Using Data in Business Communications

In today’s business environment, data is a powerful tool that can shape the trajectory of your business strategy and decision-making processes. Simply put – numbers don’t lie.

But how does one use and present data effectively? In this article, we’ll dive into tips on creating impactful, data-driven communications that resonate with stakeholders and lead to action.

Storytelling with Data

When you’re giving a presentation, you’re not just presenting facts and numbers; you’re offering a vision, a path forward, and a call to action. The data is your script, and you are the storyteller.

Connect With Your Audience

Before delving into a data-rich presentation, take a moment to understand your audience. Who are they? What are their pain points? What data will resonate most with them? This foundational understanding sets the stage for a presentation that is not just informative but also impactful. Your numbers aren’t just numbers; they’re answers to their most pressing questions, solutions to their problems, and opportunities they can capitalize on.

Consider the executives who are less interested in the minutiae and more in the bottom-line implications. For them, your data should tell a story of return on investment and competitive advantage. On the other hand, for a team of project managers, the focus may need to be on timelines, resource allocation, and efficiency gains. The key lies in customization: the same data set can tell different stories when viewed through the lens of different audience segments.

Highlight the Highlights

Shine a spotlight on the most critical data. If you’re talking about sales trends, don’t just throw out numbers. Highlight what those trends mean for future product development or customer engagement strategies.

Simplify to Amplify

Complexity can be the antithesis of clarity. Distill datasets into digestible visuals that amplify your core message. Think of it as translating a novel into a captivating movie trailer—keep the essence, lose the fluff.

Best Practices for Data-Driven Communications

Focus on What Matters

It’s easy to get lost in the sea of numbers. Ensure every data point presented serves the narrative. Extraneous information only serves to distract and disengage.

Make it Interactive

Engagement increases retention. Involve your audience in the story by making your presentation interactive. Pose questions, encourage them to draw conclusions, and create a two-way dialogue that enriches the experience.

Data Sources and Credibility

Data can be sourced from just about anywhere — internal analytics, market research, customer feedback, and more. In today’s digital world, alternative and online data have also become valuable data sources.  Tools like website unblockers, often used by large organizations, can help you access and collect public web data at scale.

Regardless of the data source, credibility is critical. Cite your sources and choose them wisely.  It’s also important to maintain a responsible and ethical approach to data usage. Be transparent about your data collection methods and respectful of data privacy and security concerns. Additionally, make sure to comply with any applicable laws and regulations.

Bringing Data to Life: Example Scenarios

Below are some hypothetical examples of using data to tell a story. Remember that it’s important not just to share facts and figures but also to explain what it means for the audience.

Example 1: Market Expansion

Your narrative might explore new territory:

“The data indicates a 30% untapped market potential in Southeast Asia for our products, coupled with a customer acquisition cost 20% lower than our domestic rates.”

Example 2: Customer Engagement

Or perhaps it highlights customer behaviors:

“Customer data reveals a 50% increase in engagement when we implement personalized marketing strategies, suggesting a clear direction for our upcoming campaigns.”

Example 3: Operational Efficiency

Maybe it’s an internal focus:

“Operational data shows that adopting the proposed automation software can reduce process times by 35%, directly impacting our bottom line.”

Example 4: Productivity Insights

Imagine you’re addressing a group of stakeholders concerned about workforce efficiency. Here’s a storyline that could unfold:

“Through data analysis, we’ve discovered that our remote teams are 25% more productive when given access to collaborative cloud-based tools. By integrating these tools company-wide, we could see a significant rise in project completion rates and a potential decrease in overhead costs due to reduced time on tasks. This shift not only promises a better work-life balance for our employees but also forecasts a 15% increase in annual productivity.”

Example 5: Risk Management

In a scenario where risk mitigation is the primary focus, data can tell a cautionary yet forward-looking tale:

“Our predictive analytics models have identified a pattern indicating that our current supply chain strategy could be at risk due to geopolitical tensions in the region, with a potential impact on 40% of our raw material inflow. By diversifying our supplier base to include local options, data projects we could reduce this vulnerability by half, securing our production line and saving an estimated 20% in expedited shipping costs that would otherwise be incurred during emergency sourcing.”

Wrapping Up

In the end, the goal of any presentation is to leave your audience enlightened, informed, and ready to take action. When numbers are involved, this goal doesn’t change but the route you take to get there does. You’re no longer just a presenter; you’re a data storyteller. Remember to humanize your data, streamline your story, and use the power of numbers to inspire.

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By Lyna Nguyen

Lyna has 15 years of experience working in the financial services industry. She has deep experience producing a wide range of business communications, including research reports, business plans, training presentations, memos, and investor communications.

Lyna's professional experience includes roles at several large financial institutions, including global banks and asset management firms. She has both Master's and Bachelor's degrees in Accounting.