Greetings from beautiful Boise, Idaho! We are Bryon Welch (principal evaluator) and Rakesh Mohan (director) at the Idaho Legislature’s Office of Performance Evaluations.
Working for a state legislature, we are always trying to come up with different ideas on how to effectively present our analysis. Because our reports are used by policymakers whose attention is constantly in demand by many competing interests, we wanted to ensure that we communicate our evaluation report’s message clearly, concisely, and convincingly. Presenting data in new, interactive ways helps us literally put the data behind our analysis with a click.
Rad Resource: A couple of years ago we were introduced to Tableau, a data visualization software that allows interactive, immersive visualization of data. Both paid and free versions of the software are available. Perhaps the most useful function of the Tableau software is its ability to publish data visualization to the web.
Hot Tip: Begin by looking through the Tableau public gallery for ideas on how you might present your data. The gallery has dozens of data visualization examples including government and public data and health and science data.
Hot Tip: Tableau offers training and tutorials to assist you in learning different ways in which data can be presented.
Hot Tip: Before publishing any data through Tableau, read their Public Data Policy. Of particular note are these words from the policy, “You should not publish confidential data that you want to keep private… Once it is posted you should expect that data to be no longer private.”
Cool Trick: Beginners can start with a summary of data that they have already completed and then, using Tableau Public, they can transform that data into something interactive and visually appealing. For example, our office recently published a report on state employee compensation and turnover that included an appendix on agency turnover. We took that same data and turned it into an interactive chart that we published on our website for policymakers and members of the public.
Presentations that tell a story: Bringing an interactive element into a presentation can help you summarize a long, complex report for your audience. When it came time to present our report on employee compensation to various legislative committees, we put our data into Tableau Public. Tableau transformed the data into an interactive chart that showed policymakers and the public how to customize the visual representation of the data we presented—something that our appendix could not do. By including the data visualizations in our presentations, we were able to quickly summarize some of the main conclusions of the report. We believe the interactive data provided policymakers with the information they desired in a more meaningful format.
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