvious when you're sort of rambling off into different paths and it's not a cohesive story. And typically I like to chunk it in either 3-5 insights or arguments. No more than that because you want your audience to focus on exactly what they could take action on at that time. There no point in attacking the entire websites and campaigns and telling them everything they could possibly do to improve. Because then they're more likely to act on nothing rather than something really much more focused. Do you agree?

Tim: Absolutely. And I think I said tried one of the clients that you and I  work on together. I tried awhile back to sort of frame out, Let's come up with what are the five generic slides. You know, what is the order and sequence and use that as jumping off point and I think there's a difference when you've got, I've got three different, I hate to say the word insights, but three I think that works fine. I'm presenting some ways to look at. I look at this and let's do a very little mini story, well, a short story of beginning, middle and end. But beginning, middle and end has like 2-3 slides.

Then went okay, then when I look at this, and then I can sometimes even set up the table of contents upfront and say like we're talking about three things. Each one of these can take me 5 minutes to walk you through. But what goes in the beginning, versus what's in the middle, versus what's in the end, I'm hoping you'll be producing some content that says, this is the jumping off point. You know, this is the structure and I sort of lay that out sometimes when I'm presenting the analysts saying, that's why I do that it's not the three act play. I want to start with the recommendation because that's the answer. I can start with the answer, and then I'll go and justify the answer.

And maybe it's like the teaching, maybe another analogy is the teaching technique where if you're learning some calculus concept where you sit there and go step by step and to derive everything until you get some formula at the end or physics or something else where you're working away through basically reproving it and that's how you're educating people well. Those are students who are paying tuition to sit in the class and get that deeper knowledge. That's not what we're getting in business environment. If somebody says the ideal gas law works. PB =NRT. I don't need to know. I need to trust that it works and that's what I need to follow way and use if I'm working with gas stuff for some reasons. Not a great analogy.

Lea: No. We're going to scratch that one.

Tim: [laughs]Lea: I completely agree about the recommendation of front. I always, I kind of say, bring the bottom line to the top. I do this with my e-mail assessments. You can build some anticipation, like stay tuned for the you know, for the big finish, but really I don't think that works well you want to start with what you feel they should do and backed that up. I mean that works from my experience.

So you know, you have originally said that, you've feel you've never delivered the perfect presentation, what do you feel is your weakest area that you're working on right now?

Tim: I feel like it's still not nailing a narrative. And I’ll say, I think I'm, I put my public speaking at conferences at a much higher level than the internal. I feel like the last 2 or 3 years, and maybe this is when I was in agency land, it was a monthly report. It was a facilitated good, no matter how much I tried to do things right. I was going to get beaten down by an account manager to produce a 15 slide deck with the exact same structure that I probably would never actually present. It's been the last, it was been awhile since I’ve been the analyst inside of a company. And so I still sort of figuring out kind of, do I have a narrative path? Do I have the right mix of this is stuff with appendix? This is stuff in the, I feel like it’s a to win when somebody says, If 2/3 of what I got isn't the appendix? Just it's there and telling me there somebody is gone through the appendix and says oh I found this other thing actually can we talk about that some? That's kind of a win for a follow up but just trying to get the, or, maybe I'm just giving the right narrative construct. I feel like there's probably, only probably 2 or 3 or 4 that everytime something is being delivered or presented as the result of analysis. It probably should fit into one of those. I don't really have a good sense of, oh this falls into type A, this is my skeleton and now I need to be rigorous about filling it that skeleton and them I'm delivering something in a way that has an appropriate natural flow.

Lea: Well that's something I will be talking about more actually. Now read of constructs

Tim: Outstanding.

Lea: Thank you for that totally shameless plug. Stay tuned for more. No, I think that's interesting because again, like TED talks are my bag and I just loved that story telling aspects. And it's so much easier I think to apply those constructs in that format. But you can't really walk in to a small internal conference and be like “Did you know that 80% of whales are endangered…”. You know, it just doesn't lend itself to that. So I'm going to be trying to help people find a balance there.

Tim: It's funny because TED talks are starting to get a little bit of bad rap. And I think it's probably more the topics and the content and the speakers. I think drawing that distinction of you really can't argue that it is compelling and engaging information. You may say oh, but who's going to walk away and change the educational system of the United States.

You know, maybe no, but what are people tend to walk from the TED Talk is an understood idea or belief or viewpoint which is what when we're presenting analysis that we want. We want them to you know, take something away the next day if you say would you take another presentation go. They've got something that they part that's not remembering a specific number but they actually have some confidence in recall in to what has been communicated.

Lea: Yeah. And I think what we had talked about in terms of a strong finish is how many internal and external presentations do we really see with a strong call to action. Where it's very clear that you know what that presenter wants you to do. You know what the analyst wants you to do. I find that to be a pretty weak point. It's like kind of anticlimactic finish to all this great information and then okay, and then thanks, and bye.

Tim: That's a good one. I will say I struggle sometimes, so there's next steps. Like the weakest form I ever call-to-action is next steps and there's part of me, there are times when I'm banking on it a being a discussion in the meeting. So, therefore my next steps slide is next steps is blank, and I said now we're going to talk about with the next steps are. I think we're in the disk. Other times which I probably do more often is I think I know where we’re going to end up. And I think I'm, I will put those down. I'm usually, I'm always going in prepared to say obviously I produced this before we have this discussion and I thought this would be our next step. I think we still, this is when you do the X and Y but it sounds like not Z. And by the way I got these other two things that I need to do and I'm definitely more comfortable in the skewing on the action on the next I give it. I've got to be taking something that's on my plate, because I think that's another analyst you know, kind of walk out. They can't say they're done. So they want the next step. You do this and you do this and like you're kind of ended the partnership. So those call-to-actions got to be collaborative on how can I continue to help and support.

Lea: So you heard it here the analyst is never done. Right? I completely agree. You can't walk out thinking wooh! Knocked another one down.

Tim: Move on from that.

Lea: No. That's when it sometimes can just get started.

Tim: And the other read and then walk out then say “great! Can you do that same thing next month?” You failed on that too. This is not that next time you present, you are now signed up for current presentation, I think it's another challenge, and I’m in consulting . So, I might, my public speaking is talking to analysts about being better analysts and it coves some other stuff. Talking to the marketers, it's about, think about analytics differently. It's really hard internally at the company even as I’mconsulting. I can do the analysts talking but it's rare that I'm being brought in to stand up in front of internal meeting and talk to marketers about how they need to think about analytics differently. And that's there somewhere I find there’s  pure presentation with any topic there's pure analysis with this pure data visualization. There's the crossover which is kind of the world you're living in. Where you specifically presenting around data oriented stuff. But I feel like there's also presenting around how do you convince people to do, that I've got to do that a couple of times internally the company just talk about how to do analytics better to marketers, but I don't know that's just off on another tangent. Those are easier to get a narrative of the story though. I think because they are not talking around the data.

Lea: Yeah. And I mean I think it also depends on the maturity of your audience. You have to know who you're talking to. Sometimes they're going to be ready to jump right in the collaborative capacity because they are mature enough to understand digital in that way. And others are like “lead me, tell me,  sounds good, tell me what to do”. You know I've been encountered both situations and you just have to really get to know them and that takes practice, practice, practice.

Tim: I've also said that on those internal ones, it just in the last week I've done it twice and it's been weird because it's been half hour and I sitting and I'm actually talking out loud going through kind of brief deck. I've never spoken that loud and not found something that needs to be changed from an order or what's included, so I get funny looks occasionally from you know, my somebody who's walking by my office like who are you talking to. I'm like I talking to the screen but it genuinely does help. And if there’s no office, even if you're in open cube and that's embarrassing you have freaking rooms to go into.

Lea: Yeah. Conference room, bathroom.

TIm: And if you don't want to spend it hour because you should only have probably 15 minutes to content so go through that content and it will make you more comfortable.

Lea: A hugely valuable exercise I record myself for every presentation just for practice purposes but also I'm ruthlessly evil to myself and editing process and I even hear things I don't like the way I say. It's help with my diction. Definitely helped with confidence. So very, very valuable exercise there. So you know, we’redata nerds, we love the tools, the tools, the tools. So what are some presentation or visualization tools that you absolutely can't live without? Do you have preferences? All of them? All the things?

Tim: I live in kind of the old school world currently so I can't live without Excel. Excel kind of pimped out a little bit, and PowerPoint and for various reasons over the last couple of roles I've had I’ve to dive into Keynote. And Is till struggle a lot with Keynote and I'm sure that is at least 70% because I've never, never ever fully, fully grokked it. And I just have more you know, comfort there.

The tools on the one hand, all of the tools have more power than the 80% of people use. I mean you know, Excel 2013, for the PC, 95% of people used stuff that’s been around since Excel 2003. So I think eventually wind up, maybe the reason why I wind up entrenched in these tools is that I'm using stuff that is unique to them and how they do it. And therefore it's harder to shift to that level of fluency with another tool.

But I've got things I'll say, some sort of colour palette matter. So I'm in Mac but it’s called digital colour meter.

You know I'm regular bouncing around to say yup I want to have, I want to make sure that my background or my bars in my chart, I want those to be a pretty darn close palette match because that's going to pull it together and make it polished. I worked in an agency where they would produce stuff that just made me cringe. Because it looks like you are a creative agency and you are producing this lengthy decks. Okay lengthy is fine but how about font consistency? How about having color consistency? How about having you know, something and that's one where I find myself this let's try a little a side of little tools of those. I want to match colors where I can.

Lea: Have you used Pictaculous before?

Tim: No. What's that?

Lea: So that's a really neat tool. You can take screenshot of a webpage or collateral.

Tim: And then it gives you a palette.

Lea: Exactly. From Adobe Kuler. So that's really, really fast and nifty.

Tim: I'm getting better. And this is kind of one of your, . you drive it home. That's one of those things I know but until I hear you kind of rant about it. Getting better about going and using imagery, I think that's like this opportunity to get imagery next to the chart. So you know, stock, I call it stock. It can be free. That's not to be purchased stock imagery. Just to force the minimalism. You know, put an image that is interesting and appropriate. Back things up.

Lea: Relevant.

Tim: Yeah. Like the voice of the customer example that you tend to use. And I want to say that I've seen that before and linking on her name but I've seen that from others like yeah, voice of customers. Get yourself a person who's yelling or mad, frustrated or happy and put that next to your quote and all of the sudden, you know, people actually read the quote because given them the extra note to goes with it.

Lea: I think it’s an underleveraged imagery type for internal digital meetings or screenshots. Don't just post the metric; show the exact website, the area of the website what's happening. But you know, don't just plop it on the slide like a big nasty square. Like, offset it inside of actual picture of the monitor, laptop or something put some context around it.

Tim: And crop it and  put a nice highlighter around the specific thing that I actually draw an arrow,  or yeah I mean it's the one that I decided I've never been to. I'm like, I going to make sure I'm showing exactly what it is I'm referring to. And yeah, putting it somewhere is. Yeah, that's the cropping screenshots, that bleed on top of the logo and the bottom as well. Our footer is so big that every step has to. It's like fix your damn template. Don't just kind of crap all over it.

Lea: And that's a whole other episode. Maybe the sequel. Templates. Oh men, that's a tough one.

What Tim Would Say to His Past Presenting Self

Lea: So we're coming close to the end. So I'm going to ask you one more question. This is my favorite one because I think about this all the time. So imagine this scenario: You're out walking your dogs when suddenly you fall through a rip in time in the sidewalk and it transports you back to the precise moment before your past self is about to walk into your first big presentation. If you could stop yourself, what would you say to you? Go.

Tim: I have such a clear, whether it was actually my first presentation or just goes down as my first presentation. I don't think I've ever been in as dead of the audience I was then. I was a technical writer and I was young and I was presenting to a room full of engineers with overhead projector. `You know, foils, and I would go back and say kill half of your slides and kill 90% of the text that's remaining, you know, on the slides and you know, go in and, what I'm, what would I've said go in and talk about the benefits like don't talk about we, our department. I mean it was all about me and the technical writing department and in this process we were going to change. Now this is going to make things better but not really benefiting the people we were talking to. It was like it was kind of a mandatory training. They like me, like people reply, “yeah”. Tim’s kind of funny, he's cool, and then I walked in and just about put everyone to sleep, myself included. So I would definitely be, or maybe that's for some of that energy like, you know this is a supportive room. You're rarely really walking into hostile room. Like do with your props if you're walking to a hostile room. So, that's probably what I would tell myself.

Lea: And see, I think that goes to show that so many people probably feel the exact same way you did, and I know I did. And with the right amount of practice and dedication to perfecting that craft you know. Look at you now! You know?

Tim’s Upgrade

Lea: So, Tim I call the next segment The Upgrade, which is a power tip for Excel, PowerPoint, Tableau, other tools we used to present our work better, faster, stronger. So do you have anything fun for us today?

Tim: So I wish I could give just one. I mean I have to go to Excel and I probably know this works, it actually it does work in presentations as well. It's a little trickier to getting in. But I think the use of excel been talking additional formatting to do words on the bar charts. I've written about that it was Ann Emery and just just kind of butchered her name. Ann K Emery. She's also, she posted about it. I posted first, hers was probably more eloquent.

Lea: I'll be the judge of that.

Tim: Like, that is a way to, that's probably one, the other would be slicers in Excel. And I'm assuming you're using pivot tables. And that's more for rapid exploration of the data, not necessarily presenting or visualizing. But you're in that case where you've got five different variables with you know, five to ten values each, is such a quick way to kind of build yourself a little mini exploratory tool. And then you can figure out the snapshot. And the nice thing is if you got your charts well formatted, you can quickly get two or three out. They are the same char,t just kind of slice in different ways and you got the consistency in the way you're presenting.

Lea: Yeah. Slicers are awesome. I’ll definitely post some stuff about that and I'll post a link to your post on conditional formatting.

Tim: It makes me, I don't know, now that I have Excel 2016 for the Mac. I don't know if they tryingly brought Slicers into Excel for the Mac. I don't know.

Lea: Please get back to us on that.

Tim: I'll get back to you.

Lea: We'll be waiting.

Wrapping Up

Lea: Well Tim, this was awesome. Thank you so, so much for being in my show today. I think the listeners got a ton of value out  of this. And your very trademark Tough Love.

So you can keep track of Tim at his blog at

You can stalk him on his twitter @tgwilson as his handle.

And you can hear him rant even more on his very own entertaining podcast which is the Digital Analytics Power Hour with Michael Helbling and Jim Cain. So definitely hop over the iTunes to check that out and subscribe.

So Tim, as always, it's been real.

Tim: Ha! Always good to chat with you on this stuff.

Lea: Thank you so much again. I'll probably be talking to you tomorrow anyway. So thank you again and take care.

Tim: You too, thanks.

Your Next Steps

Wow that was so much fun. And I hope it really valuable to you all. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show. If you like what you're hearing, hop over the iTunes to subscribe. Leave a rating or review. Those are really really appreciated and important because they affect the rankings of the show and I'll also be reading out my favorite ones in future episodes. To catch all the resources mentioned in the episode visit This is the third episode not the second one as been mentioned. Sorry about that. And you can review the show notes and find all of the resources I've mentioned. I'd love if you could leave me a comment or suggestions because I want to hear about the challenges you face. Anything you'll like me to talk about here. You can also tweet me a question for the show by tweeting me @leapica and including the #PBM hashtag.

So the last bit of presentation inspiration today comes from the very wise Dr. Seuss, and that is, “Why fit in when you are born to standout”. It's very wise indeed. And I hope that with every step that you take with me, your time to stand out is now. Till next time. Namaste.


Tim: Thanks but… What was the question?

Lea: How many dogs do you have?

Tim: I have no idea.

Lea: Good answer.

How do you build your skills and confidence to present data? Any questions for Tim?

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