You’ve got your data, you’ve applied numerical analysis, and you’ve confirmed your hypothesis. Now you need to take your findings to your boss or team for approval and buy-in. Persuasiveness will require some elements of types of negotiation skills, as well as a core critical thinking tool: logic.
Logic is how we make a message persuasive and ensure our hard work in numerical analysis doesn’t go to waste. Without logic, any graph could lead to erroneous conclusions or opinions—not to mention fail at workplace persuasion.
The good news is, to arrive at logic, you don’t have to think too hard. The art of persuasion lies in its simplicity. All you have to do is ask yourself three questions:
- What do I want to say?
- What do I want to compare?
- What kind of graph do I need?
These three questions will boost your persuasiveness because they’ll help you lay out your findings in a logical order. The last, in particular—choosing the right graph—can make or break your presentation.
What do you want to say and compare with your numerical analysis?
Before you start building a graph, look at the information you have and think about what you want to say. Ask yourself what you want to compare and, as an extension, visually represent for maximum persuasiveness. You don’t really need a head for numbers to do this. Remember, the essence of analysis is comparison. That comparison will build a foundation for logical thinking.
In every business, phrases like “huge impact” or “extremely effective” get tossed around every day. They sound great, but without context, they’re just hot air. “Huge impact” on what? “Effective” compared to what? When you put your message into words, be mindful of what you are comparing it to. This is how you demonstrate impact or effectiveness to justify your numerical analysis. A message supported by analysis (rather than just paired with one) is much stronger and persuasive.
What kind of graph do you need?
Once you know your message and what you’re comparing, you’re far closer to your goal. Next, you’ll need to visualize it.
The table below demonstrates the best graph suited to each type of comparison. Graphs speak the language of numbers, so they’re much easier to work with than words. There are, in fact, only five variations of business graphs:
- Pie charts
- Bar charts
- Column charts
- Line graphs
- Dot graphs
The best time to use a pie chart is when the information you’re comparing represents the components of a whole, meaning they add up to 100%. Some examples are market share or ways of spending money.
Bar Charts and Column Charts
If the items you’re analyzing are not necessarily parts of a whole, you’ll probably want a different representation for comparison, such as side by side. Bar charts or column charts are the perfect solution.
Sometimes, your data needs an extra layer for the best visual comparison, such as time. Line charts can handle ongoing or finite periods, as well as frequency. In business, we often see time represented in quarterly or annual sales reports, while frequency might be used in reporting product use by customers.
Time or frequency references usually appear at the bottom of a line graph, though occasionally a column chart will also do.
Often, the question “when to use a scatter plot” is better phrased “when not to use a scatter plot.” The king of graphs, the scatter plot, is a type of dot graph. It compares data from a correlation viewpoint. That means that it helps bring meaning to your numerical analysis by highlighting relationships, not just comparisons.
3 Questions and 5 Graphs for Logical Persuasiveness
It couldn’t be easier—just three simple questions and five options for expressing ourselves with graphs. But remember: logic and clarity are key. Brush up on some principled negotiation techniques before heading into that meeting to share your findings.
Decide what you want to show and compare, and then choose the right graph to tell your story.