Say No to Dogshit Data

I hate meetings.  By definition, they get in the way of doing work.

The meetings I hate most are presentations.  They’re an inherently one-sided method of communication, rather than a conversation.

The presentations I hate most are those at ad industry conferences.  They typically involve people citing stuff you’ve heard before, to sell you stuff you don’t want.

And you know what kind of conferences I hate most?  The ones where somebody presents shed-loads of indecipherable data, crammed onto one chart, prefaced with the jaunty words: “You probably can’t read this but…”

This, my friends, is the equivalent of a waiter bringing you dinner with the cheerful caveat that “This will probably taste of dogshit but…”.  Not only is the expression immediately off-putting, it begs the obvious retort “Then why are you bringing me it?  Maybe next time, you could taste it before serving? Or at least give it a quick sniff?  Better still, why not refrain from using dogshit in the first place?”

This madness can’t just be down to a lack of training (even toddlers are familiar with the concept that objects appear smaller from a distance).  It can’t be due to lack of alternatives either (there are loads of ways to present data beautifully these days).  So I can only assume it’s an act of deliberate aggression, designed to bore and baffle an audience into submission.

Well, I’m not going to surrender without a fight.  I call on you to join me, in signing a petition against this insanity (it will be written in extra-tiny type, just to make the point).  Let the cry go out to every presenter in the land: give your charts a good sniff before you put them up and “Just say No to Dogshit Data.”

  • Jonathan Staines

    Brilliant piece, Andy. I couldn’t agree more.

    More importantly, if you work in the ad industry, shouldn’t you know the basic principles of human communication?

    Especially when your audience are in the same room.

    The more complex the data, the simpler your slide needs to be. Extrapolate it in a vivid way. Jeez, it’s not that difficult.

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