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Presenting Marketing Measurement Effectiveness with Gary Angel Present Beyond Measure Ep. 044
Presenting Effective Marketing Measurement with Gary Angel of Digital Mortar

While it’s easy to understand the importance of data for businesses, presenting that data is often the Achilles heel for many analysts.

Working with the data comes easy but finding ways to tell the data story in a way that reaches the audience is often a cause of stress.

Today’s episode is different from the norm as Gary brings his own questions and a PowerPoint challenge for me, putting me in the hot seat for part of the interview!

Gary Angel is a legend in the digital analytics field. More than a thought leader, he is a guide for thousands of analysts in maturing their business savvy and technical acumen.

He is the CEO and Founder of Digital Mortar, a company providing cutting edge measurement and analytics tools for optimizing physical spaces and tracking the in-store customer journey to help optimize store layout, merchandising, and staff performance.

Besides publishing more than twenty whitepapers on digital analytics, he is a frequent speaker and in 2012, he won the Digital Analytics Association Award for Excellence and The Most Influential Industry Contributor.

He is the host of the Measurement Minute podcast and is the creator of the Semphonic Xchange Digital Analytics Conference, now known as Digital Analytics Hub.

In this episode, Gary shares his valuable insights on presenting data, the importance of listening, and exceptional strategies for communicating complex models..

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How Gary’s strengths have always been measuring marketing effectiveness, but not presenting that measurement
  • His surprising love of challenging audience questions.
  • The one effective trick Gary uses to turn presentation fear around
  • Lea’s valuable insight into the importance of visual tools when presenting.
  • Lea’s on-the-spot analysis of Gary’s PowerPoint, one of the biggest moments on the PBM podcast!
  • The important benefits of having a senior advocate in your court
  • Gary’s valuable advice about working on the things that scare you
Gary’s Upgrade:
  • “It doesn’t matter how good your presentation looks if you don’t have something important to say. Many analysts don’t have the courage to disagree with the client. No one likes delivering bad news, but you have to be willing to put yourself out there sometimes.”
How to Keep Up with Gary:  People, Books, and Resources Mentioned: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Do you have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Gary? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A special thank you to Gary for joining me this week.

And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Gary about data analytics or presenting?




Lea Pica: [00:00:01] What’s up guys. Lea Pica here. Today’s guest is a legend in the digital analytics field whose wisdom seems practically heaven sent. Stay tuned to find out who’s making a cameo on the present beyond measure show episode 44.

Lea Pica: [00:00:41] Hey guys welcome to the forty-fourth episode of the present as measure show The only podcast at the intersection of presentation data visualization and analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights.

Lea Pica: [00:02:43] All right so I am really excited about today’s guests I know I’m excited about all of my guests but the reason I’m excited about today’s guest is because he is truly a thought leader in the digital analytics industry there are so many people that look up to him and I absolutely can tell why his knowledge is unmatched. When it comes to learning how to be a stellar digital analyst and it turns out he’s a really friendly and approachable standup kind of guy. So I was really privileged to have him on and there was a little twist I got to help him with something on the show it was a first. So definitely stay tuned and find out what that is.

Lea Pica: [00:04:38] Hello Hello. Today’s guest is a legend in the digital analytics space. He’s more than a thought leader he is a guide for thousands of digital analysts and maturing their business savvy and their technical acumen. And as CEO and founder of Digital Mortar, he leads all aspects of their growth and development. Digital Mortar provides cutting edge measurement and analytics tools for optimizing physical spaces so they specialize in tracking the in-store customer journey. In addition to publishing more than 20 white papers and digital analytics, he speaks at conferences all over the world including SMX, emetrics, text analytics, the D.A.A. symposium series. He won the Digital Analytics Association award for excellence as the most influential industry contributor in 2012. He’s the host of the Measurement Minute podcast and the creator of the groundbreaking Exchange Digital Analytics Conference which incarnated as Digital Analytics Hub. And I had the honor of delivering the keynote at last October that is a really spectacular event. So please welcome the Gary Angel Hello.

Gary Angel: [00:05:49] Thank you so much. That was a great keynote too by the way I intended attended every year it’s been in existence and I really enjoy it too. I thought your keynote was terrific. So, it’s great to be here.

Lea Pica: [00:06:01] Well thank you. I mean that’s a high compliment coming from you. And I’m just for some backstory. We finally cross paths. I think it was the Marketing Evolution Experience in Vegas last year and we got to talking about analytics and data viz platforms and I was so glad that we finally made this happen and I really got so tickled when you mentioned me on your podcast from that keynote and I was like wow I that just happened. It’s surreal.

Gary Angel: [00:06:33] I’ll tell you the truth I mean I I spend a lot of time doing the analytics obviously and I’ve been a long time but one of the things I’ve always struggled with I’m not a really visual person, I’m a terrible design person. The hardest thing for me was never I started out as a programmer the hardest thing for me was never doing analytics. It was never thinking about the analytics it was never coming up with recommendations. It was always presented well I think that’s always been my perspective the hardest struggle. And in this profession, I don’t think I’m alone that way which is why I think what you do is so incredibly valuable for most of us.

Gary Angel: [00:07:08] This is the single hardest thing that we do. It’s not the analysis it’s not diving in and doing machine learning. It’s not working with the numbers. It’s finding ways to tell the story in ways that are understandable to people and that’s friggin hard. And I frankly while I struggle with it personally.

Lea Pica: [00:07:24] Well I mean I love that you’re expressing you know where your strengths lay and where those opportunities exist and for me, it’s kind of backward. You know I was a great analyst but by no means, a data scientist or a machine learning expert storytelling seemed to come a lot more naturally to me than those. But all of it I think comes down to recognizing where you don’t have the tools already and the natural affinity or talent. But I mean all of these skills had to be taught from somewhere. It’s just that when people think of it’s almost automatic to think of analytics training when you enter a role like this but it’s not necessarily automatic to think oh I’m going to need storytelling training too because I’m going to be asked to make people care about what I do that is so true.

Gary Angel: [00:08:13] I think one of things I realized is that you can tell how long someone’s been in the business by sort of the things they complain about realized you know and people start it’s all about why I need to learn these tools that I need to learn how to do this out of the other thing from a skill perspective and I know they’re just starting out at that point and then if they’d been doing it for a while and here I need to learn how to tell stories better I know they’ve been working and trying to do it because that’s the kind of thing you don’t hear from people who are just beginning. You only hear from people who’ve done it and been frustrated by the challenges around. They feel like you know what I did good analysis. I came up with interesting stuff right but it just didn’t convey to people and I couldn’t get that last mile to be nearly as effective. And it was up here but it wasn’t out there in the documents or the PowerPoint of the presentations I did and I think that’s way more common for people to struggle with than it is to be a signpost that they’ve actually done the work and have put in the sweat to realize where their struggles are. What’s really hard.

Lea Pica: [00:09:09] Oh my gosh absolutely. I mean the first element of what I teach in my workshops is how to actually stop being yourself and start being your audience because we are living in our own construct all the time. So when we go in there-there is this inherent assumption that people are going to know exactly what we’re talking about like, for example, I’ll see a conclusion or an assessment written. On a slide at this happened and then the chart will show something but it doesn’t show anything that corroborates the statement that was just made and then the audience is having to do work to try to think to wait a minute. Am I just too dumb to properly interpret this chart? Or what am I missing? And I often say to them you know it sounds great. What you’re saying I can’t find it on what you’re showing me. And they’ll look at and go oh you know this was that was in another analysis I found.

Lea Pica: [00:10:06] And I’m like Yeah that’s gonna trip you up during your session right. Because they’re not in your head sitting next to you during that analysis piece.

Gary Angel: [00:10:16] I think that’s hard for me too because I’m a really good analyst and a lot of this stuff comes really easy to me.

Lea Pica: [00:10:23] I’ve heard that. Yeah.

Gary Angel: [00:10:24] It’s not hard for me to do this. And sometimes it’s like a basketball player who’s really good at basketball often is a terrible coach because it’s really hard for them to imagine people not just grasping these things and of course a lot of times when I look at the data or I look at a visualization I put together it seems obvious to me what the conclusion is. You’re right.

Gary Angel: [00:10:46] It’s often hard to put yourself in other people’s shoes and hey I’ve had to do that over the past because I work with a lot of different IP as a consultant. You know someone who sells analytics I’m just not doing analytics at this sell it so I often have to put myself in their shoes and think about why what I’m saying is it resonating with them. So that’s a constant challenge for me though not to talk the way I want to talk. And I’ll tell you one of the pleasures of going to something like D.A. Hub is it’s a chance to talk.

Gary Angel: [00:11:13] The way I want to talk I don’t have to think about selling stuff or making it clear to other people I can just assume that these are people who are having exactly the same problems challenges and interests that I have. That’s what’s makes that super enjoyable. But I think in my real life in my everyday life of selling things and explaining analytics it’s hard for me to do that. And part of why it’s hard for me to do that is I just don’t have the empathy for the people who really struggle.

Lea Pica: [00:11:38] That is such an interesting point and empathy development I think is such a crucial soft skill. You know I think Forester was quoted as saying at 25 percent of new hires and promotions this year would be driven by data storytelling and soft communication skills and it’s so true. You know we are each and the same for the stakeholders. They’re not actively trained and understanding and empathizing with us as well that we’re intimidated by the questions they ask. And we’re not Siri and can necessarily answer every single question that you throw at us on the spot.

Gary Angel: [00:12:13] Siri frickin drives me nuts. I mean I do think I actually like it when I get into the question and answer phase. I’m good. I think I am a good listener. I like responding to questions and I feel like when people are asking questions it relaxes me and stops me feeling like I’m putting on a show and starts feeling like I’m engaging with them. To me, the question I know of everyone has their own presentation challenges difficulties for me the hardest parts of presentations are when you get started and you get like 30 seconds in and you just feel it feels very artificial to me always when I’m doing that. And that’s why whereas once people start asking questions if I can go back and forth if I’m on a panel where I’m just responding to what other people say that always just feel so much more natural to me and I find I do I think I do a much better job with that kind of setting the pure raw presentation of standing up and speaking that came really hard to me. I was very nervous and I started doing it. And even to this day, I feel like I’ve gotten much much better at it. I don’t get nearly as nervous I do it so much that in one sense it feels pretty regular to me but it never feels as good to me as like getting in a conversation does and I think that’s what that’s always been from my perspective. Even in meetings if when people start throwing up questions I don’t care if they’re hard questions I don’t care if they’re challenging questions it still relaxes me it still makes me feel better about what I’m doing.

Lea Pica: [00:13:43] This is so fascinating because I have to say not a single person I’ve ever talked to has remotely liked the question and answer much less welcome it. And I’m because most of the mindsets around that I can hear the dread in my student’s voices when they say I asked them what makes them nervous and I like the question is like this evil like you it must not be named kind of entity and because and I ask why the questions.

Lea Pica: [00:14:14] And they’ll say because I know that they’re trying to undermine me I know they’re trying to make me look stupid or because if I don’t know the answer I have failed. So they’re already setting themselves up for failure that if they don’t know every single answer they’re failing. And I’ve tried to work with them and say welcome those questions. Because it indicates that they’re engaged. B If you have certain tool sets and responses in your tool belt to manage if people are trying to grandstand or trying to you know undermine it if that’s what you think but also you’re getting to the heart of what they were expecting you to be talking about so do you have any advice for turning that whole fear around on its head around questions and embracing it and navigating it better.

Gary Angel: [00:15:06] You know here’s what I’ll say. I think that aggressively and actively listening is the most important thing. I’ve noticed that a lot of people and particularly speakers I think are very prone to this. They don’t really listen carefully to what they say and I often find they’re answering a question that’s slightly or sometimes significantly different than what the questioner actually asked as an audience participant. I find that really frustrating. It’s like they didn’t pay close enough attention. But part of the reason I say that is I actually think again for so many people I’m really this way. I find actively listening to other people takes me out of me. You know I’m not the hardest part about presenting it is for me the part about feeling like I’m putting on a show that it’s me and everyone’s staring at me when I’m concentrating on the other person when I’m listening to what they’re saying. It just inherently relaxes me and makes me feel like what I’m doing. So I think from that perspective you know if you. I guess the biggest piece of advice I can do is listen carefully to what the other person is saying feel free to think about it a little bit. You know I mean question and the answer is not like being up there and presenting obviously good presenters a lot of times use dramatic pauses they slow down. That’s hard right.

Lea Pica: [00:16:24] Yeah.

Gary Angel: [00:16:24] But but if someone asks a question another all would take a little bit of time to think about an answer instead of just feeling like you have to blurt something back. But from my perspective, I do agree with you part of it is I think one it relaxes me to it does make me feel like the audience is engaged. I find that when you’re just sitting there and no one’s asking any questions I get nervous that you know no one cares.

Lea Pica: [00:16:48] The crickets are deafening.

Gary Angel: [00:16:50] That’s hard. I remember one site I was doing it this was a big sales media is way back and I think the late 80s early 90s and I was doing a stock and commodity trading business and we were presenting to a Japanese company and they flew out a bunch of peoples a big meeting these were pretty senior people. And I did this presentation and I got through it and you know I did like this I talked for like 40 minutes absolutely no questions. And at the end one of the guys near the end of the tables is. So what is it you do?

Lea Pica: [00:17:22] Oh my god.

Gary Angel: [00:17:23] I like you know I like wasting my time and I wasted their time too. I mean it was one of those things where they were too polite to interrupt. But what I was saying is not coming through to them at all. And that made me feel terrible. I mean it was you know it was a really, it was an awful meaty moment that sticks in my mind is one of the worst meeting moments I’ve ever had. But I think from that perspective when people start asking questions I know what they’re thinking about it. You do get it. Just contrary to what people say there are plenty of stupid questions out there and there are people who are asking questions with bad motivations to their people asking questions. Yeah, they want you there a lot. I find less that there are people ask questions because they want to show off right.

Gary Angel: [00:18:08] And that’s part of the ignoring right there they’re often trying to show off how much they know. But I still feel like you know if you listen carefully to what they’re saying and then you think about well what’s the most interesting thing that I can say back to this audience about this even if they’ve made a stupid point or they’ve wasted some time with it. If I can extract one thing to talk about that’s interesting probably that’s it. And I think people enjoy the interactivity coming back and forth I don’t think it’s just me. I think from an audience perspective to that question an answer just feels more natural than someone just talking for 20 or 30 minutes going forward. So I actually think the audience engages better too. So no I love the questions and the answers and I I mean if people are really nervous about it. There’s not much I can say to make it better because I get nervous. No one’s ever been able to make that better for me. But I will say take it as a compliment when people ask you questions.

Gary Angel: [00:19:02] That’s a really good thing for a presenter standpoint. I know from my own personal perspective that’s the way I take it you know a lot of the way I measure my success as a speaker is at the end if I got a lot of questions. So yeah it’s a good thing.

Lea Pica: [00:19:14] I love that reframe especially because I just came back from the Web A Quebec Conference which was amazing. But there is I guess a difference in the cultural aspect where literally as soon as Q & A opened half the room just left.

Gary Angel: [00:19:30] Oh my God. Would be really disturbing.

Lea Pica: [00:19:33] And I only had one question and I was like but way you clapped. Probably.

Gary Angel: [00:19:43] No, that would be hard.

Lea Pica: [00:19:44] Yeah.

Gary Angel: [00:19:45] Really distressing. I think if I had that happen. So at least here most of.

Lea Pica: [00:19:52] Thank you, America. Thank you. I know I always get a lot of questions at you. I rarely I usually have to cut them off. I am blessed in that regard. But I love what you’re saying about the pause. I definitely advise people to embrace pauses when they’re speaking..

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How To Create A Killer Webinar That Closes Customers with Tim Paige Present Beyond Measure Ep. 043
Introducing Webinar Conversion Rockstar, Tim Paige

When you’re thinking about how to create a webinar, think about the last webinar you attended. What did you learn? Were you impressed? Did you purchase the product or service being sold?

Webinars are easily a hot item in marketing right now, especially for Software as a Service (SaaS) providers. Many businesses understand the sales potential in hosting webinars. But, many people simultaneously don’t understand the fine art of creating webinars that make an impact and drive sales.

And that’s why it is my pleasure to introduce you to my guest today, Tim Paige.

Tim is a megastar in the voiceover, digital marketing, and online entrepreneurial space and he has a massive knowledge set when it comes to creating and delivering webinars, especially for the SaaS industry.

In his role as a certified webinar rockstar, Tim has given over 1,000 live webinars for companies like Leadpages, Social Media Examiner, Smart Marketer, Drip, and many more. He has helped his clients earn over $12 million in revenue.

Also, he is a professional voice actor so you might have actually heard his voice on NBC, The Weather Channel, Jimmy Kimmel, on Audible, or…as the intro on my podcast!

In this episode, Tim shares some of his most top-secret tips and tricks for creating webinars that convert customers. He shares his journey from being asked to do his first webinar with only one day notice to being the dynamic webinar presence he is today.

Also, he explains the importance of authenticity and care for impacting your audience.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How Tim fell into the webinar world on accident while working at LeadPages, which began with him having a one-day notice to prepare and present his first webinar.
  • His secret ingredients for creating successful webinars including different things he sees happening now and what should be done instead.
  • The real secret that there isn’t actually a secret, just the importance of valuing people.
  • How important it is for people to focus on their Live presentation AND their follow-up.
  • The emphasis he places on making sure all audience members leave with something, even if they can’t afford to pay or are not going to buy.
  • How being transparent, real, honest, and open influence conversions.
  • His mindset around sales and responsibility for sharing your special skill set with the world.
  • The story of his highest converting webinar, and how being human made a difference.
  • His favorite and least favorite metrics for analyzing webinar success.
How to Keep Up with Tim: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Tim? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thank you to Tim for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Tim about how to create mind-blowing webinars that convert?

Lea Pica: [00:00:00] Happy May! Lea Pica here. Today’s guest wrote the book on delivering killer webinars. I’ll give you a hint. You’re about to hear him speak right now. Stay tuned to find out who’s rocking the airwaves on the Present Beyond Measure Show episode 43.

Lea Pica: [00:00:15] Welcome to the Present Beyond Measure Show. A podcast at the intersection of analytics data visualization and presentation awesomeness. You’ll learn the best tips tools and techniques for creating analytics visualizations and presentations that inspire data-driven decisions and move forward. If you’re ready to get your insights understood and acted upon. You’re in the right place and now your host Lea Pica.

Lea Pica: [00:00:41] Hey guys welcome to the forty-third episode of Present Beyond Measure. The only podcast at the intersection of presentation data visualization and storytelling and Digital Analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights. So it’s been a little quiet on the podcast airwaves because I’ve barely been home. It’s been a whirlwind spring travel season. I’m very blessed. I just got back from a keynote at the Web a Quebec Conference and gave a few workshops to Microsoft in Seattle. But I’m finally back home for about six more days before I’m off again.

Lea Pica: [00:03:49] All right so I’m always excited about my guests. Let’s be honest. But this guest today I have a particular fondness for because he’s not necessarily as known in the digital analytics space but he is a megastar in the digital marketing and online entrepreneurial space and he has a massive knowledge that when it comes to delivering webinars especially Software as a Service webinars the learnings that he dropped on this interview were just astounding. And he is so generous with his time and knowledge that he even continued going with me after our interview had finished to drop one of the most important things from the interview at all so I’m so excited because I know that there are a lot of technology platforms and SaaS providers that probably listen to this show and you’re giving webinars and I’m telling you if that’s you absolutely cannot miss this. And if you’re a practitioner in a company or an agency analyst or whatnot you’re giving web-based presentations anyway and all of this knowledge could be really valuable for you too. So I am so thrilled.

Lea Pica: [00:05:15] So let’s get to it

Lea Pica: [00:05:24] Hello. Welcome. Today’s guest has hosted over 1000 live webinars for some of the most successful SaaS startups. And he is a certified webinar rock star. I can tell you that in my field of entrepreneurship his career in creating and hosting high converting webinars has brought in a total of over twelve million dollars in revenue for his clients. That client list features startups that have just skyrocketed like Leadpages, Social Media Examiner, Smart Marketer, Drip, Funnel Dash just to name a couple. And when he’s not busy hosting webinars he is a professional voice actor. So you might have actually heard his voice on NBC, The CW, The Weather Channel, Jimmy Kimmel, the UFC, and you know the list goes on. And a little fun fact he’s actually the dynamic and engaging voice behind my podcast introduction. And he’s here today to give us some of the most top secret ingredients he has in creating and delivering webinars that convert customers. So, ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Mr. Tim Paige

Tim Paige: [00:06:41] Hello. Hello.

Lea Pica: [00:06:42] He just bowed for people on the podcast.

Lea Pica: [00:06:47] Oh Tim. I mean obviously this has been months in the making and I was pinching myself when we first connected because as an entrepreneur, in the webinar and information product fields you know I remember attending your webinars with Leadpages when I was just starting out and figuring out things like content upgrades and lead magnets and sales pages and I kind of struck gold when you offered free podcast voiceovers with a membership and then a mutual friend of ours connected us and it just went from there. And I can just see you know what I’m seeing in my industry of digital marketing and analytics. There are so many providers of software as a service for digital tool sets the analytics platforms things like that. Lots of webinars going on to try to get these tools in people’s hands and they can be falling short in a lot of ways. So that’s why you have to have you here.

Tim Paige: [00:07:47] No doubt about it. I see a lot of people see that it works. They see companies like Leadpages and other companies in various spaces that are doing webinars and having all these people on them. So they think OK let’s do a webinar but they don’t stop to think how can I use this webinar to benefit you know potential customers and existing customers how can I use it to not only drive sales but also have people actually recognize that we care and recognize that we’re thought leaders and provide value in the marketplace as opposed to here’s just another marketing channel. Here’s another way to get sales. So yeah I think that has led to an explosion of webinars and also a perception in the marketplace that webinars are just infomercials by you know consumers. You know we put a lot of people will tell you they hate attending webinars but it’s because they haven’t been on a kind of webinar with people that care about them beyond just a sale.

Lea Pica: [00:08:49] So I think there’s so much wisdom in what you’re saying and I want to get into kind of the allowing value and benefits to drive in a moment. But you’re right. I think that’s the common ingredient to a successful presentation a successful podcast episode or Facebook Live or whatever you’re doing or sales page is. And I do this to where I talk about like this is why this product is great. Yes not here’s the transformation you’re going to experience as a result of it. So let’s bookmark that because I want to go over the value piece a lot. But first I thought it would be interesting for the listeners to hear how it is you became the king of webinars for pages and for so many entrepreneurs and voice acting as well.

Tim Paige: [00:09:36] It’s funny you mentioned you know Leadpages and now that was how you were introduced to me in your early stages of this business. I was following Leadpages as well. You know I was watching Clay who was the CEO of Leadpages who was hosting the webinars and watching what he was doing and being so amazed and we were connected through a mutual friend, John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire, introduced me to Clay and Clay brought me on to start the Leadpages podcast. That’s what I was brought onto the team there to do. I had nothing to do with webinars. It’s really funny and I’ve never done a webinar. So I was brought on to start the podcast because it was a podcast. And at one point Clay had gotten sick and he couldn’t, He had a webinar scheduled for the next day and he was like I won’t be able to do it. Have you ever spoken in front of large groups have you ever done sales presentations.

Tim Paige: [00:10:24] And I had in-person but never on a webinar so I said OK I’ll figure it out. So he gives me the video of his last webinar and the slide deck and said OK tomorrow you’re going to host it. So that was nuts. I had one day to learn it and I did my best. You know I had a script but I don’t work well with scripts in terms of the webinar so I did my best. Went on the webinar and I out-converted Clay’s average on my first webinar. And Clay came back and said Well how’d you like to do the webinars going forward? Yeah. So I started doing that. And I did I think nine hundred Leadpages webinars. We were at a point where we were doing like 10 a week on an average week. And then from there, it came to a point where you know things were really rolling at Leadpages the team had grown so much. There were other people that were on the team starting to do webinars and I felt like it was time for me to branch out and start to do new things so I had a few different companies that had been reaching out to me asking me to do their webinar so I went off and did my own thing and have now hosted webinars for all those different companies that you mentioned.

Lea Pica: [00:11:39] What an amazing ride, do you think like the universe, Sorry Clay we’re getting sick that day, The universe had a plan and he was grateful.

Tim Paige: [00:11:48] You know he was just I guess I didn’t want to get sick but you know it worked out. You know we ended up doing so well and he could step out and do you know lead the organization which when I started there were 26 people and there were like 300 by the time I left. So you know it’s what needed to happen for him. And it gave me a great opportunity.

Lea Pica: [00:12:09] Well it’s amazing what happens when you find your respective zones of genius you know and the ripple effect that that happens for a whole company and for thousands of entrepreneurs. So wow what an amazing story. So you know we were talking about what I’d like to focus on the theme for today is what are the secret ingredients of successful webinars that people out there are running them just don’t know about yet. So it might be great to start with like what are you seeing happening now from the minute they go live to the minute they close. What are you seeing and what would you like to see instead of what’s work better.

Tim Paige: [00:12:49] Well I’ll share a little anticlimactic piece of information and that is that the secret is there aren’t really any secrets. The secret is that it comes down to people and understanding people and valuing people and having a sense of what is it that somebody is here is looking for. What’s keeping them up at night. Clay used to say used to talk about the pillow tests when somebody is lying awake at night in their bed and they’re there they can’t sleep because something’s on their mind and they’re thinking if only I could.

Lea Pica: [00:13:28] Wow. Interesting.

Tim Paige: [00:13:28] What’s that thing. Yeah. And if you can help them with that thing your their hero whatever it is it doesn’t sometimes it’s big sometimes it’s small sometimes it’s if only I could increase my conversion rate by half a percent sometimes it’s if only I could figure out a way to motivate my people whatever right it could be anything but if you can solve that thing and you can provide a means to solve that thing through your webinar changes everything and they’ll buy whatever tools you offer them as long as it’s in line with what you’re you’re teaching them. Yeah, so I think that’s the secret. The secret is just caring about that the most. I mean look we’re marketers we’re entrepreneurs we need to make money. No doubt about it. I’m in favor but we’ll make money by doing that. And you know some other things that you can do that can lead them from that so here’s my money. So you ask what I’m seeing. And it’s really interesting because a few years ago if you had asked me about webinars I would have said go nuts let’s go crazy webinars it’s the way to go that’s super easy.

Tim Paige: [00:14:33] It’s a little harder now. And that’s not a bad thing. What it means is that if you’re good you will do an amazing job you will excel because people have such low expectations of a webinar right now. At one point everybody would just attend webinars. You would see so many people go this is my first webinar and they’re watching a webinar and they’ve never seen one. Now everybody’s seen one expert now. Now everyone’s seen a bad one. And so that makes a difference. And it means that you don’t have to do that much to stand out. You don’t have to be that good to stand out a little bit of good a little bit of care will really help you stand out. So that’s one thing I’m seeing change. Another big change that’s happened is it used to be the majority of your sales would come on the live Webinar. The people that were there with you live that day. That’s where your sales came from. We were seeing like 98 percent of our sales would come live and then we’d see a few trickle in afterward.

Tim Paige: [00:15:31] Now it’s a way smaller the percentage. It’s like it’s not even 50/50 it’s probably 30/70. 30 percent will come to live, 70 percent will come in the follow up if not more. So the follow up is as critical as the webinar itself. Now if the webinar sucks and the follow up is great You’re not going to get a lot of sales with the webinar is great but the follow-up sucks you’re not going to get a lot of sales. It’s a combination of those two things that will get you the best bang for your buck. And the other thing I think well, there are a few other things. So another thing that I’m seeing change is that you know we know ads are getting more expensive right. You know paid media is becoming more and more expensive as the marketplace gets more crowded and we have to be more sophisticated as marketers. And so there is a higher premium on having a built-in audience but that’s not really awesome for a lot of us who are like well that’s great but I’ve already got my audience I’m trying to expand. So again we need to be better with our webinars and with our follow-ups in order for that paid media to be worth it.

Lea Pica: [00:16:35] Could more make sure you’re maximizing what you’re investing the upper part of the funnel. Yeah. Really fine-tuning what’s at the lower part. That can scale

Tim Paige: [00:16:46] And be prepared to spend more to get people onto a webinar. Don’t be afraid as long as your webinar is good and your follow up is good then it’s worth spending more if your webinar stinks and your follow up stinks. You’re going to spend more money without getting that return.

Lea Pica: [00:17:01] So maybe a frugal approach for people that have limited advertising budget is to test organically with an art audience as much with an organic audience as much as possible. Really try to fine tune those rates at the lower part and then start to eat in the upper part.

Tim Paige: [00:17:18] Yep if you can. If you can get to a level where with your organic stuff if your webinar if you could take half the sales from that webinar and be profitable from ads then you’re good to go. So that’s it. That’s kind of a good estimate. And then I think the other thing that I’m seeing that’s working more and more is I used to only create and advise people to create a webinar that was.

[00:17:47] Here are the things that you can do to achieve X result. So it would be for Leadpages we would teach people how to get a better conversion rate on their landing pages so maybe an example would be four steps to increase your conversion rate of your landing page. Step 1 You know do this with your headline. Step 2 do this with your button. Right. Now that still works great but at a certain level depending on who your audience is. One thing that’s working maybe even better is the webinar teaches a particular philosophy and you sell the tool as an ability to implement that philosophy.

Lea Pica: [00:18:26] Interesting. Wow.

Tim Paige: [00:18:28] So an example would be let’s say that you have a tool that helps make your, that helps to kind of build a team dynamic that’s positive right. It helps you to you know to give each other kind of kudos and helps you to kind of survey people and find out like how they’re feeling about their job. That kind of thing. So what you do is you do a webinar that sells them on your philosophy about team building and connection and that kind of thing and you’re spending a lot of time on that webinar just to really helping them understand the difference between punishing people and just offering people money as opposed to giving them kudos and giving them freedom and that kind of thing.

Tim Paige: [00:19:15] Right. So you sell them on that philosophy and then at the end you show them now you if you’re at this point you’re on board with this philosophy. Here are some things that you can do to start that ball rolling in your company thing one is this. Let me show you how our software can help you do that. Seeing too is this. Let me show you how our software can do that. So the purpose of the webinar is selling the philosophy right and when I say selling I mean getting them to buy in quote-unquote to the philosophy and then at the end you are showing them how to actually incorporate that philosophy within their company or whatever it is by using your product. So that’s a big switch that’s working a lot better for people now.

Lea Pica: [00:19:57] So I’m wondering if we could help elaborate by using a launch that I’m planning in a few weeks. Yeah. Shameless plug. It’s my show. I can.

Tim Paige: [00:20:11] Absolutely go nuts.

Lea Pica: [00:20:13] So I am launching a next slide run of my three sessions virtual boot camp for data storytelling for digital marketers and analysts. And if anyone wants to see that it’s leapica.com/bootcamp. But anyway it’s in a list but we’re planning a big launch for that and. Doing a webinar for it has only made the most sense and I’ve been really blocked around it because I’m like I don’t know if I should teach something that’s in the class. And then I don’t teach it in the class but I’m starting to hear what you’re saying is that that class has the philosophy behind it which is no one gave us the tools to learn how to present data stories in a way for impact and action. And if you want to create the career of your dreams presenting you can present your way of doing that and become an indispensable resource. So I’m I’m trying to think through like in terms of that philosophy that learning how to present data store as effectively is the key to a career of your choice and dreams like would you present. Would you talk about like mistakes the patterns you’re not seeing and why and learning alternatives? That is important. I know I’m putting you on the spot but I’m hoping this also helps the listeners think through with their own offerings the way it last.

Tim Paige: [00:21:40] Yeah the way I look at that is it’s about the why and not the how. So instead of traditionally, I would create a webinar that was all about how. And I’m a big fan. Personally, if I’m attending a webinar I want to see a webinar about how but I’m not everybody. The data is shaking out that people respond better to a y webinar so you know the specifics for your particular thing...

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How to Make A Brain-Friendly Bar Graph in Google Sheets {FREE CHECKLIST}

There are thousands of blog posts and videos that show you how to make a bar graph in Google Sheets.

Why choose this one?

Because it will teach you how to create one that’s beautiful and brain-friendly according to neuroscience. And it will communicate your data story quickly, accurately, and intuitively. 

But why is it important to make Google charts and graphs brain-friendly?

Well, a lot of data visualization tools add ancillary visual junk that doesn’t add value to and can interfere with comprehension. All that extra stuff contributes to something called cognitive load, which slows down the consumption of your data.

Fortunately, Google Sheets already uses several data visualization best practices in its bar graphs such as white backgrounds and a 50% gap width between bars. And, it does add a few visual elements that you’re better off without.

I present to you my top-secret, patented* process for bringing some joy-sparking Konmari tidying magic to your Google sheets charts:

The Chart Detox. It’s easy, it’s powerful, and it takes less than 10 minutes of your valuable time.

*not actually patented

This Google Sheets bar graph tutorial post (which has been updated for 2019) dives right into the action, and it works for both horizontal bar graphs and vertical column charts.

If you’re interested in understanding the data visualization principles of the Detox, check out my companion post on building brain-friendly stacked bar charts in Excel and PowerPoint.

Don’t forget to download your free Google Sheets Bar Chart Detox Checklist!


Check out my video tutorial for creating beautiful bar graphs in Google Sheets:

How to Make a Brain-Friendly Bar Graph in Google Sheets {2019 Edition} - YouTube

When Should I Make Bar Charts in Google Sheets?

Bar charts, while not terribly innovative, are quite commonplace for a GOOD reason. They are simple to interpret, have zero learning curve, and have little room for inaccurate interpretation.

This makes bar charts universally appealing and, in my experience, an excellent choice for communicating categorical ranking or the order of composition (or parts of a whole).

This process also applies to Google Slides and Google Docs, as they all open a linked Google Sheet to insert a bar graph.

Here’s the Chart Detox in action for creating brain-friendly bar charts in Google Sheets:

How to Make a Bar Graph in Google Sheets Brain-Friendly

First, open a fresh Google Sheet. Create a table of data with one column of categories and one column of measures or metrics.

If you’d like, you can make a copy of this a sample data set in Google Sheets by right-clicking on the link to open in a new tab and making a copy.

NOTE: Be sure to format the measures before creating the chart; you’ll see why in a moment.

Click and drag to select the data table like so:

Then, go to the Menu → Insert → Chart. Google Sheets will automagically select a vertical column chart. Pretty clean for default settings, see here:

And, there are still several ways we can detox further. NOTE: Once you change the Chart Type, you will lose any formatting customizations.

Double-click to select the chart area and open the Chart Editor menu on the right.

When to use a Bar Graph vs. a Column Chart

IF you’re using a time-based series, proceed to the next step. But IF you’re using categories for ranking or composition, use a horizontal bar chart. This is for two reasons:

  1. Horizontal bar charts prevent long category labels from going diagonal ( a readability issue)
  2. Left-to-right visuals imply a passage of time to our brains.

To switch, click Chart Type → Bar Chart. Now you have a Google Sheets bar chart that’s ready for cleanup like this:

Next, go to the Chart Editor, click the Customize tab, and go through each menu item:

Chart Style

Keep the background white and choose whatever font suits you (preferably sans serif). Do NOT color the background or enable 3D formatting as these are not brain-friendly!

Chart & Axis Titles

First, select Chart Title and set Title Font Size to 24 – 30. The default font setting is a bit small for readability. We want to maximize readability, especially when pasting as an image into Google Slides or PowerPoint.

Select Chart Subtitle and enter what the chart is displaying, such as “Marketing Channels by Clicks, Q2’19”, like so:

This might seem duplicative of the title, but we’re going to change the title text in a few steps. Hang tight!

Then, set the subtitle Title Font Size to 16.

Last, select “Horizontal Axis” and delete the text from “Title text” to remove (you don’t need it). Repeat to remove the Vertical Axis title as well.


Under Format → Color, change the color of your bars by clicking the Color picker and selecting a gray shade. This creates an emotionally neutral backdrop for your data story. The fourth gray from the left is a great choice (listed as “dark gray 2”:

Then, Click to activate Data Labels. Select Position → Outside End.

Select Data Label Font Size → 16pt. If the labels stretch beyond the chart area, click to select the chart area and grab the right middle handlebar to bring the labels back inside the viewable area.

Last, select Text Color → match the gray bar color. Your bar graph should now look like this:


First, select Position → None. Legends add unnecessary visual noise to charts with single measures.

Vertical Axis

Select Label font size → 14 – 16.


Under Horizontal Axis, select Major Gridline Count → None. This removes extra line noise and the horizontal axis, which you no longer need if you use data labels. Your chart should look like this:

So, this is where your data storytelling power comes in. Right now, you have a blank canvas of observational data. Here are two tools for telling your data story:

  1. Use selective color to emphasize certain data points
  2. Use the chart title as a “Buzzfeed” headline
Telling Your Data Story with Color

First, think about which data point you’d like to call out. Let’s say we want to highlight that Paid Search had the most clicks. Here’s what you’ll do:

Scroll back up to the Series menu and click Format Data Point → Add.

Select the data point you wish to emphasize.

Then, use the color picker to select a nice standout blue like this one (listed as “cornflower blue”):

That specific bar should now be blue and the data label SHOULD have changed as well. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t.

See how quickly that data point stands out? Color is a powerful communication tool when used intentionally, not arbitrarily.

I suggest applying this technique to only 1-2 of your data points.

Telling Your Data Story with a Headline

Next, we’re going to use the Chart Title as a headline for our data story (Clicks vs. Marketing Channel isn’t technically accurate anyway.)

Here’s the trick: you will use the Chart Title to describe what the chart actually means, not just what the chart is, like so:

This technique is called a McKinsey title, and it helps grab your audience’s attention with a story AND connect the data dots for your audience without them having to interpret the graph themselves.

Think of it as the Buzzfeed headline for your data story!

I do wish I could selectively color certain words in the Chart Title, like matching “Paid Search” to the blue in the data bar. That creates extra connective tissue between your headline and your data. At time of writing, it isn’t possible to color individual words.

In the meantime, you can color the entire title to match the emphasized data point:

Finally, click and adjust the chart area so that the category Y axis labels are neatly left-aligned with the title and the chart almost stretches to the bottom, like so:

Now, I have one more cleanup suggestion but it is a matter of preference:

Abbreviating Large Numbers in Google Sheets Graphs

I prefer to abbreviate large numbers in charts, i.e. thousands → k, millions → M, etc. I abbreviate enough to maintain distinction without getting distracted by commas and digits.

But at time of writing, I did not find a way to customize the format of data labels in the Google Sheets bar chart itself. I found a way around this by changing the format of the source data.

Since the sample data values are above 1,000, I abbreviated with a “k” to one decimal place.

To do this, change the source data number format by highlighting the data cells, going to Format → Number →  Custom Number Formats and entering #,##.0,”k” in the field. The sample number should show as “1.2k”, like so:

Click Apply. Now the chart looks even cleaner with abbreviated labels.

Here’s the final product:

And, voilà! That is how to make a bar graph in Google Sheets that is brain-friendly.

You are the proud new owner of a beautifully clean and clutter-free bar chart that ALSO communicates your data story quickly, clearly, and accurately.

Pssst…Hey Google, if you’re listening: please add a data source footnote field to the chart to complete the visualization! For now, you can use a small text box overlaid on the chart.

To make learning this process even EASIER, I’ve created a free printable Google Sheets Chart Detox Checklist for bar and line graphs! It includes a link to a Google Sheet with sample data and a detoxed chart for you to reference again and again.

Click below to request your copy:

Features I’d Love to See in Google Sheets Bar Graphs

If I had my way, I’d be able to do the following when I make a bar graph in Google Sheets:

  • Remove the chart border
  • Remove the axis titles with a toggle button (rather than deleting the text)
  • Change the color of individual words in the Chart Title
  • Add a data source footnote field
  • Change the format of data labels to abbreviate large numbers
  • Reliably change the color of the data label along with the data point
  • Export or save the chart as an image

For these reasons, PowerPoint and Excel are still my gold standard for presenting simple charts and graphs because of their high degree of design flexibility and impeccable resolution.

And, it’s great to see how Google is already ahead of the curve on data visualization best practice compliance and how they’re always improving!

Final Thoughts on Beautiful Bar Graphs in Google Sheets

Anyone can learn how to make a bar graph in Google Sheets. With just a few simple steps, you’ll make bar graphs that communicate your data story in a compelling way that inspires ACTION.

Let’s raise the bar together, shall we?


P.S. – Before you go, don’t forget to snag your free Google Sheets Bar Chart Detox Checklist!

P.P.S. – If you’re a Google Sheets enthusiast, be sure to check out the amazing work of Ben Collins. He’s the master of all the Google Sheets things like formulas, app scripts, and advanced charting!

  Did you use the Chart Detox to learn how to make a bar graph in Google Sheets? Show me in the comments!

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3 Critical Questions Analysts Aren’t Asking their Stakeholders with Aaron Maass Present Beyond Measure Ep. 042
Introducing Aaron Maass of Hero Digital

Aaron Maass knows that data visualization is imperative in the marketing and analytics industries and attaining data is as easy as finding a cup of coffee.

The struggle companies and stakeholders are having is in interpretation and application. The data is there but knowing what it means and what to do with it is the real challenge.

And that’s where Aaron, founder of MaassMedia, independent digital analytics consulting firm, which was recently acquired by customer experience agency Hero Digital, comes in. Aaron’s experience and wisdom make him a guru in understanding and interpreting digital analytics data.

Finding solutions is his stronghold and he’s here to share his philosophies on the discovery process of learning what the stakeholders want, the data available, and how to apply it to solve business challenges.

Aaron has nearly 20 years of online marketing industry experience, has led web analytics initiatives in senior internet marketing management roles at many big companies, and was elected to the DAA’s Board of Directors.

In the nineties, he co-founded a website traffic tracking and reporting software service called Sitegauge, which he sold to Kohlberg, Kravis and Roberts in 2000. His experience has helped him develop a mind for the stakeholder and a keen focus on the importance of viewing data from every possible perspective.

In this episode, Aaron breaks down the most essential questions data analysts must ask to ensure their data presentations meet their stakeholders’ needs. He explains the importance of collaborative experiences with a diverse array of people and shares the “3 what’s” his mentor taught him for thorough data interpretation.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How Aaron fell into the data world on accident, like many of us, and his early business endeavors.
  • His views on the massive amount of data available and the real struggles companies are facing.
  • Where he sees data viz fit in as an important part of the insight discovery process.
  • His belief that the most impactful insights come from a collaborative process and how his company ensures working together.
  • åThe 3 What’s that he learned from his mentor and how he uses those questions to find the insight needle in the data haystack.
  • How he keeps stakeholder mindset at the forefront of everything he does.
Aaron’s Upgrade:
  • “Try to look at the data through the lens of the consumer of that data and consider how they will interpret it. And, title your slides with the conclusion you want people to come to.”
How to Keep Up with Aaron: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Aaron? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thank you to Aaron for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Aaron about interpreting data, stakeholder mindsets, or how to build a data-driven culture?

Lea Pica: [00:00:00] What’s up guys. Lea Pica here. Today’s guest is one of the early pioneers of tag based analytics and is here to help you transform your stakeholder conversations. Stay tuned to find out who’s making waves on the present PR measure Show Episode 42.

Lea Pica: [00:02:26] Alright, so I am super excited about today’s guest. He has over 20 years of online marketing industry experience and he’s led web analytics initiatives and senior Internet marketing management roles and now he is the founder and CEO of a pretty kick ass analytics agency. Let’s go.

Lea Pica: [00:05:03] Today’s guest is one of the early pioneers of tag based web analytics. As the founder and CEO of Maass media, today he oversees the development of some of the e-marketing industry’s most notable digital analytics programs and professionals. Since launching Maass media his team has helped numerous Fortune 500 clients develop and analyze e-marketing analytics programs that deliver measurable and immediate ROI. He’s been recognized for his achievements by the digital analytics association the Interactive Media Council and Web Marketing Association. He teaches a course on web analytics for the online marketing Institute and he’s just around the corner as a fellow Philly resident. So with that I’d like to introduce you to Aaron Maass.

Lea Pica: [00:05:47] Welcome.

Aaron Maass: [00:05:49] Thanks, Lea. It’s a pleasure to be on your show.

[00:05:52] Pleasure to have you. So we have bumped into each other from time to time at various industry events and we thought it’d be a great idea to have you on the show since you work so closely with analysts and clients and data which makes you perfect. So first everyone’s gonna want to know your origin story. Tell us a little bit about how you fell into the world of measure those kind of by accident.

Aaron Maass: [00:06:18] It was way back in the late 1990s during the Internet bubble. A friend of mine had invented an ad serving technology and asked if I’d like to start a business with him. So I looked into it and within a couple weeks I had quit my job moved to Boston and filed the paperwork to incorporate. That early technology soon became a website traffic tracking and reporting tool.

Aaron Maass: [00:06:58] We found that there was quite a bit of demand for tracking web behavior and determining ROI on campaign spend. And we found that the technology that was serving ads could also be used to track web behavior. And this was 1998. So I sort of fell into that a little bit by accident. My partner got into law school a couple of years later and I thought I couldn’t continue without him. And so we decided to sell the business in 2000.

Aaron Maass: [00:07:37] But ever since I have spent my career in digital advertising and analytics.

Lea Pica: [00:07:45] I think so many of us can relate to the idea that we fell into it by accident and no one trained us in analysts school or presenter school. So I think it’s so interesting how people’s pasts evolve like that. So fast forwarding to today you know if we were locked in a room with a team of Maass media what would you be able to help me do by the time we come out?

Aaron Maass: [00:08:11] I think where a lot of lot of people in a lot of companies struggle is not with getting data because I think there’s just tons of it out there and more and more of it every day. But trying to figure out what to do with it and that comes from people with experience in how to use the tools that are available and collecting and analyzing that data but also experience interpreting it and applying it to solving business challenges. So I think that’s probably where we would help the most is hey you got all this data on your businesses data on your customers now what does it mean to us and how can we use it?

Lea Pica: [00:08:58] That’s great. And what role does data visualization and storytelling play in terms of how you present your findings?

Aaron Maass: [00:09:07] Data visualization is a means to an end. For us, it’s part of the discovery process. So we we we start with what are the what are the business goals and business challenges. Now what data do you have available and then let’s look at that data and see if we can find any patterns in that data that might be able to reveal to us some answers to those questions. But it’s not until you start digging into the data that we will know whether we have something on our hands or not or something that’s valuable and that’s where data visualization comes in because know good data visualization allows you to see those patterns in ways that you can’t see. Just looking at a table for instance.

Lea Pica: [00:10:01] That is an excellent point. It is so true you can get close to the data and you might be able to read in a certain way by conveying that in a really clear way. A table is simply not going to do the same as a graph and a well executed graph, I would add to that. So in working closely with your analysts and marketers what are what are they getting right in terms of communicating the insights they’re finding?

Aaron Maass: [00:10:29] I think what they’re getting right is that finally data has come to the forefront in terms of being accepted as a way to prove an hypothesis or a way to find answers or a way to optimize spend or a way to increase revenue. So that’s what I think is right. But how that happens I think there’s still a lot of there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Lea Pica: [00:11:02] I see. OK so tell me more about the room for improvement that you see. What would you love to see being done better?

Aaron Maass: [00:11:11] So I was interviewed recently by the Digital Analytics Association and this sort of came up in the interview. It wasn’t too long ago when I felt like we, as some practitioners in the digital analytics industry, had to twist arms just to get attention for using data in effective ways to answer questions or optimize benefit or use it in ways that marketing can take advantage of it. I mean just to get a seat at the table was not easy. And I feel like the pendulum has swung almost in the complete opposite direction to the point where now it’s not a problem getting attention for data but it’s almost like the perception is that data can be some sort of silver bullet to solve problems. And you see this manifested in commercials and ads for business intelligence software and and and even in job descriptions, exclaiming that you know you can you can get all the insights you need with the push of a button. Or, hiring a Data Officer to help us uncover groundbreaking insights to revolutionize our business. I mean sounds great but it’s not realistic. And does the industry a little bit of a disservice because in my experience the reality is that analysis and using data in effective ways isn’t easy. I mean it takes time, it takes people, it takes resources, it takes investment, and it’s not something that happens overnight. That’s where that’s where I think that there’s room for improvement.

Lea Pica: [00:13:33] Can you give us an example where an analysis by someone on your team kind of stood. I know I’m putting you on the spot here but was there anything that really stood out in terms of what you were talking about being that it wasn’t easy but in a way for me presentation of analysis should make like it looks easy. If that makes sense like the presenter should almost make it look like it was easy. And in that way I feel it allows the audience to really focus on the actual, like the more clear the insights are presented and the more actionable they feel. It feels more effortless I guess in my view. So is there anything that stands out to you in terms of analysis or a case study that you have that really stood out as solving for the challenges that you’re talking about.

Aaron Maass: [00:14:36] Yeah. I can give you a few examples but I’m going to start with a moment that was an epiphany for me and it was and we were working for one of our clients who is a large computer manufacturer and the the task was we have all this survey data. This customer satisfaction survey data on our site that’s been running for years and it’s not tied to any of the behavioral web data that we have. They were using Adobe Analytics and I forget the survey platform they were using but essentially they had the behavioral data and attitudinal data and they wanted to merge that data and see if there were any insights that we could uncover. And it was a pretty broad ask you know typically we were with our clients to define a little bit more clearly what is it that they’re looking for. In general we knew what the business was about and what they were trying to do. But this is sort of like a blue sky type project. So I mean I have to admit I’m not a Tableau expert but I know enough about Tableau to know what is capable of.

Aaron Maass: [00:16:11] And so I work with one of our analysts who is a Tableau expert but didn’t necessarily have the kind of experience where she could ask the bigger picture type questions and so as she was putting together a deck for this client on the results of this analysis using Tableau to build the charts I stood over her shoulder and we were looking at the data together and she was showing me the results of the merge of these two different types of data we merged on the survey complete I.D. for the survey series were being passed into Adobe Analytics that allowed us to merge the two datasets and she was putting the data together into some charts and I asked well what is it..If you were to look at page views which is probably the most boring web metric all, and and customer satisfaction what comes up? And so she said Well I don’t know, let’s see. So she dragged her Web metrics into the demand that that dimension into the charts and also the customer satisfaction results into the same chart. And what appeared was OK we’ve got a section of this company site that has the highest satisfaction but the lowest number of page views for that section which in and of itself isn’t that interesting. But then the section of the site that had the lowest satisfaction had the highest number of page views and that was like on almost too coincidental.

Aaron Maass: [00:18:07] Was there a relationship? So the next thing we did was we went to actually look at what the user experience was on the site. The section that had the highest customer satisfaction was the consumer section of the site. They sell like consumer laptops. And so it should not be a surprise that that section of the site was designed with the consumer in mind. Here’s a product configurator a comparison of different features and benefits of these products. There was a very clear where to buy or how to buy Call to Action. So you know the things that you would expect to see in a consumer oriented website. It turns out the section with the lowest satisfaction and the highest number of page views was like the server section or the tailored to more commercial applications and ad section the site had none of those features. Instead had very technical PDF like downloads like text backs for the different products. There was no there was no clear Call to Action on how to buy those products. There was no tool that helped you compare the benefits of each to those products. And so you can infer from the results that it was such a poor experience that people who were looking to buy products for that end use, the commercial products were clicking around looking for more information and not finding it and driving up the number of page views.

Aaron Maass: [00:19:50] So I mean if you were to step back and just look at the user experience it’s sort of like a no brainer. This is an ugly site and I can’t find anything. It should be obvious that it needs work. But in this day you’ve got big companies with distributed departments and different budgets and global organizations. There’s not a lot of time, you know resources are stretched thinly so stuff like that can slip through the cracks. It takes an analysis like that to reveal where the opportunities are, to reveal where the problems are that need fixing. And the moment for me that was the epiphany was combining this the subject matter expertise of the analyst who knew how to use Tableau. And and my bigger picture knowledge of the company and the website and the products and what might be happening or explaining certain behaviors that we were able as a team with this insight that then we could turn around and deliver to the client.

Lea Pica: [00:21:06] Wow that is a really fascinating case study. And it’s interesting how you talked about the role of a team bringing that together. What are you what do you think are the different complementary skills of each teammate that allowed that synthesis to happen?

Aaron Maass: [00:21:24] I think that the best insights come out of collaborative experiences, collaborative projects where you have a diverse array of people in the room with different expertise and experience and skill sets. I think it’s not realistic to think that one analyst sitting in a queue by themselves can somehow be expected to pore through mountains and mountains of data and come up with groundbreaking insights that are going to be game changers for a global organization in two hours or whatever it is the time that they given to find you know find some insights know in my experience like magic happens when you have people with the right skill sets pulling the data and visualizing it in a way that allows more people in the organization to see what’s going on and give them an opportunity to think about what’s going on understand what’s going on. I think it’s a job of the analyst not just to create these visuals and present it but also to help stakeholders understand where the data comes from and what it might mean. Maybe not the I don’t think they could be expected to come up with the insights themselves but at least explain enough about the data to stakeholders so that maybe together as a team insights can happen and insights will be discovered.

Lea Pica: [00:23:15] I could not agree with you more on the aspect of collaboration. What you’re talking about actually brought up a a fond memory of an analysis that I was asked to do and I chose to loop in one of my marketing cronies and I remember sitting there with her and we were combing through data together and finding all of these interesting nuggets that many of them were only possible because she had her unique lens and perspective that she was bringing to join with mine. And when we presented that final product together to our stakeholders it was one of the most talked about presentations for months after that. And what’s interesting is that a lot of times I’ve done an analysis on my own and then presented to a group a finished product but some of the more interesting meetings that I’ve had are where we call them expeditions where we would just project Tableau on a screen and I would start with three major question points saying I wanted to know this this and this and I show them my visual. But I said now where where can we go with this? Where would we like to explore? And it really facilitated some fascinating dialogues. So I’m all about the collaboration, I love that.

Aaron Maass: [00:24:33] So that’s a great I’m going to just piggyback off of that and in turn our conversation. I know we talked before before this recording that you’d like to talk a little bit about what stakeholders can ask of analysts to get more value from the data and from data visualizations.

Aaron Maass: [00:25:00] I would say that if you’re a stakeholder and you get an email with a dashboard or a report as an attachment or you’re in a room like you described, Lea. And someone’s presenting data to you, if you don’t fully understand it and I don’t and I would argue that you kind of need to fully understand it in order to be able to take any kind of action or come up with any kind of insight from it, then I would highly recommend that you ask of the analyst what their process was in getting there and building the report. Where did the data come from? How is it collected? What tools did you use? What does it mean that this data is here and then now it’s being visualized and then like if you understand the process and how it was collected and how the data was presented then that sort of provides a little bit more context on how you might be able to use it.

Lea Pica: [00:26:02] Yes. So I’m I’m glad we’ve segued here because just to take a step back you know what this show has covered mostly are what are the things analysts can do to present their information in a way stakeholders can extract the most value from. But like you said and for talking about collaboration, I think the most successful leveraging of insights comes when there’s a collaboration between stakeholder and presenter analyst. So let’s start with those three questions: What are the questions that stakeholders aren’t asking analysts about the data that could really transform the value they’re getting from it?

Aaron Maass: [00:26:42] So when I started Maass media 10 years ago my very first client was a bit of a mentor to me but also I can credit him with helping me float the company from the beginning by sending us work and sticking with us through many of those years.

Aaron Maass: [00:27:11] He taught me something that has stuck with me ever since. And that is because sometimes you know I have to admit even when I fell into the trap of you know finding data that I thought was interesting but didn’t really mean anything or that you could do anything with. And and he would often challenge me with asking three questions “What what and what?” What’s happening? Like what is this, what is going on in the data here. And that’s sort of like what I just described you know and suggested that stakeholders do is to ask what. What does this data mean and how is it collected? And what was the process that used to get here? The next question once you understood that what’s happening is to ask well what does it mean this data? Like why is it important? What what could I possibly do with this? You know, tell me how this is significant. And that really puts it back on the analyst to try to explain why are you why did you take the time to show me this data? And I think that analysts have an obligation to think about that question first before they present any data to stakeholders. But I do think that stakeholders should be challenging analysts with that question. And then the third question should be what do I do next? Now that you know that this is what happened and that this is more than just an interesting phenomenon but that it actually means something to my business potentially, what might I do next about this? What actually might I take as a result as little as three questions and I think you might get a lot more ahead of the data. And your analysts and the data visualizations they present to you.

Lea Pica: [00:29:06] Those are really interesting and what I would add almost to the end is addition to and now what is, as a stakeholder I want to know what am I leaving on the table if I don’t do what you think is best or if I don’t take any action. Has that..

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Who else shudders when their stakeholder asks to give them some “constructive criticism” about their latest data presentation?

If you’re multitasking, I want you to stop the other thing(s) you’re doing (safely) and imagine this constructive criticism scenario:

You’ve been slaving away on a quarterly campaign readout for weeks. A lot is riding on this presentation; you’ve conducted an in-depth analysis and are preparing to make recommendations for big program changes.

You’re running it past your VP, who is notoriously picky and takes no prisoners during the feedback process. Deep in your bones, you know that they’re going to slice it up your hard work like a regifted Christmas Panetonne cake that no one wants to eat.

You finish explaining one particular slide, and the first thing they say is…

“Hmm…I really don’t like how you represented our campaign budget allocation in a pie chart. Don’t you know that they’re public enemy #1 in the data viz world? And the colors are really ugly. Please change it. Next slide!”


Take a moment to really visualize that. How did it feel? Not so great, maybe even like a sucker punch? Almost like being accused of not communicating well, instead of being seen for your hard work?

And chances are, there’s more “constructive feedback” where that came from.

You leave that review feeling like a deflated Pikachu balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade. I’ve run out of holiday analogies.

And what about other “constructive” feedback like:

  • You shouldn’t have put that there.
  • I wouldn’t have done it that way. Or,
  • Did you double-check your numbers? They don’t look right.

Or, how about when you’re asked to give your VP feedback and when you do, they suddenly become defensive and argumentative. You find that the conversation has gone from constructive to DESTRUCTIVE in a matter of minutes.

Does any of this sound familiar? If it does, and you’re interested in learning why this happens and how to avoid it, this post is for you!

Click here to download a free script for giving more effective constructive criticism!
The Inspiration for an Effective Constructive Criticism Method

For the last two years, I’ve been studying a form of conflict resolution called Non-Violent Communication (or NVC). Along the way, I learned productive tools of navigating tricky situations like giving constructive criticism.

But I had an a-ha moment as I prepared for my next data storytelling workshop. At the end of the workshop, I take students through my capstone Live Exercise. This is a simulation where participants present a data story to the class as if we are their stakeholders, and we provide communal feedback.

But as this next workshop approached, I looked back and realized that I had never before used those communication tools during the Live Exercise. Sadly, I recalled the presenting students’ looks of rejection and slumped or closed body language when we all dove in with our assessments headfirst.

It dawned on me that when we deliver our valuable insights in a group setting, this effect is way amplified! A simple piece of negative feedback received alone is hard enough, but in front of our peers and superiors, it can feel like a public lynching.

Giving and receiving feedback is a part of our daily lives as digital analysts and marketers, and yet, I’ve observed the process degrade into tension, discord, and downright uncomfortable exchanges.

I resolved to change that with my next class and created a solution.

And, I was blown away by the results.

Before I share my constructive criticism method with you, let’s try to understand what’s at the root of this systemic issue.

Why Do We Give Constructive Criticism?

The reason why we give feedback to others is simple: we are too close to our own work, and the more lenses we place on it, the more we reveal useful facets.

But how we deliver that feedback is, in my experience, as important as the feedback itself. Our delivery can affect how receptive to and motivated they are to USE our feedback.

Delivered in a judgmental way, it can build an invisible wall of resistance in the recipient that blocks it from productively landing with them.

This is because we human beings have a core human need to be seen and appreciated for our accomplishments. This core need is called significance, and it makes us feel important and useful to the world.

We all have a need to feel seen and appreciated, and since we spend more waking hours with our coworkers than our own families, that need is quite present in the workplace.

A Closer Look At Constructive Criticism

My alter-ego CSI-loving forensic scientist loves to put concepts like this that we normally accept at face value under the microscope. Let’s dissect “constructive criticism”, starting with “criticism”:

Criticism is officially defined as “the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes.” The key word I wish to highlight here is “perceived faults”, or the idea that something is inherently wrong.

In deepening my study of non-violent communication, I realized that I, like so many others, tend to first look for what’s wrong instead of what’s right.

As a result, we generally operate from a scarcity mindset. The scarcity mindset can create a competitive culture in our corporate environments that feels more like prizefighting than partnership. I could go on for days on how adopting abundance vs. scarcity mindsets would transform businesses, but that’s a topic for another day.

Somewhere along the line, we inserted “constructive” in front of the word “criticism” to possibly rationalize the lens of negativity by adding an air of utility.

Well, I hate to be the bearer of negative news, but in my experience, positioning negative feedback as useful may seem to justify giving it, but doesn’t take the sting out of receiving it.

That sting is what creates the wall of resistance that prevents them from wanting to use your feedback despite your good intentions!

Criticism vs. Critique

Now, there’s another term that resonates more deeply when I think about the purpose of giving feedback.

That word is…critique:

A critique is defined as “a detailed analysis and assessment of something.” Notice what’s missing from this definition in contrast with criticism: the inherent negative perception of fault or wrongness. It may seem subtle, but it makes all the difference in how feedback is given and received.

Where so-called constructive criticism defaults to pointing out what’s wrong first, a neutral critique can build a bridge to that person and create receptivity to the feedback.

I’ve crafted a unique constructive criticism method I call the “Conscious Critique”, conscious meaning that you are bringing an awareness to your evaluations and assessments to minimize conflict.

Conscious Critique: The A.S.S.E.S.S. Method

The Conscious Critique is distilled from principles of NVC and the “Sandwich” feedback method, which “sandwiches” critical input with positive appreciation. It was also inspired by techniques outlined in “Good Charts”, my favorite data storytelling book by Harvard Business Review editor and friend Scott Berinato.

I will use the acronym A.S.S.E.S.S. to walk you through our constructive criticism example. My A.S.S.E.S.S. method will help you keep the peace and create a communication culture of feedback without fear.

Ready? Of course you are.

1: ACKNOWLEDGE their effort first.

Victor Frankl once wisely and famously stated:

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

It is one of my most favorite quotes and portrays a philosophy that has taken years to integrate into my approach to communication. This step of the Conscious Critique represents that space between stimulus and response. If you take only one technique from this post, make it this one:

Before you criticize them, compliment them.

Huh, you ask? Why would I compliment them if I don’t like their work? I’ll tell you why: because there must be something redeeming about the work they’ve done, and, they’re human beings who just like you have that need for significance.

When you acknowledge their effort before rendering judgment, you lower their wall of resistance to your feedback. Think of this as the first slice of bread in the Sandwich method: a soft, doughy cushion for the critical filling to come.

You can acknowledge them by saying:

  • “Wow, I really like how you…”
  • “I love what you did with the…”
  • “The way you did XYZ makes it so clear to me…”
  • Or simply, “Great job!”

In this constructive criticism example, our VP could have said:

“I really like how you showed the story of search clicks vs. conversion rate, I can immediately see how we need to investigate the dip in late October!”

Can you see how different that feels already, as the first thing they say? What to say is a no-brainer, but remembering when to say it is the trick worth learning.

2: STAY CURIOUS and ask questions about the area of feedback.

If I had to give you communication advice for life, it would be to stay curious. When we stop being curious, we create meanings and assumptions and judgments that most of the time are not true.

I’ll say it again. Most of the time, our meanings and judgments are NOT TRUE. And those pesky judgments can get us into trouble with the person we’re communicating with.

You can prevent sounding judgemental by asking:

  • “May I ask a question about…”
  • “I noticed on the previous slide that you…”.
  • “I’m wondering about this particular area”, or my personal favorite,
  • “Tell me more about your approach.”

Notice that these phrases generally start with what’s called I-statements. In communication, I-statements make the feedback come from a place of internal, subjective perspective.

Notice the difference when you hear judgmental phrases like:

  • “You didn’t do this right”
  • “Why didn’t you…”
  • “Shouldn’t you have…”
  • “Not to poke holes in this, but…” (I’m guilty of this one)

If those feel triggering, it’s because they are negative YOU-statements. When we use YOU-statements, we convey an air of judgment that can breed hostility. A perfectly sound piece of feedback can fall squarely on deaf ears if given with an offensive YOU-statement.

In our constructive criticism example, our VP could have avoided resistance by withholding their feedback and first asking:

“I noticed you used a pie chart and different colors to represent our budget allocation. Can you tell me more about your approach?”

That would have elicited an explanation from you that would not only increase their understanding of your thought process but possibly change her perspective on their own feedback!

That’s the power of staying curious. Now, while they’re responding…

3: STOP…and just listen.

This step is less about what to do and more about what NOT to do. Try to resist interrupting the presenter while they’re presenting.

Learn to embrace silence when you’re listening; this is an incredibly challenging skill to master. I can say that with confidence as a self-reformed, hole-poking busybody that once didn’t hesitate to butt in with my opinion.

Because our work environments are so competitive, we often just listen to respond with our thoughts, instead of listening to understand their thoughts. So when you feel the urge to jump in, take a deep breath and wait for them to finish.

But how do you know when they’re finished? Either they’ll ask for your thoughts or questions, or they’ll just pause. If they only pause, allow them to take at least one full breath before jumping in.

This is harder than it sounds, but it can be learned.

This is the extra bonus: no matter how much you disagree with their perspective, try to keep a friendly or neutral face while they’re speaking. I am a facially expressive person, and unfortunately, this works against me because I tend to show my displeasure or confusion while other’s are explaining an opposing view.

Practice your poker face as best as possible so that you don’t create tension while they talk.

In a corporate culture where jumping in to insert our opinion is not only tolerated but expected, listening to understand is a tremendously valuable skill in making the other party feel seen and heard.

Once they’ve finished explaining…

4. EXPRESS what doesn’t work for you and why.

Here’s where the constructive rubber meets the critical road. You’ve gotten to the gooey filling of the sandwich, where you’re relaying what you wish to change. Hopefully you’ve laid a cushiony, bread-y layer of appreciation to soften what’s to come.

In this step, notice I didn’t tell you to express what you believe is wrong with their work. Right and wrong are subjective and sometimes accusatory judgments. You want to continue using I-statements by focusing on what doesn’t work for you, and why.

You can express what doesn’t work for you with softer statements like:

  • “This doesn’t work for me because…”
  • “In my experience, this hasn’t worked for me because…” Or
  • “It didn’t quite land the way with me you had intended because…”.

Back to the constructive criticism example, our VP could say:

I appreciate why you made the choices you did. The pie chart doesn’t work for me because the segments are out of order and similar in size so I can’t quickly understand the ranking of our budget categories, and I want to make sure our stakeholders see it clearly. ”

This specific and observational feedback is much easier to swallow than a simple potshot, and gives the presenter a clear line of sight to improvement.

Once you’ve (softly) expressed your hangups…

5. SUGGEST how you would approach it differently.

When I say suggest a different approach, I do not mean dictate what they should or shouldn’t do. That is called a demand, which is the fastest road to resistance. I mean suggest using words like “can” and “could”, which positions the feedback as a request or invitation to change.

On the other hand, using demanding words like “should” and negative words like “can’t” or “wouldn’t” imply judgment and may work against you. My relationship coach alerted me to my habit of “shoulding” on other people, and how it was creating resistance in my relationships.

Ask yourself: Are you more likely to be receptive to a request or a demand?

Less productive phrasing includes:

  • “You should do it this way”
  • “That can’t be right”, or
  • “I wouldn’t have done it like that”

You also want your critique to be extremely specific and actionable. Saying you don’t like something without giving specific direction may not be constructive even if delivered in a conscious way.

To give a genuine suggestion, you can say things like:

  • “In my experience, XYZ has worked well”
  • “You could try…”
  • “You can always…”
  • “You may want to…”
  • “If I had my way, I might…”
  • “In this case, I would”

In our constructive criticism example, the VP could have said:

“If we kept the pie, you could try sorting the segments and label them directly.

In my experience, alternatives like bar charts communicate composition more clearly, and I’ve observed fewer question marks when I use them.

But other than that minor tweak, really nice job!”

Notice what I threw in at the end: a reaffirmation of approval. This is the final soft bread layer of the feedback sandwich.

See how different that felt from their original “constructive” criticism dump?

And last but not least…

6. SOLICIT their thoughts on your suggestions.

Remember, this is a dialogue, not a monologue. If they’re inviting you to give your thoughts, absolutely invite them to give their thoughts in return.

Asking for their input on your input shows that you’re curious as to how your feedback landed for them and helps you collaborate on the most effective way forward.

You can try phrasing like:

  • “I’d love to know what you think about that…” Or,
  • “What are your thoughts on that?”

Not too complicated here…just asking what others think. Which happens in meetings less than you’d think.

And make sure you ask from a place of genuine curiosity, not reluctance. If you’re outwardly inviting them to express thoughts that are energetically not welcome with you, they will feel it.

From here, either your presenter accepts your feedback in full or you have the opportunity to collaborate on a solution. You may find that even if they don’t agree with your input, their willingness to find middle ground is higher when you’ve defused the charge out of the feedback process.

And that’s the Conscious Critique!

Constructive Criticism Example Recap

Let’s take a look at the full Conscious Critique A.S.S.E.S.S. method one more time:

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE their effort first.
  2. STAY CURIOUS about the area of feedback.
  3. STOP…and just listen.
  4. EXPRESS what didn’t work for you and why.
  5. SUGGEST how you would approach it..
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How to Choose Data Visualization Tools and Charts with Kristen Sosulski Present Beyond Measure Ep. 040

Choosing the Right Data Visualization Tools and Charts

As a data storytelling evangelist, one of the most common questions I get from my audiences is about which data visualization tools and charts to choose for certain business scenarios.

My answer is always, it depends on the situation. Navigating that decision can feel daunting in the ever-changing landscape of visual communication.

Thankfully, there are data visualization gurus with the right blend of expertise and impressive teaching skills like Kristen Sosulski to help. Not only is she an associate professor and Director of the Learning Science Lab at NYU Stern School of Business, but she is also the author of three books, her most recent one called Data Visualization Made Simple.

As a professor, Kristen teaches MBA students and executives data visualization, programming and business analytics. As Director, she develops immersive online learning environments for business school education.

And somehow she still has time to regularly consult, deliver seminars, and lead workshops on data viz techniques and best practices as a leading expert.

And in this episode, Kristen shares valuable insights about data visualization software, including a break down of the criteria to consider which data visualization tools and which charts work best for different business scenarios.  

In This Episode on Data Visualization Tools and Charts, You’ll Learn…
  • How Kristen’s discovered her passion for data visualization during grad school and how a Film Professor taught her to leverage film techniques.
  • A breakdown of the Data Visualization Software Checklist discussed in her newest book, Data Visualization Made Simple.
  • A walkthrough of several different data visualization tools and what they are best used for.
  • The people who inspired her during her journey.
  • The critical gems of data visualization wisdom she always shares with her students.
  • The excellent advice she would give herself if she could go back in time described as the wedding favor of your presentation.
Data Visualization People, Resources, & Links Mentioned Kristen’s Data Viz Upgrade:
  • “Never give a live demo. If you have a beautiful interactive display, screen record it first and embed it in PowerPoint. Make sure it is set to start as soon as you go to the next slide and then allow yourself to talk over it. It gives you two things, one is the promise that it’s not going to fail.
  • Two is that it gives you an opportunity to practice. You’ve already recorded what you want to share with your audience and now you can prepare your story and think about how you want to lead them. You can make it look just as good as a live demo if you record it at a high quality and you can even do custom zooms, which you can’t do live.”
How to Keep Up with Kristen: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Kristen? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better the chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thanks to Kristen for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.


Do you have a burning question for Kristen about data visualization tools and charts, or her amazing “Data Visualization Made Simple” book? If so, ask away!

Lea Pica: [00:00:00] It’s December people. Lea Pica here. Today’s guest is a powerhouse in the data visualization community and the next member of my Women in Analytics spotlight. Stay tuned to find out who’s keeping it simple on the Present Beyond Measure Show, episode 40.

Lea Pica: [00:00:42] Hey guys welcome to the fortieth episode of Present Beyond Measure. The only podcast at the intersection of presentation data visualization storytelling and analytics my podcast is now officially older than I am. This is the place to be if you’re ready to make maximum impact and create credibility through thoughtfully presented insights. So the year is coming to a close and man it was nothing short of exhilarating. My trip to Conversion Hotel in the Netherlands was both one of the most enlivening and most physically and emotionally challenging journeys I’ve experienced as a professional speaker.

Lea Pica: [00:01:24] I’ll be chronicling that journey very soon in a tell-all blog post that shares a cautionary tale of resilience. But in a nutshell please always check passport requirements of other countries before heading to the airport and try to avoid flying in unexpected winter storms the next day. Enough said…

Lea Pica: [00:02:48] All right so I am completely stoked about today’s guest. She is a rare find in the data visualization world; a true blend of deep expertise, impressive teaching skills, and an amazing personality to boot. Are you ready? Let’s go.

Lea Pica: [00:03:10] Hello Hello and welcome. Today’s guest is an associate professor at NY Stern’s School of Business where she teaches MBA students and executives data visualization programming and business analytics. Light stuff. She is the director of the Learning Science Lab for NYU Stern where she develops immersive online learning environments for business school education. But as a leading expert on data visualization she regularly consults delivers seminars leads workshops on data of his techniques and best practices. You can find her speaking on this subject at events like Social Media Week NYC the plot-con conference and Tableau events, and her third book Data Visualization Made Simple: Insights Into Becoming Visual was just published and it is now on my short list of books to recommend as an amazing start to awesome data storytelling. And I’m thrilled to have her as my next guest in my Women in Analytics spotlight. Please welcome Kristen Sosulski. Hello.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:04:15] Hello. Really happy to be here Lea. Thank you.

Lea Pica: [00:04:18] Oh it’s my pleasure. You know it’s funny. Several practitioners, I’ve talked to recommended that I connect with you and I just never got around to it. And it’s funny including someone I just taught in a workshop and who had attended one of your courses. But somehow you managed to find me first. So I was thrilled to have you on. I know. So I would love to hear, everyone wants to hear everyone’s origin story. How is it that you fell into this whole world of data communication and what do you love about being here.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:04:53] Well my story I think is pretty unique not so straightforward. The straightforward part is that you know I went to business school. I was always working with data. I was an Information Systems major. And when I was in grad school like most people is really where I kind of fell in love with data visualization and so I was working with a film professor and we were collaborating on a project and he wanted to actually look at how we could visualize film. And this technique was so like just knocked my socks off like I had no idea what this meant. And so I just kind of like an eager grad student just went along for the journey and he taught me about how you can look at film by kind of stripping away the narrative and dramatic content and actually being able to graph and visualize what’s happening structurally in a scene and how you can use elements of film to build suspects and how you can actually look at that as a way to get insights into how actors actually directors plan for suspense building and film Wow I love that.

Lea Pica: [00:06:00] So a couple of practitioners you know Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic, in her Storytelling with Data Book actually talked about some Hollywood inspired data storytelling techniques that can be applied. It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea can be applied to data communications. So I’d love to actually hear you know what are some of those elements that you learned about that you think have carried over into what you do now.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:06:26] Oh I mean first like the progressive disclosure of information. Right. And so being able to start with you know to start a presentation with a question and be able to kind of like slowly reveal you know the insight or key takeaway through your data graphic I’m not showing everything at once right. Like you never view a whole film that one it feels so totally. That’s just one example.

Lea Pica: [00:06:53] I love that I love to give the analogy to Game of Thrones like if they put up a black screen with a synopsis of Game of Thrones and that was it. No one would really watch it or feel like Red Wedding: Everyone dies. So. I love that.

Lea Pica: [00:07:13] What an interesting background that prepared you for this role. I love that. So I would love to dive right into your book and your book I think gives such a comprehensive toolset for looking at everything from the tools to the charts to the slides to the delivery approach, like really comprehensive. But I thought what we would do today is I haven’t touched on the tools and the actual chart types a lot on this show.

Lea Pica: [00:07:44] And that was really core aspect of your book that I thought was executed really well. So I thought I’d give what I think everyone wants to know more of is let’s hear about the tools and let’s hear about the charts and we’ll go from there. So you know I’d love to get specific scenarios about when you would suggest particular tools. What are their respective advantages? Where do they excel, pun intended, and really start with some a great tool you have in there which is the Data Software Evaluation Checklist. Tell me about that.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:08:20] Absolutely. So there’s a lot of different types of software out on the market that allows you to visualize data and I kind of categorize these into four different categories. And so one is that you have your basic productivity tools. These are things like Excel and PowerPoint and really just out of the box productivity tools, Google Charts is actually even. I put that in the category of a productivity tool like a low you know setup time and pretty high value in terms in terms of the data graphics. Great. The second category is your true data visualization software packages so you know if you’re creating a sophisticated geospatial displays you want to use like ArcGIS or Tableau is another great example like something you really specifically tied to building data graphics where if that’s the sole purpose then you have your business intelligence tools like PowerBi and you know Watson Analytics all these are examples of tools used to kind of report on and show what’s happening in the present right there. They’re there to help you build dashboards in those dashboards tend to be really efficient data graphics that convey what’s happening in the moment and then you have category number four which I call our programming packages. And so this is where you’re able to do all the cool stuff that’s really dynamic and interactive but really high start-up costs. So something like you know any of the Javascript Libraries that allow for visualization to be deployed on the web for interactivity and also what we call animation.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:09:55] Another example is R which is a programming package I use intensely so it’s a statistical programming package that has it has a series of libraries that are excellent for visualizing data and that works really really well when you’re doing any kind of data modeling or statistical analysis because then you have you have a complete toolkit so I can I can clean my data I can make it look like nice and fancy and shiny and formatted in the right format for the ways that I need to model it and also then display it communicate those insights out to an audience or my data team. So those are kind of the four categories of software and then I can discuss kind of how we know which one to kind of choose for a purpose.

Lea Pica: [00:10:42] So what kind of criteria are on this evaluation checklist that you’ve created.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:10:48] Great. So I have I have a checklist of seven different criteria. And so the first speaks to sharing. So, Lea, think about it like if I create a data graphic and you want to modify it we know that’s like a lot harder if you don’t have the software like Tableau or something like that. Then you have to download it and then it’s it’s not easy for sharing. But if we have it set up in our organization and it makes it much easier for sharing. So you want to think about that.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:11:12] Two is the output format. One of the things I talk about so much in my class Lea is about designing data graphics for the medium so you give PowerPoints probably every you know every hour

Lea Pica: [00:11:28] Right now, I’m actually giving one right now.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:11:31] So I’m constantly building these decks and those data graphics I use are much different than the data graphics I create for the web where I want an audience to interact with it. So now I’m not only becoming a data graphic designer but now an interface designer on top of it. I have drop downs and mouse-overs all those things I have to think about. And then finally for print sometimes out of the box when we create a data graphic in the font size is like point eight. We know when we print that out it’s going to be a little pixilated and it might not be the highest quality format when they use colors that end up looking very similar. When you print them out in black and white so if you’re using like a blue and green which are similar hues and densities you’ll have a chart that looks like it’s one color. So those are some things to really think about in terms of the output formats for your for your data graphics. Then we have interoperability so let’s say I am using R to model my data. Well, what if I don’t want to visualize it in R I want to visualize in different package because it has a certain more aesthetic or it’s what my organization uses.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:12:38] So you want to think about that interoperability between software packages and I take something built in Excel and edit it in a different program than we have. This is four, maybe it should be number one, which is display types. Think about it. I want to create a data map. Well, I can’t really do that at Excel right. You know so that will somehow some in some ways dictate the type of software you pick and then number five is data exploration. So thinking about will do I actually want to be able to run some summary statistics and learn more about my data before I start visualizing it? And are there tools that allow me to do that? Or do I already have to have really a question in mind? Can I do something that more unsupervised for instance? So that’s a that’s a question. And then a big part of my book is talking about incorporating the visualization into one’s practice. So we think about simplicity. Is a tool easy to use? Is it something that I can just add on to my existing work or is there a really high start-up cost?

Lea Pica: [00:13:47] Wow I love how comprehensive that approach is. And for me what it spoke to was that this is about using a portfolio or a suite of tools because there’s just going to be different audiences different mediums different scenarios different visuals you’re going to need to communicate. So what I would love is to give the listeners a sense of different charting scenarios where different tools might be valuable. So I’d love to start with. I mean I have a feeling it’s pretty well-known the chart types that are available in Excel and PowerPoint. These are great for some of the basics like bars and lines and such. But when do people want to start playing around with you know Tableau and Qlik and you know getting into the Bi tools like PoundBi Domo. Things like that. So let’s start with Tableau maybe.

Kristen Sosulski: [00:14:41] Great. So Tableau is amazing for geospatial displays specifically ones that are geospatial displays of the US so their data maps are terrific. They use a projection called the Mercator projection that we’re really familiar with it’s what Google Maps uses. And so typically if we don’t need to change the projection if we like that Google Maps type view we can change the background and we can we can plot our geospatial data. Latitude and longitude right. We can plot zip code anything that’s you know around an address. We can we can plot in Tableau either as like a field map so we can field regions like states or we can plot points like precise locations of every like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts for instance in lower Manhattan. We can plot those as points so that those are just some examples when you want to do something a little bit like connect points together that takes a little bit more coding but it definitely possible and Tableau I say OK.

Lea Pica: [00:15:45] So now how about you talked about Google Charts so I’ll admit I haven’t dabbled as much in the Google Suite other than some of the basic word processing and sheets and whatnot. So what are some of the things people may not know that Google charts offer?

Kristen Sosulski: [00:16:02] You know one thing that is really terrific if you’re using Google Sheets and you want to have a small progress bar like a spark that shows like what percentage of this task is done from zero to one hundred, you can create a little mini graphic at the end of each task. Really really super handy. And so they’re called Spark bars. There’s also sparklines that just show kind of like you know how something has changed over time at a glance. It’s really great for like mini dashboarding type tasks where you might not want to create a whole dashboard for you know for your organization or your team but just a few a few little indicators like key metrics that are really important to report on. So that’s what I love Google charts.

Lea Pica: [00:16:47] So it might be an interesting way to spice up an otherwise extremely boring dry table. Right. So there is something they can visually compare metrics if people are determined to receive information or consume it in a table format. Would you say?

Kristen Sosulski: [00:17:04] Absolutely. One thing that I really encourage with my teams are you know I don’t really want to hear a story about what happened, just to show me the data. Show me that you know what percentage of this task is complete or incomplete and I can look at it at a glance and then I can ask my own questions around it. But just at least have a starting point to know what status I think it allows for the poor for much more seamless communication.

Lea Pica: [00:17:31] Awesome. OK. And then Power Bi. So this is a tool that you know I believe you have to pay for. There’s no like free option. So what could a company benefit from going towards Power Bi?

Kristen Sosulski: [00:17:43] I mean this is great for four dashboarding at several levels. So say you’re running a sales team for instance and you want all your salespeople to be aware of the latest product changes and changing prices. Those types of things where they can also they can see what’s happening in the present. Now I can see my sales progress over time, I can see how I did today compared to yesterday, and then as a manager, I can see all my salespeople you know how they did today versus yesterday. And so it’s a great way to kind of aggregate what’s happening and I say like in pretty much the present. When you want to dig back into like reporting in the past or prediction into the future then you’re building some custom interfaces for those activities.

Lea Pica: [00:18:30] I see and you know that’s also interesting because I had some experience working with a team dashboarding in Power Bi and we..

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Meet My Women in Analytics Podcast Spotlight

The Women in Analytics movement is becoming an unstoppable industry force. From the Women in Analytics Conference to the Digital Analytics Association WiA Community, female analytics practitioners are finally stepping into their power to support and uplift each other on their professional path.

I’ve had some amazing female guests on my podcast, The Present Beyond Measure Show. Starting in 2018, I made a commitment to work harder to feature a more balanced blend of guests on the show. 

Below is a roundup of all of my Women in Analytics data presentation rockstar guests to date. They’ve dropped infinite pearls of wisdom, and I’m thrilled to share them with you!

Ep. 009: Krista Seiden Google Analytics Advocate

Krista Seiden is the Analytics Advocate for Google where she is responsible for educating and advocating for digital analytics and optimization best practices as well as running the GA Premium training program. Her work is influencing millions of people all over the world.

Kristen co-chairs the San Francisco chapter of the Digital Analytics Association (DAA) and a sought-after mentor for the Analysis Exchange.

Ep. 015: June Dershewitz Director of Analytics, Twitch

June Dershewitz is the Director of Analytics at Twitch, where she oversees the digital analytics platform for the entire customer lifecycle. Previously, she was a member of the leadership team at Semphonic, a prominent analytics consultancy (now part of Ernst & Young).

As a long-standing advocate of the analytics community, she’s created Expansive thought leadership in Analytics. She maintains a board seat on the Digital Analytics Association, and has given countless talks with eMetrics, Analytics Demystified, and many other groups.

Ep. 023: Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic Author of Storytelling with Data

Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic helps organizations become more effective recently published Amazon category bestseller through her blog, Storytelling with Data, and her acclaimed workshops. She recently published a wildly popular data visualization book, an Amazon category best seller, Storytelling with Data.

And in this episode, Cole dishes her top tips and insights into data visualization and practical applications on how to communicate effectively with data.

Ep. 034: Allison Hartsoe Customer Centricity, Ambition Data

Allison Hartsoe is a celebrated speaker in the digital analytics industry, the first guest of my Women in Analytics Spotlight Series.

Allison is a highly successful serial entrepreneur who has founded three companies. Her current firm, Ambition Data, creates strong marketing ROI through customer centricity. She uses her understanding of the value of each and every customer to help companies build customer equity naturally.

In this episode, Allison shares her unique talent for navigating the intersection between presenting data, storytelling, and connecting with her audiences.

Ep. 038: Moe Kiss Digital Analytics Power Hour Co-Host | The ICONIC

Moe Kiss leads the analytics team at The Iconic where she spends her days understanding customer behavior through data and analytics. She is an active organizer in the analytics community and President of The Analytics Association in New South Wales, Australia.

She co-hosts a bi-weekly podcast you may know called The Digital Analytics Power Hour on All Things Analytics. She is a strong advocate for gender and cultural diversity, organizational mentoring, and networking.

In this episode, Moe takes us on her thought leadership journey from stage fright to successful presenting.

Ep. 040: Kristen Sosulski Author of Data Visualization Made Simple

Kristen Sosulski is an associate professor and Director of the Learning Science Lab at NYU Stern School of Business, but she is also the author of three books, her most recent one called Data Visualization Made Simple.

As a professor, Kristen teaches MBA students and executives data visualization, programming and business analytics. As Director, she develops immersive online learning environments for business school education.

In her interview, Kristen shares valuable insights about data visualization software, including a break down of the criteria to consider which data visualization tools and which charts work best for different business scenarios.  

I can’t wait for you to listen to these ladies’ infinite fountain of wisdom. And, there’s many more on the way!

For even more inspiration, Google Analytics has compiled a comprehensive and curated Women in Analytics Twitter list.


Who would you like to see in a guest spot on the Women in Analytics Spotlight?

The post The Women in Analytics Podcast Spotlight appeared first on Lea Pica.

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How to Start Getting Paid to Speak with Grant Baldwin of The Speaker Lab Present Beyond Measure Ep. 039

Getting Paid to Speak with Grant Baldwin

Becoming a professional speaker can be an invigorating and rewarding experience, but getting paid to speak is harder than one would think. Unsurprisingly, there are specific tips and tricks that can help you become a known and loved speaker on any stage.

Discovering a passion for speaking to an audience is the first step, but what comes next? How do you become a nationally or globally known speaker in your niche and transform it from a passion project to paycheck?

If you’re trying to find your way, Grant Baldwin is the expert to seek on getting paid to speak. He stands apart in the ocean of speaking because he is able to concisely teach you all of the ins and outs of growing from interest to professional.

Grant is the founder of the Booked and Paid to Speak Training Course where he helps people start and build a career out of getting paid to speak. He has given nearly 1,000 live presentations and has spoken to over 400,000 people in 46 different states through leadership conferences, conventions and other events.

He takes the time to share actionable steps you can take to grow, while also equipping you with the best tools and tips to help you find your way to the stage. His ability to walk you through the steps you need to take is impressive.

Grant’s philosophy on working with what you’ve got and building as you go along with his emphasis on the importance of being proactive and building positive relationships has had a profound influence on my own actions.

His book and curriculum for students, Reality Check, is taught in 400 high schools around the country and he is the host of the amazing SpeakerLab which is a podcast that focuses on speaker training and interviews with speakers who will help you grow your business.

In this episode, Grant shares a wealth of information and tools for people who want to successfully start or grow their speaking career.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How he moved from knowing he wanted to be a paid speaker to where he is today.
  • His journey from speaking to teaching others how to be a paid speaker.
  • The three questions he always challenges people to think about when they want to start a speaking career.
  • The importance of having a niche to help you build your business foundation and being proactive when looking for speaking gigs.
  • The value he places on having a good website and demo video to showcase your work.
  • His processes and the tool he uses to determine how much to charge at speaking events.
People, Resources, & Links Mentioned How to Keep Up with Grant: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or a question for Grant? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better the chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thanks to Grant for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Grant about getting paid to speak? If so, ask away!
Lea Pica: [00:00:00] Happy pre-Turkey Day. Lea Pica here. Today’s guest is a pro presenting guru He’s transforming thousands of speaking careers in his Speaker Lab. Stay tuned to find out who’s making magic happen on the Present Beyond Measure Show, Episode 39.

Lea Pica: [00:00:41] Hey guys, welcome to the thirty-ninth episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show, the only podcast at the intersection of presentation data visualization and analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to make maximum impact and create credibility for yourself through thoughtfully presented insights.

Lea Pica: [00:01:42] All right so I’m super excited about today’s guest. I’ve been a fan of his for years. He is a nationally known keynote speaker and has transformed his immense presenting experience into helping other aspiring speakers build lucrative speaking businesses from the ground up or somewhere after that. And I am one of the newest members of his elite pro speaking coaching program which has already paid off in spades. So let’s roll tape.

Lea Pica: [00:02:35] Hello everyone. Today’s guest is the founder of the Booked and Paid to Speak Training Course where he helps people start and builds their own speaking practice. He has given nearly 1,000 live presentations and has spoken to over 400,000 people in 46 different states through leadership conferences, conventions and other events. His book and curriculum for students, Reality Check, is taught in 400 high schools around the country and he is the host of the amazing Speaker Lab which is a podcast that focuses on speaker training and interviews with speakers who will help you grow your speaking business. And I thought he would be an amazing guest for this show. So with that I’d like to introduce you to Grant Baldwin. Welcome.

Grant Baldwin: [00:03:23] Thanks Lea, I appreciate you letting me hang out with you.

Lea Pica: [00:03:26] Pleasure’s all mine. So I first came across you through a partner webinar that you had done with someone like Pat Flynn or John Lee Dumas a while ago and I was pretty early in my speaking career and after that I discovered your Speaker Lab Podcast which is one of those shows where every episode answers the next burning question I have about my career. And I especially really going into little crevices like how to systematize your business, how to maximize travel rewards programs and say on the road, stuff like that. Yeah like really deconstructing all of it. I love it. And what I really love about your work is that you’re really relatable but you also give really concrete tools for navigating this world which can be challenging at times. So, that I all of that I appreciate but you know I think everyone would love to know like what’s your origin story. How did you fall into this world?

Grant Baldwin: [00:04:23] Yeah. Good question. So like going way back when I was in high school I was really involved in my my local youth group and my youth pastor had a really big impact on my life and he was a phenomenal speaker and so I mean we’re looking at him speaking and I was like I want to do that. That seems cool. And so it was kind of on that track for a little while I went to Bible college as a youth pastor at a local church myself for a little bit. I had a lot of opportunities to speak and even to take a step back in college I worked for a guy who was a full time speaker. And so I got to kind of help him a little bit on the behind the scenes part of the business on helping on like contracts and and logistics and details on travel and that kind of stuff and I just really enjoy like oh there’s this whole business world to speaking right. Yeah. And it’s one of those things like speaking as one of those things I was really intrigued by and interested in. I just didn’t know as a thing like I don’t think a lot of people don’t necessarily realize like that’s a that’s a thing that people do like people can absolutely make a living from. So right. So worked with him and then was a youth pastor for a little while and then had a lot of opportunities to speak and so I decided I really wanted to pursue a career as a speaker.

Grant Baldwin: [00:05:29] But I was in a spot where maybe some of your listeners are in that I had no idea where to begin. I had one of the lines I like to use is I had the potential but I needed the plan, I had the potential but I needed a plan. I like speaking I know as a decent Speaker no idea what to do from there. I think that’s where a lot of people are. I know what we’ll discuss that more. But yeah so from there I just I met a few other speakers who were doing speaking at the types of events that I was interested in that I wanted to do more of and sort of asking them questions and stalking and hounding them and just to try to like figure out how does this thing work. And so for next about eight years or so was a full time speaker doing anywhere from 50 to 70 gigs a year. And it was a blast. I really really loved it. So we got to a point a couple years ago where people were regularly asking me like hey I want to do this. How do I do this. And so we created an online training program and the podcast that you mentioned and some different tools and resources to help people who were where I was several years ago of just wanting to do this and needing some next steps. And so that’s a bulk of what the business is today is teaching the business of speaking and teach people how to find and book speaking engagements so that’s a that’s a lot of fun.

Lea Pica: [00:06:38] I can see that you have a lot of fun with it and it really shows that you get a really rewarding sense of service to people because I think there are so many people that are talented they have the drive they have the potential and they like you said they just don’t know where to start. So you know many of the pack practitioners in my field,digital analysts, service digital service providers, marketers, even upper level CMO’s, people like that. They’d love to get started with pro speaking but if you’re at square one what’s the first step that you take?

Grant Baldwin: [00:07:12] Yeah. So there’s there’s three questions that I always challenge speakers to really think through an answer. And so first one being who is it that you want to speak to. Because oftentimes we’re just like I just like speaking. I just I want to talk to people right.

Grant Baldwin: [00:07:25] That doesn’t work like you have do you really really clear about who it is that you wanna speak to.

Grant Baldwin: [00:07:29] So do you want to speak to other digital marketers or other digital analysts or do you on it. Do you say hey want to speak to I want to speak to moms who are looking to start a business. I want to speak to… I want to speak to accountants. It could be any number like there’s so many ridiculous opportunities. There’s a speaker inside one of our programs the she’s a veterinarian and the very first gig that she did was for I think 4,000 or 5,000 dollars to speak at a pet sitting conference in Vegas.

Grant Baldwin: [00:07:57] It’s like I didn’t even know there was a thing.

Lea Pica: [00:07:59] How do I go to this conference?

Grant Baldwin: [00:08:01] Yeah it’s crazy. That’s crazy. So. So there’s a lot of people who again they they know they want to speak but you have to get clear about who it is that you speak to and you really want to be specific with it doesn’t you don’t want to say like OK I want to speak to I want to speak to women. That’s great. That’s like half the world’s population. So you have to be super specific and clear about who it is that you speak to. Now the second part then is not who you want to speak to but what’s the problem that you can solve for that. So oftentimes people think about like OK what do you. If I were to ask you what do you speak about. And someone’s reply is like what do you want me to speak about? I could speak about anything like that. Yeah like that’s not accurate, like that’s not true.

Lea Pica: [00:08:37] Right.

Grant Baldwin: [00:08:37] In the same way that you know if we were to go to lunch and sit down and looking at a menu and they’re like well we don’t you know we don’t actually have menus we can cook anything you want here. That’s not accurate. And even if it were, the food can’t be that good.

Lea Pica: [00:08:49] What are you good at. Yeah exactly.

Grant Baldwin: [00:08:50] Yeah totally. So you have to be really really clear on those two those pieces and who you speak to and what’s the problem that you solve. And if you can get clear on those things then finding and booking gigs becomes so much simpler. But when it’s people who are just going well I know I speak to humans and I talk. What do you want me to talk about. Like then you just become this jack of all trades. And it’s hard to get any traction trying to do that. So the more specific the more clear you can be the better. So I’ll give an example.

Grant Baldwin: [00:09:18] So so are my wife and I we have three daughters and they have we got some chalk for them to doodle on the driveway. Well something was up with this chalk apparently. And normally you put some chalk down on the driveway on concrete and it just washes off. And this did not wash off. And so then I borrowed a pressure washer from a buddy and I’m trying to spray it. It’s not really coming off like what in the world it looks like spray paint on our driveway. And so I call around to a couple different people just trying to figure out like who can clean this? Like who does something like this? And so I had a couple of different people who were like handymen who came over and they’re kind of like yeah you know I’ve got a pressure washer I could probably figure it out. I guess I could.

Grant Baldwin: [00:10:05] You know but then we had a guy who came over and I’ve got I’ve got a business card I’ll show you I know people at home can’t see this but my name is. Let’s see here breezy power wash dot com. All right. So if you’re in the Nashville area you want to check that out and all this guy does is power wash and cleans driveways. Like that’s pretty much it. All right. Is he shows up in a van that’s decked out in this little breezy power wash looking character his business card says.

Grant Baldwin: [00:10:29] It’s not like oh yeah I clean driveways and I also mow lawns you know. Yeah. I can eat and I can do I can change light bulb. I can do all these things like no no. All I basically do is power wash driveways. Right. So as a consumer who has a problem who’s looking for a solution which guy makes more sense to hire the guy that like this is all I do or the guy who’s like yeah I guess I could do that good yeah I could figure that out you know.

Grant Baldwin: [00:10:54] And so the other thing to think about is that which one do you think charges more? The Mr. power washer dude or like the handyman is like yeah I guess I could right. The power washer guys actually gonna charge more cause he knows.

Lea Pica: [00:11:07] That he’s the specialist.

Grant Baldwin: [00:11:08] And he’s going to deliver on it.

Grant Baldwin: [00:11:10] So it just makes it so much simpler as a consumer for me to be like oh yeah this is the guy. Right. And if you if you pay attention in the marketplace there’s a lot of businesses that are like that. So a friend of mine was at his house the other day and he was having a TV mounted and the company is called We Mount TV’s. That’s it. So if you’re like well can you also do these other random odd jobs? Not really like what we do is we mount TV’s. This very specific thing. But he’s like we’re just slammed all the time. Yeah it’s very very easy to identify. This is what I do. This is who I provide the solution for. So who do you who do you speak to what the problem is all the third piece then is where do those people gather? Where do those people gather? Because as a speaker there’s has to be some type of natural gathering of people that you can actually speak to. So if you said something like You know I want to say I want to speak to I want to speak to moms who are struggling with with weight loss.

Grant Baldwin: [00:12:10] Right. OK. That’s right. But like where. Like what’s the natural gathering for them. Is that going to be through some type of weight loss group or is it going to be through some type of association or is that going to be through some type of church group. It could be any number of places but being clear about. OK. Where where do those people gather? Just because you’re like All right don’t speak to this group. I want to speak to people who love dogs. OK. Like what. But where are you. Right. Some of that just requires a little bit of digging and some homework there to figure out what are the opportunities. But again once you’re clear on who you speak to what’s the problem that you saw. Where do those people gather. It just becomes so much simpler to find gigs. But I find that people who have a difficult time getting going and getting traction as a speaker is because they’re not clear on those things because they’re just kind of like well you know I want to speak to everybody on anything and whatever I can. I just want to speak right. But the more clear you are the easier it is to find gigs.

Lea Pica: [00:13:03] This is amazing and really clear cut and I can totally relate because a lot of times people have asked you know you’re teaching people how to present data and information. You could go so much wider with your audience because that’s like everyone in the corporate world. But I’ve chosen to niche down specifically to people in the digital marketing field because I’ve worked with that data for 12 years. I know what it’s like to be those people and I speak that language. And I have found so much more success in trying to saturate this market with me rather than go bigger where the pond is also bigger with bigger sharks right. There’s people are way ahead of me on that.

Grant Baldwin: [00:13:46] Yeah and I think it’s easy like when we look at just speakers in general oftentimes we think of big names. We think of like a Tony Robbins or think of a Gary Vaynerchuk or Les Brown or some of those type of people and we think about well those people can talk about anything. It’s like yeah they can. But like, you’re not them. We don’t have that opportunity. Right. And if you think about take someone like a Gary Vaynerchuk are you familiar Gary?

Grant Baldwin: [00:14:10] So Gary today he’s he speaks on a wide variety of different subjects and topics. Do you remember like whenever he got started on the online space what he was speaking on or what he was talking about? Just in general?

Lea Pica: [00:14:20] No.

Grant Baldwin: [00:14:20] It was wine. All he did was wine. Right. And so for like years and years and years like he had a video show. Yeah. I don’t know if he had a podcast but all of his social media everything he did was around wine. Right. This is very specific niche thing in the same way that if you look at someone like Tim Ferriss right. Today what what he does is all kinds of different stuff. Right. But originally it was about like lifestyle design and it’s one very specific topic for a specific audience right. But once you kind of once you start there then it’s a lot easier to kind of expand but you have to be clear initially about who it is that you who it is is you want to focus on. So I think let’s go back to the example of: I’m talking with this guy the other day like we mount TV’s is right. And so I’m asking him like hey I also have some some picture frames I need to have mountain. Is that something you could do.

Grant Baldwin: [00:15:11] Sure. It’s something we could do our outwards stuff is communicating like this is the only thing that we do as other opportunities come up. So like in your case Lea, let’s say all I do from an outward marketing perspective on my web site, my video. It communicates that I’m speaking to digital marketers and digital analysts on you know how to present data or whatever it may be. Right. And so I that’s what I speak on. But then someone’s like I heard you speak. That was amazing. This would work perfect in this kind of like crossover type of industry, is that something you’d be interested in? Yeah I could see doing that. Right. Because they’re connecting the dots for you rather than you saying I speak to this group and this group and this group and this topic and this topic and this topic and you’re communicating I do all these things right. But if someone sees you speak and they’re like I could totally see how this this would work in our world, then obviously you have to decide like does that make sense for you is there something that you want to do. Does that fit with where where you want to go. But for many it may make sense and it may be a good opportunity for you to to begin to expand your business that way.

Lea Pica: [00:16:14] This is excellent advice. So you know once people..

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Presenting Your Way to Thought Leadership with Moe Kiss Present Beyond Measure Ep. 038

Introducing Moe Kiss

Presentation jitters are common among almost every person who gets on stage. In act, it is so common that Jim Sterne even says, “if you are not getting nervous, you are not doing it right.”

So how do all of these good speakers do it? Moe Kiss describes her experience by sharing that before she started working in data analytics, she had stage fright to the point where she couldn’t even give a wedding toast without significant anxiety.

And now, Moe Kiss leads the analytics team at The Iconic where she spends her days understanding customer behavior through data and analytics. She is an active organizer in the analytics community and President of The Analytics Association in New South Wales, Australia.

She co-hosts a bi-weekly podcast you may know called The Digital Analytics Power Hour on All Things Analytics. She is a strong advocate for gender and cultural diversity, organizational mentoring, and networking. What changed for her?

In this episode, Moe takes us on her thought leadership journey from stage fright to successful presenting.

In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How she was able to overcome performance anxiety to give presenting a chance.
  • The people who inspired her to jump into the data and analytics world.
  • Why she goes back to watch her performances and how she uses those videos to become an even stronger presenter.
  • How she moved from creating powerpoints to writing memos.
  • Who her biggest inspirations are and why they are significant.
  • How she reduces the potential for color to improperly influence her interpretations of data.
People, Resources, & Links Mentioned Moe’s Upgrade:
  • “The one thing I learned that created a fundamental shift for me was the importance of using black and white or grayscale when doing my analysis. It is so easy to be in Tableau, Excel, or Data Studio and the colors come automatically, and it is tempting to just keep them in place. But, color has a significant influence on your interpretation of data and can influence how you interpret it. So I turn everything back to grayscale until I know the type of point I am trying to make.“
How to Keep Up with Moe: Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Moe? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better the chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thanks to Moe for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Moe about channeling your nervousness into excitement and giving a strong and confident appearance on stage? If so, ask away!

Lea Pica: [00:00:00] Happy Hollow week here. Todays guest is a woman in analytics who might already be gracing your measure podcast airwaves. Stay tuned to find out who’s rockin the radio on the Present Beyond Measure Show episode 38.

Lea Pica: [00:00:41] Hello and welcome to the thirty-eighth episode of the Present Beyond Measure Show. The only podcast at the intersection of presentation data visualization and analytics. This is the place to be if you’re ready to tell data stories that make maximum impact and become indispensable through thoughtfully presented insights. Slightly belated, I hope Halloween was gleeful and safe for you and your families and that the scariest part of your Halloween was that decadent candy pie and maybe not a candy pie chart. That’s much scarier. I just got back from headlining Digital Analytics Hub in Austin, Texas which was amazing. Wow what a unique event. I now understand what all the fuss has been about for years.

Lea Pica: [00:01:34] You know with its intimate number of attendees and the very frank and open conversations during these huddles you know it really stood out for me and I feel so energized after all of the amazing experts and practitioners I got to meet so if you have a chance to attend DA Hub next year I really recommend it. So I am so excited about today’s guests because when I first met her she was just getting started in this measure business and today shes a household name in the land of measure podcasts.

Lea Pica: [00:03:27] Lets go.

Lea Pica: [00:03:35] Hello everyone. My amazing guest for today leads the analytics team at the Iconic. Day to day she focuses on understanding customer behavior through data and analytics. She’s an active organizer in the analytics community serving as president of the Analytics Association in New South Wales, Australia. Yes and she co-hosts a bi-weekly podcast you may know it as the Digital Analytics Power Hour on All Things Analytics with my dear friends Tim Wilson and Michael Helbling. She is a strong advocate for gender and cultural diversity, organizational mentoring and networking. And I’m thrilled to have her as my next guest in my women in analytics spotlight. Id love to introduce you to Mo kiss welcome.

Moe Kiss: [00:04:25] Hi. Thank you so much for having me. I feel incredibly privileged to be here now.

Lea Pica: [00:04:31] Well the honor is really mine. The forces of our podcasting power have now joined. So Mo we first met quite a while ago all the way in Australia. When I came to do the Loves Data Conference-Analytics Conference and you know we had met through your sister Michelle who I don’t know is a somewhat well-known member of the analytics community.

Moe Kiss: [00:05:00] Kind of a big deal you know.

Lea Pica: [00:05:01] Shes on the up and up and up you know. But I felt we connected so strongly and I still remember that conversation so much because you were just diving into the world of analytics. I think you had just made a career change and you were figuring out whether this was for you. And now fast forward to today. You are co-hosting one of the most popular, probably the most popular, analytics podcasts in her space. So that’s big news.

Moe Kiss: [00:05:29] You are exclusively rated when you use that caveat. It really helps us with our numbers. Yeah yeah, it has been a pretty crazy journey and I have learned so incredibly much. I’m so grateful that conversation for me and I remembered that trip for me was so incredible and I think back to it now.

Moe Kiss: [00:05:54] And cause Simo Ahava was also there and I met Tim Wilson and Jim Stearn was there and all of those people have played yourself included and played such a big role in shaping the direction that my analytics career has taken that it kind of yeah sometimes meeting people and getting to speak to them really early on when you’re figuring things out. I think its really beneficial.

Lea Pica: [00:06:20] Yeah I mean having the luxury to talk to that group that early. I think a lot of analysts would love that. And all of them I mean that that trip was truly that lineup was truly amazing. So you know Id love to know in terms of not just the practice of analytics what actually inspired you to start getting out there and doing public speaking.

Moe Kiss: [00:06:43] Ok. It was actually that conference that inspired me. Sorry, I watched you speak and you were probably the best speaker that I’ve ever seen. Yeah.

Moe Kiss: [00:07:01] And I remember sitting there and the thing is that people don’t realize I speak a lot internally at my company and at web analytics, Wednesday and conferences and people don’t know that I had like a very chronic fear of public speaking. I mean to the point that I would shake so badly that I thought people could see it. I wouldn’t sleep for two weeks. I avoided doing wedding toasts like that’s how kind of gripping my fear of public speaking was.

Moe Kiss: [00:07:32] And I remember sitting there in the audience watching you talk about your journey from kind of where you come and the passion that you had for the subject matter that you were talking about. And that’s kind of where I clicked. It was like OK I can do this too.

Moe Kiss: [00:07:51] I can overcome this and it was it was actually yeah that presentation and that’s why I think that conference sticks in my mind so much is because it was the first time that I really was like OK I’m going to I’m going to do what it what it takes and its taken me a couple of years and so so so much practice.

Lea Pica: [00:08:14] Yes.

Moe Kiss: [00:08:16] And I just I really want to encourage people that this is I don’t think this is a skill that most people have naturally. I think its a skill that you have to really work out and learn. I think maybe my whole life I’ve met one person who public speaking comes very naturally to them. But other than that every person I know like yourself and Jim and even my sister and Tim and like everyone that you look at who is a good speaker in our industry its from hard hard work and saying yes. So yeah for me it was very much determined like I’m going to crack this I’m going to set this personal goal.

Moe Kiss: [00:09:02] And yeah like three years later I’m not going to say like I still get completely nervous.

Lea Pica: [00:09:08] Oh good. You’re human.

Moe Kiss: [00:09:10] Yeah. Actually, Jim said to me when we were over in Hungary he goes Moe, if you’re not getting nervous anymore you’re not doing it right. But I think one of the key differences that I’ve really worked on is channeling that nervous energy into enthusiasm. And I think that you can you can harness your nerves in a really productive way to make you a better presenter. And it doesn’t mean it is not scary but I think it was both you and my sister who just kept hammering – practice practice practice and that I think that’s my biggest advice.

Moe Kiss: [00:09:51] The better you know your content the more comfortable you be especially when you’re starting out.

Lea Pica: [00:09:56] Well first of all I am incredibly humbled by that sentiment. I know it never ceases to amaze me that you decide to take a crazy leap and get up on a stage and think wow do I have possibly had something to offer these people because in that presentation I was so early in my speaking career that I was like I can’t possibly have anything valuable, who am I to be up here. And you know it doesn’t matter because you bring something so unique and special. Each person has such a unique and special lens to what it is and voice to what it is they’re doing and I’m 100 percent in alignment with you on channeling those nerves into enthusiasm that is word for word. That is what I tell my workshop students to do. I’m not kidding I’m like, did she steal that.

Moe Kiss: [00:10:51] Maybe I heard you say it at some point.

Lea Pica: [00:10:54] But I mean its it is a tactic I’m sure I picked it up from somewhere but I think that is so important and I love what Jim said especially because he’s such a masterful Speaker is that for me, once you start getting too comfortable and you don’t get nervous anymore you are not bringing that, as much passion and drive. And I believe that the speaking should constantly almost keep you on a razor’s edge of just between comfort and discomfort because you’re going to feel alive in that space and you’re going to grow in that space. And even if, I’ve found even with some of my signature keynotes I’ve given them so many times that I live inside them that I have to make these little tweaks just to keep myself on that edge so I maintain that energy you know.

Lea Pica: [00:11:48] But I loved everything that you said and you know do you have any other things that you do to overcome nerves which I totally relate with you.

Moe Kiss: [00:11:58] So I think I think you told me at some point that before you know maybe I heard on the podcast before you present you often do some yoga stretches that mindfulness meditation. What I do before I go on stage is actually the Power Pose. So I don’t if you’ve ever seen. Amy Cuddy. She does a TED talk on the Power Pose.

Lea Pica: [00:12:23] I think I’ve heard of it.

Moe Kiss: [00:12:25] Oh I’m obsessed with it and people at work now know me because I will often say to people like especially if you have a big meeting that you’re going to go present at. If you are getting up to talk on stage if you have something that you are a little bit nervous about and basically the concept that she talks about is if you stand in a position that makes you powerful so think like Wonder Woman or superwoman or something like that. I sometimes do when a nice lunging power pose. Whatever the position is if you can stand in that you actually trick your brain into thinking that you’re confident. So instead of being nervous its basically yeah its kind of a trick on your mind. And now its something that I associate with like yep okay I’m going to nail this. I’m gonna go get it and sometimes I do it in the bathroom a bit embarrassing next to me doing my purpose yeah.

Lea Pica: [00:13:22] Ah next to where I’m doing my power pose.

Moe Kiss: [00:13:22] If you haven’t seen I mean its video I really recommend it. Yeah and that’s that’s kind of my tip for just before you go on but I know lots of people have their own little rituals.

Lea Pica: [00:13:32] Absolutely. I was actually I mentioned this before. Eric Feinberg is still one of the top guests that I had in terms of the sheer number of tips he had for presenting more confidently and he’s a masterful presenter who makes it look so easy and natural and he gave me one of my still most quoted lines from that show which is there’s nothing natural about a natural looking speaker. You know he had a musical theatre experience, I had a ton of musical theatre and opera experience and I still would panic before a presentation because it took practicing that specific content to get comfortable and live inside of that and it is a skill. You can have raw talent, but you must hone it and you know refine it in order for it to be really a tool. And I don’t believe that a small subset of ultra-human superhumans is the only ones with it I really feel its a lot it’s alive and so many of us, just untapped.

Moe Kiss: [00:14:39] Yeah I think its even that you need, its something a skill that you have to reflect on a lot and especially like I will often go back and watch videos. Its really painful and awkward but you catch the phrases that you keep saying or the way that you’re standing.

Moe Kiss: [00:14:56] And I actually was I did a course at one point previously in my career about how to deliver training.

Moe Kiss: [00:15:04] And one of the things that the guys want me to do which I’ve actually found really useful is that he put little spots on the floor so that it would encourage me, like in a triangle, encourage me to step at different points between the three spots. The other thing that he told me which I loved, these are some of like the little tips and tricks. And he and I’ve actually again talked to Jim about this before about using your voice to sometimes get a little bit faster when you’re trying to create that excited energy. So when you’re about to be like all I’ve got these amazing finding and I’m going to share it with the business.

Moe Kiss: [00:15:42] Sometimes you can use speed in a really effective way to get the audience really excited and likewise you can slow down or soften your voice and get quieter when you want the audience to really like lean into you. And so I’ve started watching other good speakers and you can see when they’re doing these things, the audience leaning or they put the phone down or that are really giving you that body language. And I think that’s why you have to go back and watch because you don’t see those cues or remember those cues when you’re on stage because of you’re so bloody nervous that it takes until afterward where you can be like oh yeah I did that. Well how do I make sure I do that again next time. It really is an art form.

Lea Pica: [00:16:32] And its a real exercise in bravery to go back and watch yourself. This was one of the ways that I used to practice I would record myself and then use that to practice when I couldn’t speak out loud. It would help me internalize the content and then and I remember hearing that I would switch the first consonants of two words backwards and forwards and even when I had one of my recent podcasts transcribed I said the words so at the beginning of every sentence. If that were a drinking game and the word was so we’d be in the hospital.

Moe Kiss: [00:17:12] You swap words? Like a really concerted effort.

Lea Pica: [00:17:19] I hope this doesn’t go awry. But like brown dog would be down Brog or something. The first consonants of two words I would switch them and I had no idea that I was doing this.

Lea Pica: [00:17:32] And I also noticed things like uptalk when I would sound like I’m asking a question when I’m really, and that hurts peoples confidence in you because they’re like Are you asking me?.

Moe Kiss: [00:17:44] Well you know that’s actually Australianism so people always accuse Australians of doing that when they speak, everything sounds like a question so you feel at home here.

Lea Pica: [00:17:53] Perfect?

Lea Pica: [00:18:00] Well that’s all. This is all amazing I loved these very actionable tips that you’re giving the audience. So I want to change gears and talk to you about taking an analytics practice and taking your expertise in something and going from that analytics reporting squirrel term that Avinash has coined and starting to leverage presentation into paths of thought leadership. I call it going from Grind to Guru basically and you’ve clearly shown that path and in terms of establishing yourself in this field so Id love to know what that looks like at your current organization.

Moe Kiss: [00:18:42] Thank you. Yeah. I’m not. I think we all suffer from a little bit of imposter syndrome. So it is kind of tough to think of yourself that way. But I think it just comes down to a little bit of bravery and understanding.

Moe Kiss: [00:19:00] And kind of, this is the trade that I’ve made because I want to learn more and in order to learn more you need to get feedback from people who are not just people within your organization, especially people who are doing similar jobs at other businesses. And so the only way to start that conversation is by sharing what you’re doing. So most of the times that I talk about stuff I talk about my work. I talk about the challenges of that particular analytics task, I talk about my findings about the methodology because if I don’t share what I’m doing how can I expect to get any feedback on it. So for me I suppose it came from kind of selfish place of wanting to grow.

Moe Kiss: [00:19:41] And being a little bit vulnerable. And I think we kind of where we were actually talking about this on our podcast about whether analytics practitioners are too hard on themselves. Sometimes we need to be a bit nicer and I definitely think were pretty tough on ourselves that sometimes its ok if you share something and you haven’t got it right. I mean if some if it starts some amazing conversation with someone halfway across the world world that can help you fix that bit of code or answer that question better than I’m kind of all for it and you kind of just need to give yourself a break if you do make a mistake and be like yep I’m going to cop that. And I do it all the time. Like on the Digital Analytics Power Hour where I say something and I listen back and go oh wait I know better than that. But that’s OK. That’s part of learning.

Moe Kiss: [00:20:32] And I just I think if you are passionate about analytics and what I didn’t touch on earlier is the whole reason that I transitioned into digital analytics is because my sister works in industry but she kept talking about all these really nice people that helped each other out. She like all of her friends her partner and all work in analytics and she would always be saying how this person that works at this different company was giving her hand on something and I just thought, I want to be part of that community. And so for me, I suppose I don’t think of how do you become a thought leader at all. Its more just how do you keep learning and how do you keep getting back to that community that are so incredibly supportive of me.

Lea Pica: [00:21:20] Actually I really love that reframe and..

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Get Stakeholder Savvy and Win at Your Data Presentations with Kevin Hillstrom Present Beyond Measure Ep. 037

Introducing Kevin Hillstrom If you’re working in the data viz, analytics, and/or the presenting world, you will want to hear what Kevin has to say.

With almost thirty years of hands-on analytics experience and a proven track record as an Executive at a ten billion dollar a year retailer, Kevin Hillstrom is the President of MineThatData.

He spends his days helping Executives at Retail and Online brands understand how their customers interact with merchandise, advertising, and channels.

Whether you are presenting to a small group of executives or on a stage in front of thousands, Kevin has designed a method that helps him set up how he will present to his audience to reach everyone in the room, and it’s fascinating.

His approach is both intuitive and formulaic, helping build trust from the get-go and making sure everyone feels heard.

He is known for many things, including his optimizing catalog marketing budget, e-mail personalization via segmentation, persona development, and most importantly, his five-year sales forecasts that accurately project where a business is headed given its strategic choices. He has been interviewed by the New York Times, the Boston Globe, and Forbes.

Kevin’s blog is one of the most widely read in the marketing industry, with approximately ten-thousand monthly followers, subscribers, and website/blog visitors.

He’s here to show you what has and has not worked for him and to equip you with the tools you need to present to many different audiences.

In this episode, Kevin explains the different ways he builds trust with his audiences, and he also breaks down his self-created Stakeholder Quadrant formula that helps him tailor his presentations to meet the needs of all of his audience members.

 In This Episode, You’ll Learn…
  • How his early career choices taught him the value of creating and presenting information in a way that is different from anyone else.
  • His “tidbits” method for taking open-ended questions and helping companies make changes in small and easier to implement doses.
  • The catastrophe that changed the course of his career and helped him rethink his approach to data and presenting.
  • How he creates trust with his clients and why it is important.
  • His method for catering his presentations to address the majority and minority in his audiences.
  • The wise advice he would share to his career beginner self.
People, Resources, & Links Mentioned

Want to grab a copy of Kevin’s Stakeholder Savvy Quadrant for speaking for effectively to different audiences? Click below:

How to Keep Up with Kevin:

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share or a question for Kevin? Leave a note in the comments below, and we’ll get back to you!

If you enjoyed this episode, please share it using the social media buttons you see at the left of the post.

If you liked what you heard, I would love if you could leave me a rating or review in iTunes. Ratings & reviews are extremely appreciated and very important in the rankings algorithm. The more ratings, the better the chance of fellow practitioners getting to hear this helpful information!

And finally, don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes to get automatic updates and never miss a show.

A very, very special thanks to Kevin for joining me this week. And as always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Do you have a burning question for Kevin about his Stakeholder Quadrant? If so, ask away!
[00:00:00] Happy October. Lea here. Today’s guest is an analytics and e-commerce legend who’s helping companies with their customers by presenting their data for impact. Stay tuned to find out who’s strutting their stuff on Present Beyond Measure. Episode 37.

[00:00:16] Welcome to the Present Beyond Measure show a podcast at the intersection of analytics, data visualization, and presentation awesomeness. You’ll learn the best tips tools and techniques for creating analytics, visualizations, and presentations that inspire data driven decisions and move you forward. If you’re ready to get your insights understood and acted upon, you’re in the right place. And now your host Lea Pica. It’s October people

[00:00:44] Fall is upon us. The leaves are turning. The air is chilling and that has nothing to do with today’s show but I bet I had you thinking that for just a second. All right so I’m going to be lots of places in the next few months. Where am I going to be? Well if you are in the Philly area I would love to meet you at the Digital Analytics Association Philadelphia symposium this Thursday. My friends Jim Stern and Adam Greco are speaking amongst some really big names. So this is going to be a very special event. If you’re going please hunt me down and we’ll chat. This is also your last chance to sign up and join me at the Digital Analytics Hub the following week in Austin, Texas. It is the premier Analytics Conference in the country, a very interesting unique format. Intimate huddles and lots of upfront face time with amazing thought leaders in this space. I’ll be delivering the keynote on the main day and hosting a very rare offering of my full inspired insights Data Storytelling Bootcamp as well. By the end of that workshop you will learn how to plan, design, and deliver your data story in a way that informs decisions, inspires ideas, galvanizes stakeholders into action, and communicates the value of your work. Seats are really limited so you don’t want to miss the chance to get this information in your hands at this rate. You can learn more and sign up at leapica.com/DAHub. And finally if you’re in the mood for a Benelux getaway to Northern Europe, I will be keynoting conversion hotel in a secret island off the Netherlands and I have heard amazing things about this event. I’m really honored to have been invited so I’d love to see you there too. And I never thought I’d say the word Benelux on his show. So all of those links are going to be on the show’s page for this episode.

[00:02:48] All right let’s get to the show.

[00:02:56] Hello everyone. Today’s guest is the president of Mine that Data where he helps executives at retail and online brands understand how their customers interact with merchandise advertising and channels. He has nearly 30 years of hands on analytics experience and a proven track record as an executive at a 10 billion dollar a year retailer. Known for optimizing catalog marketing budget, email personalization, persona development, and most importantly five year sales forecasts that accurately project where your business is headed given your strategic choices. His blog is one of the most widely read in the marketing industry and he has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Forbes. So with that I’d like to introduce you to Kevin Hillstrom. Welcome.

[00:03:45] Hey welcome. Thanks for the nice intro.

[00:03:48] Well-deserved. That’s how I roll.

[00:03:50] So we recently met online when you mentioned me on the Twitter and I jumped at the chance at having you on my show because what you talked about is that you really understand the power of thoughtfully presented insights to stakeholder audiences, and I thought you’d be great for this show because you have a huge body of experience in working directly with non-technical executives. So you know, as I speak to a very heavily analyst and marketer audience I thought you could help us decode what it is their audience is looking for when we communicate to them. Does that sound good? Sounds excellent. Awesome. Well first everyone will want to hear your origin story. Tell us a little bit about how you fell into the world of analytics and marketing.

[00:04:37] So I have a statistic degree from University of Wisconsin so way back almost 30 years ago I got a degree and my first job out of college was working at a place called the Garst Seed Company. It was a place that farmers would get their seed from to plant corn or to plant sorghum. And so I mean it was pretty geeky technical work that we were doing. And I was with people who were so much smarter than me, these people were just incredible. And I am just 22 years old and I just have my little tools that my programming and I really can’t compete with this audience. And so after about a year of seeing where things were going and seeing that I just didn’t really have a place. I decided to explore a little bit with some of the programming code and so basically I created a map. So if I wanted to plot how a current hybrid was for me and the state of Iowa, I would play. When the hybrid did well I would make like a mountain and when the hybrid did poorly, I created this valley. Okay. And with this plot I was able to basically find my little place where I was actually showing data in a way that nobody else was. So I couldn’t compete on math and I couldn’t compete on experience. I had to compete somehow. And so that was kind of the tool that I use and I got to present this at a staff conference back in 1990. And I then was looking to move back to Wisconsin, which is my home state. And I found a position that was open at Land’s End which is a catalog company. And I created a map and it was about the number of junebugs killed daily on Wisconsin highways.

[00:06:28] With fictitional data.

[00:06:30] Not real. And I did this in color because back in 1990 there wasn’t a lot of color.

[00:06:36] Ok. So I did this in color and on glossy paper and I sent that with my resume and the hiring director of marketing there who is doing the hiring, she was ready to hire somebody else. She saw that graph when it came in they brought me in for an interview and then they asked questions. More than anything else not about my skill set but about background and you know they just wanted to know how I did it, and what happened with that. So I basically got the job and that’s how I got into retail, was through that graph. So essentially having a skill set and being able to share information in a way that was different and that people were not used to seeing was very beneficial in my career. And that’s what got me into retail and got me jump started on the path that I’m currently on. Wow that’s amazing.

[00:07:24] So if you’re looking for a job create something visually compelling and that might just make you stand out. Is that the moral of that story?

[00:07:35] That would be the more story, yes.

[00:07:37] That’s an amazingly inventive idea. So that’s great advice onto its own. So I just, I want to talk about what it is you’re doing now quickly. You know if we were locked in a room for three hours what would you and what you do at Mine that Data be able to help me do by the time we come out, and who am I?

[00:07:55] Well what I do now is I work with CEOs at retail companies or e-commerce companies and they typically have a problem. And what it really comes down to is the CEOs that I’m working with have a problem but they don’t know how to articulate what the problem is and they certainly don’t know what the solution is. So they will contact me. They typically read my blog and they typically follow it for a couple of years before they contact me. And then when they contact me, they’ll say a question like “our business is down 10 percent to last year and we think that the marketing team just doesn’t know what they’re doing. Could you take a look at our customer data and help us figure out what’s going on.”

[00:08:40] It’s an incredibly open ended question but that’s exactly what I want.

[00:08:45] I do not want a CEO prescribing to me what I’m going to do. I want the open ended question and then I have a set of code that I use, and a set of analytics that I use that as far as I know not many other people use. So it makes me kind of unique and different and it gives me a purpose for being. So technically, I’m not competing with a whole lot of people. And so that allows me to basically stay busy and to have a reputation with CEOs who kind of want to get things fixed but don’t know how to articulate very well what their problem is. So I run through my code, I run through my diagnostics and within a day or two I’ve got a story for what is good and bad about this business. And then what I do is I issue what I call Tidbits. So every day first thing in the morning I send the CEO and their executive team a little fact finding mission kind of. So what I do is I’ll say I noticed that you stopped creating a lot of new items. Let’s pretend it’s Macy’s. You know you stopped having a lot of new items in your stores you started having a lot of the same merchandise over and over again. And I notice that after nine months all of a sudden your sales further decline and I looked at sales by new merchandise versus existing merchandise and I could see that new merchandise sales are down 40 percent, existing merchandise sales are up 10 percent.

[00:10:11] So I know you did something. And I will stop the tidbit right there. Now I already know what the story is but I stop that tidbit right there and what I’m looking for now is feedback. I’m looking for the CEO or the executive team to start to beat me up. I am looking for them to start to say you’re wrong and here are the reasons why you are wrong.

[00:10:30] And they will then give me that feedback and I don’t get defensive or anything I just don’t even respond to their feedback. The next day I do a tidbit again and the tidbit incorporates whatever word with their feedback and so basically I’m taking their hypotheses and validating whether their hypotheses are accurate or not accurate. And I’m basically walking them down a path where eventually they’re going to be happy with what they learn because after 25 or 30 days they were going to be agreeing to everything they’ve learned all along the way. And there aren’t going to be any big surprises at the end of the project. And that’s really basically what I do. I work on a couple of these projects a month and I have found that this process works really well to get people to basically share stuff that they’re not ready to share all in one big gulp. I can give them insight on a daily basis and I tell a story to pick them up.

[00:11:22] Wow, this is so interesting because one of the most frequent complaints that I’ve had and my students complain about is that stakeholders don’t know how to communicate what it is exactly they’re looking for. They’ll give very broad open ended questions and the analyst will approach it in an analysis with kind of a throwing spaghetti on the wall approach hoping that one of the 50 metrics they extract and put in a presentation actually sticks. But you’re saying I think that you want that open ended question you don’t want them to bias you or send you down a specific path you want to actually have a fresh take on what’s happening. But you know exactly. You’re so well versed in that you know exactly what to look for.

[00:12:13] I think that’s a fair way to say that. You know I if a CEO or vice president is telling me what I need to do and how I need to do it my first question would be why aren’t you already doing that at your company. You already have analysts. You already have smart people and so why wouldn’t you already be doing that and solving the problem in house. I want it to be an open ended question because that tells me they don’t know how to solve it and then I have a better chance to help them.

[00:12:39] I see. Got it. OK well I’m sure that you know presentation is a very integral part and helping people understand what it is you’re talking about is an integral part of succeeding with these projects so you know one question I have is early in your career did you have an example of anything you presented early on that really changed the trajectory of your career path.

[00:13:06] I had a catastrophe actually. When I worked at Land’s End I had been there about three years

[00:13:15] And our business was performing well but not as good as it had performed historically. And we had all these different business units and all of the business units were basically marketing to the same customer. And so you can kind of think of it like if you were in it. If I use Macy’s as an example. If you were in the cosmetics area the cosmetics areas marketing to a customer and then women’s handbag areas marketing to a customer and they’re often the same customer. And so they’re kind of having a tug of war for their customer in terms of who’s going to win it. And what I did is I created because we were having this tug of war in-house between all the different business units, like men’s and women’s and the home and kids all fighting for the same customer. I created a geeky mathematical longterm experiment for 12 months. It was a two to seven factorial design.

[00:14:09] I didn’t tell a single person that’s what we were executing.

[00:14:12] Ok I gave everybody in our marketing department a list of customers and I said “You can either market to these customers or you can’t.” Everybody got a different list. But I maintained the master list. And so I had every combination of business strategy that you could actually execute for the company, you know and so that’s the number to the seventh degree of 128. I had 128 different test panels essentially and we executed this for a whole year and basically learned all the secrets of the business. After 12 months we knew everything. We knew the optimal way to run the business and the optimal way to run the business was to not let all of these different little business units do their own thing. But it was to really integrate everything and have a consistent unified message. And so I put together this incredible presentation I had maybe 200 different slides and graphs and charts and I couldn’t get anybody to pay attention to this.

[00:15:10] And so I’m like OK I got to come up with a new idea. So what I did is I got all the management of our marketing team together the day before I knew there was an executive meeting to talk about this topic. And so I brought everybody together and I did a presentation just to our marketing team who already knew all the answers.

[00:15:29] And so they’re kind of bored with this. But the the person who is running the marketing department she hadn’t seen this before. And so she’s seen this for the first time and she stops halfway through the presentation and she says What are you doing tomorrow. And I’m like well I’m coming to work.

[00:15:43] It’s like wow I need you to come to our executive meeting and you’re going to spend a half a day sharing that.

[00:15:52] So.

[00:15:53] So I mean so I learned something interesting about presenting there in that it didn’t matter how good my slides were how good my content was. Timing was kind of important because I knew that this executive meeting with a day later by setting up this meeting I created the environment to get me in that room.

[00:16:10] Ok.

[00:16:11] So far I’m thinking I am the greatest analyst of all time high of all highs just you know I’m I’m 28 years old and I know more than anybody else.

[00:16:21] And so I walk into this executive meeting and I start sharing the data and everybody understands what I’m saying and I’m getting no questions.

[00:16:32] I’m getting none of the pushback I usually get below where people usually are very critical of your slides. They’re critical of your methodology..

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