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Show Me the Numbers

Two-day workshop

Detailed course description

Even very experienced business, financial and data analysts often create charts that are hard to read, that don’t clearly communicate the chart creator’s point, insight or story, or that unintentionally leave audiences with an incorrect understanding of the underlying data. While the fundamental principles and best practices necessary to avoid these problems aren’t complex, they’re not intuitive either and need to be learned.

Based on Stephen Few’s foundational book and updated by Nick Desbarats, Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten equips participants with the best practices and fundamental principles that enable them to easily create tables and graphs that:

  • Are quick and easy for audiences to understand

  • Make key insights and stories within data clear and obvious

  • Minimize the risk that audiences will be left with an incorrect understanding of the underlying data or be uncertain of how to interpret the chart

Who should attend this workshop

Anyone who creates tables and graphs as a regular part of their work, including business and financial analysts, business intelligence and data analysts, executives, project managers, software developers, user experience designers, as well as human resources, marketing, sales, operations and finance professionals. Other professionals, such as researchers, journalists, health care professionals and educators will also benefit. No prior technical or data visualization knowledge is required. Experienced data professionals will also benefit from the workshop since having deep data analysis expertise does not necessarily mean that an analyst has mastered the skills necessary to communicate data effectively to others.

Key topics

  • Determining when to present data as a table and when to present it as a graph

  • Selecting the most appropriate type of graph for various situations based on the nature of the underlying data and the message to be communicated, as well as the needs, role, and level of sophistication of the audience

  • Making visual design choices that make graphs easier to visually process, such as minimizing visual “noise” and designing visualizations with strong visual hierarchies

  • Avoiding common graph design mistakes such as choosing inappropriate quantitative scales and misusing color

  • Designing tables for easy visual consumption

  • Handling common data visualization challenges such as visualizing missing data, data that spans a very wide range, and large numbers of values

  • Techniques for making the key insights and stories within visualizations more obvious to audiences

Topics not covered

  • This is not a graphic design course. The emphasis is on designing highly functional tables and graphs for audiences that are clear, useful, and easy to read, and that are unlikely to be misinterpreted. The course does not address creating graphs that are artistically beautiful or eye-catching (but often less functional).

  • This is not a software product training course. The fundamental principles and best practices of good data visualization design all apply when creating visualizations using any modern data visualization software product.

  • This course does not teach participants how to create complex, esoteric chart types. Simple, familiar graphs are almost always the most effective choices for the day-to-day visualization needs of most organizations.

  • This course focuses on teaching participants how to create individual tables and graphs for communicating data to target audiences. For training on information dashboard design or using data visualization to analyze (as opposed to communicate) data, please see the information pages for the Information Dashboard Design and Now You See It courses, respectively.

Workshop format

The workshop consists of engaging, interactive presentation segments that feature real-world and fictional graph examples, interleaved with eight group exercises and discussions. Best practices are demonstrated, not just stated, so that audiences understand not just what the best practices are, but also why they yield charts that are clearer and easier for audiences to understand. No computers or software are used. The workshop is two days in length with morning, lunch and afternoon breaks. At the end of the workshop, each participant receives a copy of Stephen Few’s book, Show Me the Numbers: Designing Tables and Graphs to Enlighten, on which the workshop is based.

To take this workshop