Data without context is meaningless (and boring)

The quarter is done, and here comes the day-long sales results presentation. Excel is pasted into PowerPoint, creating huge decks through which senior management has to sit through. Sales organizes by channel: small restaurants sales, growth; large restaurants sales, growth, supermarkets sales, growth. Marketing presents by brands: brand 1 sales, growth, brand 2 sales, growth.

If you are a marketing manager, looking at the Q3 sales and growth figures of a particular brand is really interesting. All the numbers of the previous quarters are more or less in your head. For the production manager though, going through these pages is mental torture, as she does not have the historical context readily available. (Read more about the Curse of Knowledge here)

The solution is the opposite of what I preach for bullet point charts: instead of breaking up slides into multiple pages, condense lots of data in 1 chart, but make it comparable. Put the quarter growth rates of all brands on a page and compare them. List the historical brand growth rates of the past 8 quarters on one page and see what is going on. There is no problem showing a massive amount of data on 1 slide, as long as it is about the same variable that is compared across different dimensions.