Writing is hard. Every time I write an article, I sit down to brainstorm ideas, and then again to actually write the article. It’s hard not because there isn’t much going on in the digital analytics industry; quite the opposite actually. It’s hard because of what I hope the outcome of you reading my posts is.
I write these articles because I hope to make a change in how you do your job. And changing how you do business or how you think about your analytics process is not an easy thing to do. When I write about Google Analytics Enhanced E-Commerce and Remarketing, what I’m actually asking you to do is to read my article, think about how you could benefit from the features, and then go recommend a tagging project to your boss so you can utilize this new information. That’s a lot to ask for from 800 words, and especially if you haven’t even met me.
But that’s what makes writing hard for me. That’s what makes all jobs hard. Identifying what information you need to present, and to whom, in order to progress your wants. However, there are a few guidelines that can make this process a little easier. Here are two guidelines I try to stick to when writing articles or preparing presentations, with specifics to analytics reporting.
Simple and Straightforward
When you’re preparing or presenting a report to share with a group, you should undoubtedly have insights that resulted from your analysis, as well as recommendations based off these insights. So what you’re ultimately crafting is an argument to persuade others to take action and change how something currently exists. An action that otherwise may seem too costly or too risky.
But in order to change, things actually have to change. It seems a bit silly actually writing that, but I think it’s something we often neglect, because ultimately the uncertainty associated with change often causes us discomfort. In order to help this change happen, we need to reduce the stress involved with making a decision that is different from the status quo.
So what does all this mean for your reports? Keep your content simple. Don’t use confusing charts with too many trend lines. Be straightforward about what is happening. When you finish displaying your information, your audience should know what you did, what happened, why it happened, and what you plan on doing next.
A great example of this can be seen with any post from Avinash Kaushik. The amount of time he must spend providing the details for his posts boggles my mind. But at the end of each post, I can say I have a good understanding of what it is he is arguing I should change, why I should change, and what could happen once I do.
Once you’ve made sure you won’t lose anyone with your terminology or extra-fancy charts, it’s time to make sure you’re not putting them to sleep, either. Keep your audience’s attention by including attention-grabbing topics like expected revenue growth of a certain initiative, or how your recommendation could make someone else in the room more effective or their daily life easier. Make sure you’re focusing on the potential outcomes of future efforts, not just reading a table of results.
Your simple and straightforward presentation will also be helping you out at this point, because in order for someone to embrace and support your proposals, they’ll need to understand what it is you’re proposing in the first place.
Another trick I like to use when in meetings where there are multiple presenters is to actively participate during others’ presentations. I’ve found that asking a couple of questions, even if you already know the answers, helps keep that individual engaged during your presentation time as well.
So these are two items that I try to keep in mind when creating something to share with others. I don’t do a perfect job every time. In fact I’m sure certain aspects of this article could be simpler and more inspiring, but it’s an iterative process, something to work on and improve over time.
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