food for thought

Perhaps I have food on the brain. As I write these words, I am sitting in a bar in Mexico awaiting an order of Muchos Nachos after a lovely (and hot!) afternoon touring Monterrey. I'm starving. Though outside of that, I suppose I don't have much to complain about.

That is an unrelated prelude to the topic of today's post: the storytelling with data process, in a 1-page format you can refer to and use as food for thought when you communicate with data. 

I've been asked more than once about creating a checklist. The sentiment is good: something to remind people to put into practice the lessons that we cover in my workshops. But for some reason, I have a negative reaction to the idea of a checklist. Perhaps it's just the word checklist that's getting me, with connotations of being formulaic and rigid or rule-based. I do not teach data visualization in a rule-based way. Rather, the answers to many questions that are posed begin with "it depends...". But it occurred to me today when the question of a checklist came up, that I've actually already created something that would meet this need.

When I teach workshops, we cover what I consider to be the foundational lessons for communicating effectively with data. The core lessons are always the same, but the specific content, examples, and exercises vary quite a bit depending on the given group and the main challenges they face. Often, we practice the lessons piecemeal: for example, storyboard your next presentation or declutter this graph. Increasingly—especially with the longer 1-day public and custom workshops that I've been doing more lately—I've been having people do exercises where they consider the entire storytelling with data process and practice going through it step-by-step for various scenarios. To use for this, I created a 1-pager that outlines the main lessons, with some questions and prompts to remind people of the specifics to consider. This 1-pager doubles as a useful takeaway, perhaps something to be hung by a desk to help people keep the storytelling with data lessons in mind when they are communicating with data.

...kind of like a checklist, I suppose.

You can download the storytelling with data 1-pager here. If you've read the book, the nomenclature should be familiar. If you haven't (you should!), enter any unknown terms (e.g. big idea or "where are your eyes drawn?" test) into the search box that appears below this post to see potential posts of interest.

I hope you'll find this to be a useful tool!



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