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Presentation Techniques

Presenting Your Data Easily

Why Worry About
• “Data graphics are mainly devices for
showing the obvious to the ignorant”
• “They have to be alive,
communicatively dynamic,
decorated, and exaggerated;
otherwise all the dullards will fall
asleep in the face of those boring
• Graphics are instruments for reasoning
about quantitative information… They
reveal data.” (Tufte 1983)

Principles of Graphic

• Graphical excellence…..

– consists of complex ideas communicated
with clarity, precision, and efficiency.
– is that which gives to the viewer the
greatest number of ideas in the shortest
time with the least ink in the smallest space.
– is nearly always multivariate (illuminating
relationships between numerous variables)
– requires telling the truth about the data

Some Rules of Thumb

• Graphic displays should…..

– show the data
– avoid distorting the data
– induce the viewer to think about the
substance of the graphic rather than the
methodology, graphic design, or something
– make large amounts of data coherent
– encourage the viewer to use the graphic
as you intend, e.g. make comparisons
– be closely integrated with statistical
and verbal descriptions of the data
– be as simple as possible

Design Guidelines
• To enhance visual quality:
o use a properly chosen format
o use words, numbers, and graphics
o display an accessible complexity of
o have a story to tell about the data
o produce technical details with care
o avoid chartjunk

• “You can communicate more effectively with

tables, graphs, or charts, if your {information
has} these characteristics” (Booth et al. 1995):
o They include discrete elements (cases) that
are well defined, well understood, and stable persons, places, things, or concepts.
o The discrete element is an ‘independent’
variable, that does not change in response to
other variables.
o The discrete elements are systematically
related to quantities or qualities, called
dependent variables, that do not change in
response to external causes.

Tabular Presentation
• “An informative table supplements
rather than duplicates - the text.” (APA
• Tables “are the best way to show exact
numerical values and are preferable to
graphics for many small data sets {of
about 20 numbers or less}.” (Tufte

State of Florida Household Income, 1999

Taken from the US Census Bureau Website

The Tabular Superhero:
• Tables also work well when the data
presentation requires many localized
comparisons, i.e. a supertable
• Supertables are large tables made up
of many different component tables
that summarize relationships across
the same variable(s)

Rules of Thumb for Good
• Tables need a comprehensive and

descriptive title (Variable, Geography, Time)
Bay County Percent Population by Race, 2000
Right justify numbers in tables
Use commas to delineate thousands
Use numeric signs to signpost the table
viewer (percent signs (%), dollar signs ($), etc.)
Always use the same number of decimal
Use gridlines to separate table elements
Use italics and bold to identify column

riations in County Poverty Rates, 1999
“Good Table” Example
--Good Title
--Nice presentation
--Numeric formatting

Source: 2000 Census

“Bad Table” Example

--Bold, Italics


--Poor Title
--Confusing presentation
--No source

County A
County B
County C


Choosing Formats:
• “Figures convey at a quick glance an
overall pattern of results.”
• They are especially useful in
describing an interaction - or the lack
thereof - and nonlinear relations.”
(APA 1994)

Bar Charts and Graphs
• Bar charts / graphs (histograms)
are typically used when the
independent variables are categorical
variables [Nominal Variables]
• They are also useful for showing
changes over time as well (although
line charts are often a better choice
to show these relationships).

Taken from the Tallahassee Statistical Digest, 2001

Pie Charts
• Pie charts are used to illustrate
percentages or proportions of a whole.
They are par5ticularly useful in
investigating discrete elements of:
• But “at best, they allow readers to see
crude proportions among a few
elements.” (Booth et al. 1995)

City of Tallahassee FY02
Revenues from All Sources

Utilities (66%)

Interest (1%)

Interdept (7%)

Misc (12%)

Cap Bdgt OH (1%)

Fund Balance (1%)

Taxes (8%)

InterGvtl (4%)

InterGvtl (4%)
Taxes (8%)

Fund Balance (1%)
Misc (12%)

Cap Bdgt OH (1%)

Interest (1%)

Interdept (7%)
Utilities (66%)

Line Graphs
• Scatter plots and line graphs are used
to show the relation between two
quantitative variables where there is a
unique value of the dependent variable
for any value of the independent variable
• The independent variable is typically
plotted on the x axis while the dependent
variable is plotted on the y axis
• Line graphs are especially effective at
presenting data that vary continuously

Source: US Census

Complex Graphs:
Combination Charts
• There are times when you want to present
two or more variables in the same chart.
• Combination charts allow the user to
combine two different variables in the
same chart in order to illustrate the
relationships between these variables.
• The choice of presentation method is
dictated by the variables and the nature of
the relationship between the variables.

Source: US Census

Clustered Column Chart Example

Source: Tallahassee 2003 CIP

Clustered Bar Chart Example

Stacked Column Chart Example

Line-Column Chart Example

Four Broad Principals of
Data Presentation (from
• Integration: Tables andMyers)
graphics should be part of a “seamless
information flow”. Text should refer to and direct readers
towards these exhibits.
• Speed and Efficiency of Communication: Exhibits should be
clearly and simply presented, well-titled, and linked to the
purpose of the report/memo; The goal is efficiency of
• Engagement in Depth: The longer the viewer spends with an
exhibit, the more they should get out of it. “The goal is to create
a richly informative exhibit that is dense with information, but
open and accessible to the eye.”
• Trustworthiness: Exhibits present factual information. They must
be supported with appropriate sourcing and with all information
presented correctly and understandably.

Presentation Reminder for
Tables and Charts

1) Give ALL tables and figures titles and
2) No “Hanging Tables and Figures”: Refer
to any and all tables in a report/memo.
3) Source all Tables and Charts
4) Provide a good title for all Tables and
Charts (Variable, Geography, Time)
5) If you want a reader to compare two
charts, show them on the same page.
6) If you want a reader to compare two
charts, use similar colors, titles, labels, fonts,
and so on. The only major difference should

Misleading the Unwashed

• While very powerful, graphics are
potentially dangerous because they can
easily mislead decision makers and the
public at large.
• Because graphics are often slick and
attractive elements, they can lead
viewers to assume certain things about
1) That graphics are accurate
(truthful) and that
data used to make
the graphics are accurate.
2) They are neutral (objective) data
displays that
do not present any
point-of-view in their display.

A Graphical Caveat
• “A single map is but one of an indefinitely
large number of maps that might be
produced for the same situation or the
same data.”
Monmonier, How to Lie with Maps, p.
• The maker of a graphic (maps and chart,
especially) has tremendous power over
the product and the consumer. This power
can be used to create effective, attractive
graphics that competently and truthfully
convey information or graphics that
unfairly distort reality and

Graphical Deceit?

If you were running for Mayor in Capital City, wh
would you use to illustrate your success?

The St. Joe

The Riverkeepers