Know These Different Types of Data Communication
In this episode, I discuss the different forms of data communication you as someone who works with data could be expected to do, if not already.
As a data practitioner, you need to become an effective communicator in order to get recognition for your work and yourself. This can yield a high return on investment as it can help you get funding for a project, land a promotion, or get a raise/bonus and other forms of recognition from work.
Listen to this episode to learn more about how you can start working on these skills.
What You’ll Learn in this episode
- What communication is
- How communication skills can help your data career
- Different types of communication you could be expected to do as a data practitioner
- Observe in the coming weeks which forms of communication you are being asked or expected to do with your data work.
- Figure out which ones you often have to do and start gauging how good you are with each of them.
- I highly recommend, if you are able to, to talk about this with your manager at your next 1:1. Let them know you are interested in improving your communication skills and that you would love to get feedback from them at your next 1:1 on where they see you excelling and where they think you can improve. Tell them you are open to constructive feedback.
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If you enjoyed this episode, check out this episode about getting to know your audience when communicating to them.
I want to address why communication skills are important for data practitioners. I understand that many people in the data field prefer to focus on technical skills and sometimes these communication skills get overlooked. Communicating effectively is a crucial skill for professionals. Generally speaking, the ability to communicate well with others improves productivity and the quality of work. Specifically in the context of your data work, you need to become an effective communicator in order to get recognition for your work and yourself. This can yield a high return on investment as it can help you get funding for a project, land a promotion, or get a raise/bonus and other forms of recognition from work. So in today’s episode, I want to discuss the different forms of data communication you as someone who works with data could be expected to do, if not already. First, let’s start with the basics and define communication. It’s when you create a message, encode it and send it to a receiver to decode. What do I mean by encode and decode? When you encode your message, you are crafting it in a way that you think your receiver will be able to understand easily. This requires some understanding of the receiver, putting yourself in their shoes so you can strategically encode your message in a way that they will be able to understand it. So when you send or communicate your message, you don’t want your audience to just receive the message, you also want them to understand and remember it. What does this look like in the context of working with data? As a data practitioner, you will often work with raw data. You don’t want to deliver the data as is to your audience. As a data practitioner you will be expected to wrangle with it, analyze it, and gain some insights from it. When it comes time to communicate the product of your work to your audience, you may be filtering out irrelevant information, distilling your insights and packaging it in a way that will make the most sense for your audience and so that they actually retain it. You want it to be memorable. Now let’s talk about the different forms of data communication. Broadly speaking, communication can be verbal, nonverbal, and visual. Specific to data, you could be expected to communicate via written reports, handouts, emails, articles, in-person meetings, presentations, conferences, events, video calls, audio-only calls. Other forms of visual communication also include data visualizations, dashboards and slide decks. In all these forms of communication, you should be thinking about how to effectively communicate the data to your target audience of your message. This may mean using more than one form of communication, like an in-person presentation using a slide deck that includes data visualizations, and afterwards maybe you share a handout. As a data practitioner, you should try to get familiar with all types of communications and use them as-needed to create a well-crafted message delivered in an effective manner to your target audience. It’s also not uncommon for data practitioners to communicate multiple times to different target audiences for a single project. You could have an in-person meeting with your boss verbally communicating your work, and then present more formally to the larger organization with a slidedeck and some data viz, while also having to create a high-level report for other stakeholders. So don’t hesitate to use more than one form of data communication but also be strategic on which ones to use for your target audience. For instance, if your target audience is a busy executive, they likely won’t have time to read a long report. Consider giving a catered presentation to them and a high-level report/handout for them to reference later on for maybe decision making later. Later on in this podcast I will have a dedicated podcast on getting to know your target audience so you are able to figure out which type of data communication to use and how to strategically craft your message so they understand your message and retain it. The other thing I want you to be wary about is what forms of communication you are currently expected to do in your current role as a data practitioner. Don’t hesitate to try out new forms of data communication if you think they will resonate with your audience more and help them retain the message better. So to summarize, there are 3 broad ways you could be communicating as a data practitioner: verbally like at meetings or presentations, non-verbally like through reports, articles, handouts and visually like with data vizzes, dashboards, infographics and slide decks. In this episode I didn’t go into the pros and cons of each of these types of communication or when you should use what, this will be addressed in future episodes so make sure you subscribe to this podcast. I do want to leave you with some action items. What I want you to do is to observe in the coming weeks which forms of communication you are being asked or expected to do with your data work. Figure out which ones you often have to do and start gauging how good you are with each of them. I highly recommend, if you are able to, to talk about this with your manager at your next 1:1. Let them know you are interested in improving your communication skills and that you would love to get feedback from them at your next 1:1 on where they see you excelling and where they think you can improve. Tell them you are open to constructive feedback. I know for some getting your manager involved can sound daunting but hear me out. Getting your manager involved will allow you to get feedback that you may not be able to accurately get from just self-assessment. And, by getting your manager involved, you are letting them know you value communication skills, an important one if you plan on working your way up in your career. They also will be paying more attention to your communications and if you improve, they will hopefully find ways to recognize you for your progress.