AaEa Week: Data Party Prep 101: data placemat and facilitation guide tips for throwing a successful data party by Omoshalewa Bamkole and Caitlin McColloch

Hi! We’re Omoshalewa Bamkole and Caitlin McColloc, Evaluation Fellows in the Division of Scientific Education and Professional Development (DSEPD) in the Center for Surveillance, Epidemiology, and Laboratory Services at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Previously we shared how DSEPD used data parties to encourage participation in evaluation. In this post, we dive into two tools useful in throwing a successful data party: data placemats (a visual data tool for analysis and interpretation) and facilitation guides.

Hot Tip 1: Prepare data for use.

A great way to engage guests with data is with data placemats. Before creating data placemats, revisit the purpose of the data party to best organize your data for use.

Data placemats can easily become overwhelming. Make sure the information is easy to digest to make the most of your time with guests. Keep these items in mind as you design your placemats:

  • Prioritize your data and be thoughtful about what you include on each placemat based on guests’ information needs.
  • Present data without interpretation so guests can draw their own conclusions.
  • Do not overlook qualitative data; it provides context to your numbers.
  • Leave adequate white space to avoid clutter.

Share data placemats with guests and facilitators in advance to allow more time to discuss and interpret data, and less time to review data at the event.

Hot Tip 2: Prepare facilitators for action.

Facilitators are essential to constructive participation in data parties. A facilitation guide enables facilitators to help guests understand the data placemats and engage with one another.

Within the guide, each facilitator’s role and responsibilities should be clear. In our guides, we provide facilitators with a clear purpose statement, schedule, guest list, and program of activities with instructions.

The guide gives facilitators step-by-step instructions for how they should prepare for and conduct each activity, including materials needed, how to set up their space, and an estimation of how to divide time needed for their activity. We also include facilitation tips to support the facilitator role of keeping guests focused and enforcing time limits in a respectable way.

Facilitators review the guide before the party to make sure the information is easy to follow.

Participants in data party groups
Participants in data party groups

Lessons Learned: Data parties help stakeholders understand and engage with evaluation data to make programmatic decisions. Preparation is crucial for any data party. Well-designed placemats and facilitation guides support learning from and use of evaluation data. We encourage evaluators to add these two tools to their data party toolkit!

Rad Resources:

Request our mock data placemat and facilitation guide templates to prepare for your data party. Share your experience in the comments or your own AEA365 post to add to the practice-based information about data parties.

Others posts on this topic:

Image of mock data placemat
Image of mock data placemat
image of mock facilitation guide
Image of mock facilitation guide

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Atlanta-area Evaluation Association (AaEA) Affiliate Week with our colleagues in the AaEA Affiliate. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from AaEA Affiliate members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.