How do you effectively present your Tableau dashboard? Part 2: Telling the story

By: Lindsey Elhart

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Lindsey is a senior data analyst at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She has been working in similar roles for several years and is passionate about effective visualization and sharing of data. On weekends she can be found attending local speaker series or finding new routes to run, and you can check out her Tableau Public profile here.

This is a continuation of last week’s blog post, found here.

Storytelling is about creating a shared experience. It means listening to where people are and what they are seeking. When we use this approach for our dashboard delivery, it creates a shared solution.

In her book Moment of Lift, Melinda Gates provides an example: A focus of the Gates Foundation is to get more children in school, particularly girls, as equal education is one of the biggest levers for economic growth. One of the most inspiring ideas on girls’ education comes from Mexico in the 1990s in the form of a program called Oportunidades. During this time, many families could not send their kids to school because they needed the extra hands at home to get by. Oportunidades treats education as a job, and the government pays families to send their kids to school. As girls were more likely than boys to drop out, girls were paid slightly more to stay in school. After just twenty years, Mexico achieved gender parity in primary, secondary, and college levels, and the program has been replicated by 52 countries!

Mrs. Gates shares this story as an inspiration to her work. It follows the approach of how she learns more about an issue. First, she immerses herself in the situation by meeting those who live with the realities of what she wants to understand. She then dives into the data and meets the experts and advocates. Lastly, she creates a solution. Her process parallels how we tell stories with our dashboards through data. 

Start your presentation by sharing “what is,” or in other words, the problem you are trying to solve. Create a baseline of understanding in the room by explaining who your dashboard customers are, their needs, and current difficulties. Taking this approach highlights the thought you took in knowing the audience. This template can help in getting started:

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For instance: In the 1990s, researchers in Mexico found that children’s extra share of help around the house could make the difference between completion of school and not having the time to learn and grow. 

Next, share a vision of “what could be.” Revisit a previous stakeholder challenge and demonstrate how this new dashboard solves the issue. Toggle the filters, select dates of interest, and drill down to a more detailed dashboard to show the answer and teach how the dashboard works. It makes the dashboard immediately relatable and passes on ownership to the new end users.

Below are associated prompts for this step (inspiration from Story Best Practices)

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The last step is beyond the presentation and about keeping your content relevant. An aspect of this is monitoring traffic through the Status Pane in Tableau Server. You can see which end users regularly view the dashboard and alternatively, follow up with those end users who are not using it as expected to understand why.

Status Pane in Tableau Server

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Relevancy is also about preparing for the next iteration. The needs of the business are constantly changing and having an input form for new ideas helps keep the solution valuable.

Storytelling takes time and effort, but if done right it has the power to engage, influence, and inspire.

The views expressed are my own and not those of Fred Hutch as an institution.