Defining Your Audience for Optimal Data Storytelling.

December 1, 2020

By: Tonya Riney, Ph.D.

Reading Time: 1.6

The better you understand your audience, the better your presentation will be, and the better results you’ll get.

Imagine you’re a 4th grade science teacher who just wrapped up an experimental pilot summer learning program. You surveyed the participating kids at the beginning and end of the program to determine how their attitudes about science may have changed. You believe the data shows a great success story, and you want to continue the program.

But if you’re headed into this presentation thinking you just want to tell folks about it, then fuggetaboutit. 99% of the time, you’re not merely informing your audience; you’re persuading them.

As the 4th grade science teacher, who might your audience be? The angle you take for each audience will be different.

  • Parents of students who participated: You’re persuading them it was worthwhile.
  • Parents of prospective students: You’re persuading them this program is THE pathway to a successful career and adulthood.
  • Other teachers who might be running a similar program or would like to: You’re persuading them to do it.
  • The budget committee that controls the funding for your program: You’re persuading them to give you money.

In each of these cases, you must narrow down your argument into one sentence that articulates your unique point of view and conveys what’s at stake. Nancy Duarte calls this the “Big Idea.”

Let’s say you’re presenting to the budget committee and advocating for more funding. Here’s an effective Big Idea:

“The pilot summer learning program was successful at improving students’ perceptions of science and, because of this success, we recommend continuing to offer it going forward; please approve our budget for this program.”

Now what? In our next posts, we’ll consider how to use data effectively and ethically to convince the budget committee to approve our budget request.

Did you like what you read? Please share!

Tonya Riney, Ph.D.

Dr. Tonya Riney is the COO for IntelliBoard, Inc. Dr. Riney taught in a university classroom for more than 10 years and worked within several eLearning departments. Her PhD is in Training and Performance Improvement, with IntelliBoard being a clear passion for how it influences learning in a positive way.


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