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Visuals to Present Data

The correct visual presentation of your data helps communicate a business message more effectively. It provides a quick summary of information for individuals to skim and remember. Using visuals to present data can be accomplished through both textual and visual graphics. Let’s take a look at each to see when it’s best to choose one over the other.

Crazi Toys’ national sales meeting is next month, and the marketing team is creating a yearly summary of the toy industry. The team has been developing a multimedia slide show to inform the entire sales force about the past year and also highlight upcoming product launches.

Textual Graphics

The first way to present visual data is through the use of textual graphics, which are the use of text to create a visual message mainly through the use of tables. Tables are best suited for printed reports to reveal business details. Tables consist of columns, rows and headings. Excel would be a prime example of software that prepares textual graphics. Tables should be used in business to:

  • Compare numbers
  • Communicate precise information
  • Offer a detailed summary of data

The marketing team at Crazi Toys has tried not to incorporate many tables as part of their slideshow because they tend to communicate too much information, which doesn’t work well with a PowerPoint presentation. Detailed tables can also be confusing or hard to read when viewed on a PowerPoint.

The team has decided to use just a few basic tables showing a summary of the new products for their fall launch, and then offer the audience handouts that they can view later. The tables included in the handout show accounting reports, sales summaries by each product line and marketing volume reports.

Visual Graphics

When individuals need to show a pattern or relationship of data, it is best to use visual graphics, such as bar, pie and line charts. These charts help illustrate specific relationships and communicate a pattern as part of a message.

The specific types of data that should be used for a chart are:

  • Nominal data, or data that does NOT have any order, such as gender or race. For example, Crazi Toys will use a bar chart to show dispersal of ethnicity of customers who purchase their Water Clown product. The company wanted to understand the race breakdown as they were considering different ethnicities of the Water Clown product.
  • Ordinal data, or data that does have a specific prescribed order, such as results from a survey that say: not at all likely, somewhat likely, likely or very likely. Crazi Toys marketing team used a bar chart to show the results of each survey question regarding customers’ interest in their new Fuzzy Bear product.
  • Interval data, or data that has a specific order and can be divided into equal sections, such as months of a year or days of a week. A line chart was added to the PowerPoint presentation that showed a monthly breakdown of sales for Water Clown.

Types of Graphs

Once the marketing team has determined that the data will be best represented in a chart, they have to then determine the best type of chart. They are planning on using a mix of line and bar charts to communicate their message.

Here are the options and reasons you should select each type:

1. Pie chart

This type of chart is not to be used to show relationships or patterns in data. A pie chart is a circle that is divided into parts in order to offer a summary of data. For example, the marketing team could use a pie chart to show how much of their Teddy Bear Rocker product sold in each retailer. The divided parts should equal to 100%.

2. Line charts are an excellent selection to show interval data across time.

For example, if Crazi Toys’ marketing team wants to communicate how much product sold during each month of the year, then a line chart would be a good choice. Line charts are also excellent to combine information and offer a comparison. For example, the marketing team will also add their Rocket Buddy, Big Ton Truck and Water Clown to the line graph.

3. Bar charts are used to show relationships between nominal and ordinal data by the length of rectangular bars.

Traditionally, bar charts consist of the x-axis with categories being compared and the y-axis showing the values. The marketing team used a bar chart to show the results of a consumer survey on new toy ideas. The categories were represented by each new toy idea, such as Pool Video Game, Hi Tech Fuzzy Bear, etc., and then the y-axis showed how many consumers would purchase the product. A stacked bar chart is another tool that helps show cumulative totals. So, if the marketing team would give the results of another toy survey, they could stack the results on top of the first slide.

Lesson Summary

It is important to use visuals to help communicate your data message in the workplace. Textual and visual graphics are two ways that can help illustrate detailed information and highlight relationships and patterns. Textual graphics are the use of text to create a visual message of detailed data, mainly through the use of tables, while visual graphics are bar, pie and line charts that help illustrate specific relationships and communicate a pattern as part of a message.

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