Category Archives: Visual Analytics–Best Practices

How long should my presentation be?

Always leave them wanting more!
–P.T. Barnum
Creator of "The Greatest Show On Earth!®"

About our Presentation Length Calculator
Creating compelling presentations that are clear and actionable are the lifeblood of successful analyst teams. Often, analysts have worked on problems for days or weeks and have much more material to present than is relevant or useful for the audience that will take action. To help analysts communicate effectively, we created the Presentation Length Calculator. It should provide useful guidance for how many slides to have ready in your presentation based on the amount of time you have for your meeting, the backgrounds of the key people in your audience and the level of decision-maker you are presenting for.

The formulas behind these recommendations are based on feedback collected from over 40 executives, more than 100 managers/directors and hundreds of experienced analysts. Of course, no formula is universal, so use these recommendations as guidelines and tailor them based on your industry, your company, your experiences with the audience and your success with past presentations.

The hardest part for many analysts is offering a course of action that is grounded in their analysis. However, for business decision-makers, this is where an analyst actually creates the greatest value for the company. Our data shows that making useful course of action recommendations is critical to the long-term success of analyst teams. If you are nervous about recommendations, a good approach is to share the level of uncertainty about your analysis and consider sharing how you will measure the success or need for course corrections as course actions are implemented by the decision-maker.

Click to use the presentation length calculator by Freakalytics

Read the entire article on PowerTrip Analytics

Communicate Your Results, a Case Study from the
7th C of The Accidental Analyst

You can have brilliant ideas,
but if you can’t get them across,
your ideas won’t get you anywhere.

Engineer on the original Ford Mustang design team and
CEO during Chrysler’s comeback in the 1980’s.


From the Seven C’s of Data Analysis Framework
Maria is a Senior Sales Analyst for an online pet supply store described in our book, The Accidental Analyst: Show Your Data Who’s Boss. She was approached by marketing managers for insights on which states have the best opportunities for sales growth from additional marketing investment. Downnload Maria's presentation for the marketing managers.
Here's a checklist Read the entire article on PowerTrip Analytics

Three great data visualization stories from Qlik World 2014

Donald-FarmerAt the Qlik World 2014 expert data visualization panel, moderated by Donald Farmer, Donald asked each panelist to offer up one of our favorite data visualizations for inspiration and learning.
Alberto Cairo, Visualization at The University of Miami, offered up John Snow's 1854 map of London that helped demonstrate that cholera was spread by contaminated water. Previously, many believed it was spread by noxious vapours or "bad air".

By meticulously canvassing the St James neighborhood and collecting high-quality data, John Snow was able to convince the local authorities to disable the well at the center of his cholera victim's map. The points are recorded overlaid on a contemporary map of the neighborhood.


Read more about John Snow's map and recognition of him as a founder of modern epidemiology.
Kaiser Fung, Business Analytics and Data Visualization at NYU, cited a highly interactive work exploring the distribution of regional dialects in the United States, "How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk". After answering a number of questions about how you would pronounce various words, this data visualization shows you the parts of the country that speak most similar to you. We really like that it gives you previews of your regional dialect based on the last answer as you complete the numerous questions - great motivation to keep you going!

Read more about the person behind this data-intensive and statistical model-driven approach to smart data visualization.
Stephen (of Freakalytics) cited Hans Rosling's TED talk about myths and realities of people in the "developing world". This talk is engrossing because he uses data visualization -and- his extensive work with this body of data to tell several surprising narratives that debunk many pre-conceived notions about the developing world (mistakenly characterized by many as the third world).

While people are impressed by the cool motion of the bubble charts and Hans's passion about the topic, the real message is that storytelling doesn't just happen by throwing up some charts. It's about being knowledgeable about your data, the topic you are discussing and bringing forth thoughtful analyses to inform and spur your audience towards better actions.

Favorite charts for business analytics

I was asked by Donald Farmer of Qlik about my favorite charts.  Donald is leading a keynote panel on data visualization at Qlik's World Conference with myself, Alberto Cairo and Kaiser Fung.

While I can't say that I have a favorite chart, I can definitely state that I often rely heavily on three chart types for much of my work with clients.

#1 A bar chart is likely the most versatile chart type. Capable of representing data by category, data over time and, my favorite, as aligned bars (sometimes called trellised or latticed).




#2 Data over time is big in business, especially seeing how we are performing this year versus last.  Here's a great way to easily see this year (bright purple) versus last year (light gray) in a line chart.  We are doing much better this year, with only April and May showing low or no growth.



#3 Maps are critical to understanding business performance by location.  I often scale the data against a benchmark or target and use a diverging color palette to find best performers and places that may need some help or guidance by management.


Shark Tank investments – using data to understand the Sharks

Using data from the first four seasons of the Shark Tank, Freakalytics has assembled a few fascinating insights for fans and potential entrepreneurs that may come before the Sharks in future seasons.

While Barbara Corcoran is the most frequent investor. Mark Cuban is the investor with the largest amount invested and Mr. Wonderful invests the most, on average.



Lori Greiner paid the highest amount relative to the valuation proposed by the entrepreneur. Note a significant number of the investments were made at 1 times investor valuation, but the vast majority of investments made were below entrepreneur asking valuation.


Just three of the Sharks appeared on all four seasons- Mr. Wonderful, Daymond John and Robert Herjavec. Of these three, Daymond invested the most total dollars.


Notice how showing the same information from the previous chart, a tree map, as a line chart offers different insights at first glance. Investor frequency of appearance and trends by season are now much clearer.


Bringing several charts together as an interactive, analytic dashboard. Notice refinements to the scatter plot- a reference line of average investment size and average valuation vs ask.


Barbara is among the most conservative investors on the show, paying just 49% of entrepreneur valuation and outlaying an average investment of just $92k.


Lori is the most aggressive investor, with an average 87% valuation vs entrepreneur ask. She often invests in products ready for the market now and needing a rapid go to market plan.


Mark Cuban, I will allow you to examine this last Shark selected in the analytic dashboard, for insights.


A few closing thoughts from my analysis

+ Of active investors, Barbara & Daymond pay least on company asking value, 49% & 53%

+ Lori willing to pay the most versus company ask, 87%
   - Perhaps due to her quick payback horizon as a TV/marketing expert
   - Paid highest ratio ever, 300%

+ Mark Cuban invested largest amount, $1.25M
Strikes solid bargain at 63% of asking value

+ Mr. Wonderful has largest average investment size at $175k

+ Similar to Mark, 57% of company asking value

+ Robert is most conservative, $90k/investment
   - 65% of company asking valuation

Disclaimer- there are potential data entry problems in this data and my analysis assumptions vary slightly from other analyses I found online of Shark Tank. However, I believe key trends and insights are substantially similar versus other analyses I found online. Royalty and loan schemes were ignored in this analysis.

Honesty, the first principle of good analytics


Photo from

Meet Dieter Rams – Industrial Designer

Dieter Rams is a German industrial designer most closely associated with the minimalist designs of the consumer brand Braun. Dieter was head of design at Braun for over 30 years, where he became famous for creating an austere aesthetic while focusing on user-friendliness. His philosophy is summed up in his saying, “Weniger, aber besser.” which translates into “Less, but better.” He has won many awards through the years including the World Design Medal and the Ikea Prize.

Dieter's impact reaches beyond his retirement as he is now impacting design in the 21st century, with a company widely considered a leader in technology design, Apple, acknowledging a debt to Dieter as inspiration for many of their design decisions. The Head of Design at Apple wrote, “Rams's work is beyond improvement... Rams's ability to bring form to a product so that it clearly, concisely and immediately communicates its meaning is remarkable.”

From Braun, "90 years of history"



Ten principles of good design

As a prolific designer, Dieter formulated ten principles of good design. In this series of articles, I will adapt several of these principles for guidance in creating good analytics. I have selected the sixth principle of good design as the one I consider most important for good analytics.


The sixth principle of good design

6. Is honest - It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.


Freakalytics_princples_good_analytics_1_003_smallThe first principle of good analytics
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Upcoming analytics courses, free webinars and articles
December 2013 newsletter

Thanks for your interest in our newsletter, please forward it to colleagues that may benefit from it. Please join us for our upcoming webinar next Monday on common analytic issues and mistakes in Tableau 8.

Eileen and I are excited to share our new courses on Tableau, Microstrategy Analytics Desktop (a free alternative for visual analytics and dashboards), SAS programming and data exploration and visualization are all available for on-site instruction.

We are booking engagements with clients for on-site training and strategic consulting projects throughout Q1 and into Q2 of 2014, please let us know if we can help you in 2014!

Data Management and Visual Analytics with Tableau (2 days)
January 28th-29th, 2014—Chicago, Illinois
Everyone can benefit from learning a reliable, flexible and repeatable method to analyze real-world data. Combine this with a solid grounding in the flow and core features of Tableau to achieve great returns with this course. In just two days, you will complete multiple real-world case studies with Tableau paired with supporting data management capabilities of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access.

Data Management and Visual Analytics with Microstrategy Analytics Desktop (2 days)
Microstrategy Analytics Desktop is an exciting new offering of Microstrategy, an established leader in business intelligence. Available as a free product for both personal and professional use, Freakalytics considers this new product a good alternative to other leading products in visual analytics and analytic dashboards. It is capable of working with local data sources such as Excel, text files and Access databases in addition to remote, big data sources such as SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL and Hadoop.

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Eight common analytic issues and mistakes in Tableau 8

Understand them, avoid them and correct them
December 23rd, 2013 --- 11 AM Central, Noon Eastern, 9 AM Pacific, 5 PM London
Click here to register

tableau_public_Freakalytics_launchIn this webinar, Stephen reviews common shortcomings and misunderstandings that can prevent effective use of Tableau. These issues can result in misleading or just plain wrong answers being presented to your analysis audience, most without any warning messages or signs.

This webinar is relevant for all experience levels of Tableau users. Attendance at this webinar is free, compliments of Freakalytics and their upcoming, in-person Chicago Workshop in late January, Data Management and Visual Analytics with Tableau. This webinar is planned to run 90 minutes, with the presentation approximately 70 minutes in length and 20 minutes planned for Q&A. Please use an affiliated e-mail address to receive an attendance link. 

About Freakalytics
Freakalytics offers two public and on-site training seminars on Tableau: Data Management and Visual Analytics with Tableau (2 days) and the original Complete Tableau Training (4 days), authored and taught exclusively by Freakalytics since 2009.

The Complete Tableau Training is the course that many early adopters of Tableau attended, both in public venues and on-site, and that Tableau endorsed in 2009, with Freakalytics as the founding Tableau Education Partner. Since Stephen left Tableau as Director of Analytics in 2013, we are now the world’s leading provider of independent Tableau training expertise, able to objectively train and advise clients on how best to utilize Tableau in conjunction with other leading data visualization, data storage and analytic products.

Register for this webinar

Visual analytics best practices, “The Accidental Analyst”

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Order "The Accidental Analyst"

Are you drowning in a sea of data? Would you like to take control of your data and analysis to quickly answer your business questions and make critical decisions? Do you want to confidently present results and solutions to your managers, colleagues, clients and the public? Are you a champion of analytics in your organization helping others learn how to analyze and make sense of their data?

If so, The Accidental Analyst: Show Your Data Who’s Boss is for you! Continue reading