This week I had the opportunity to share my findings with staff from the survey data I have been analyzing the past few weeks. I had 4 different excel documents, over 30 graphs and a million numbers that I had been working on, so the first challenge was just figuring out how to hone in on the most important pieces. This was one of those moments when I started to realize data isn’t as cut and dry as it can be made out to be. While the numbers can’t be changed, what you choose to share and focus on from within a larger data set and results has huge influence over the interpretation. Some of the data was surprising, some of it reaffirming, and some of it would probably frustrate some staff members – knowing this, I could have chosen to exclude variables I didn’t think people wanted to hear, or focus only on what reaffirmed existing beliefs and practices. Of course, this would have defeated the purpose of doing the research in the first place. I was here to paint a real picture of how donors and community leaders want the Foundation to share information with them, and I tried my very best to do just that.
After staring at these numbers for weeks, I greatly appreciated some help from my supervisor, Jess, to help me pull back and see the bigger picture. Together we grouped the major points into three key topic areas and then from there I was able to find the major takeaways from each group to help make sense of all the numbers. However, once I started pulling the slides together, I realized there was still so much data and so many graphs that it might be overwhelming and lose some of its impact in presentation. I started trimming back some of the slides, excluding ones where I had run controls and the results had not been particularly significant. Then I began adding arrows and circles to the graphs to assist in bringing attention to the more important trends and results. By the end the number of animations I had on my slides of arrows and circles coming in and out seemed overly complicated, but when running through the presentation I found it helped me remember to mention everything I wanted to, and helped guide attention without impeding interpretation.
Thankfully, I got over my presentation anxiety in undergrad when as president of my sorority I was responsible for leading weekly meetings in front of 100+ women. So come Monday morning, I knew I could handle presenting to a room full of kind, passionate, and engaged TCF staff. I was able to run through my slides, facilitate some discussion, and field questions without even going drastically overtime. The input I received from the staff helped shed new light on the data, and encouraged me to think about it in ways I hadn’t before. Now the few remaining weeks of my summer will be filled with trying to take all this data and figure out how to use it to improve how the Foundation shares information, and planning for events in the coming year.