You've accumulated so much data that it is flowing through your eyes and coming out your ears. Meanwhile, your brain crunches all the details, analyzing them from every possible angle. Your mouth chomps at the bit, anxious to tell your story.

But hold on, data dictator! Before you succumb to the power of your own research, first you have to check your data.

You see data one way. However, will your audience interpret it the same way? That's a critical consideration before extracting it all from Excel and popping it into PowerPoint.

Will your customers and clients be looking for what you're actually trying to sell them? There are points you want—and need—to get across. However, have you pondered all the points from their perspective in ways they expect you to dissect data trends, anomalies, and correlations while tracking targets? Did you provide convincing proof?

Let's delve into each of these five data differentiators.

1. Trend spotting

Data trends are a leader's friend. They're one way to tell whether your company is heading in the right direction. But trends are two-way street, and they sometimes have to be reversed. Does your analysis call for immediate action... or a wait-and-watch approach?

Trends can highlight areas that lack effective execution or clog productivity pipelines. Following trends over weeks, months, quarters, and years can also provide clues to the future.

Oddly enough, one trend many companies often cut corners on is tracking trends.

2. Analyzing anomalies

Anomalies reveal where you're bucking the trend—in good and bad ways. They can pinpoint potential problems as well as opportunities. Your objective is to figure out what's activating the anomaly and why, and then initiate a plan to correct or capitalize.

The most dangerous kinds of anomalies are caused by mistakes in data. Eyes (and heads!) will roll when inaccuracies in data start influencing decisions and directions.

3. Target practice

Bar charts and numbers fail to tell complete target tracking stories. In addition to being impersonal, they only provide a limited view into where you've been and where you're going.

Are your reported numbers on or off-track? Did you meet or exceed your budget? Is corrective action required... and what is it? Are your short-term measures supporting long-term goals?

Targets are easy to miss, so practice patience and perseverance in tracking them.

4. Correlation relations

You're making a pitch with loads of data to back you up in swaying your audience to buy whatever you're selling. However, the logic behind how they connect—and you connect—key points can easily vary.

For example, sales increased last month when outside consultants were brought in. Does that mean you should bring in even more consultants? How you correlate and connect key data points will affect and influence your strategies and course of action?

5. Data proofing

Clients, customers, stakeholders and the board of directors all want to see solid evidence that validates assumptions and actions. Will they believe your data... or suspect that sometimes numbers and facts do lie, depending on how they’re spun?

* * *

Remember, the proof is always in the data. Make sure you dive deep enough to find it.

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image of Gavin McMahon

Gavin McMahon is a founding partner at fassforward Consulting Group. He blogs about PowerPoint, presenting, communication, and message discipline at Make a Powerful Point.

LinkedIn: Gavin McMahon