This year I was asked to present at our company’s semi-annual User Meeting – normally a chance for our very capable Support staff to show off new software features, best practices – but this year, 2 of us software developers were brought into the mix to present on topics as well.
My topic ? That was easy…my talk was named Turning Data into Information which is something I am fairly passionate about. I am a big believer in that it is the client’s data and that helping them find newer, better and more effective ways to analyze that data will pay off for our clients.
My largest fear was that my talk would only appeal to about 5% of the audience – while I know its a topic that so many could gain from, I figured 1 out of every 6 companies present and perhaps only 1 person from each of those would really be interested in data analytics and data visualization but I tried hard to frame the talk in terms of every day problems – thinks like measuring advertising campaign success, knowing how to truly find the metrics that matter most in their businesses and the challenges of doing that with the tools they currently use.
I made it through my 45 minute talk, got to the question period at the end and……….nothing. No questions, just silence.
Then I was worried – Had the talk gone over their heads?, Had it been too dry and boring that they had just tuned out and started browsing the net on their smartphones catching up on Reddit? (I mean I had that talk packed with lots of graphics and pictures – I didn’t resort to puppies or kitties but lots of visual candy nonetheless)
So after my brief and non-existent Q&A period, I quietly found my seat at the back and found my self wondering what I should have done differently (other than not agree to do these) but a co-worker of mine assured me that they had seen many small groups though out the crowd whispering and pointing during my talks and then sure enough – at the start of the next break period, people started finding me at the back of the room – soon I had people lined up to talk with me and talk about issues such as:
- how real was this? (very real)
- how soon could they have it deployed for them (within weeks)
- they would describe data issues they were tackling and which of them tools like this could aid with (many of them)
And my following day, all of a sudden was filled with more private demos and Q&A time with clients – and that was great – people were seeing the merit to really analyzing and discovering their data – and while I was showing what could be done with PowerPivot, the real magic sauce was the data mart built behind the scenes that would allow them to use any business intelligence tool (although I strongly believe that for most of them Power Pivot will be all that they will want or require)
The strangeness did not end there though – as I actually tied for the best presentation as voted on by our clients. Now this does not mean best speaker – for I watched 4 other speakers both before and after me that very day and all were far better (ridiculously better) speakers, they were so confident, engaging, everything that I am not and I was jealous of their abilities – many of them have former teaching and coaching experience and appearing in front of groups seemed second nature to them and not the unique and special hell it feels like for me being up there by myself……..so how could my talk have won? Well I have 2 theories on this…..
1) The first is what I call the Big Bang Theory-effect – after watching strong and confident speaker, one after another, what could be more endearing and humerous than watching a very nervous geek on stage with spotlights on him trying not to screw up, babbling on some geek topics – its kind of like watching those Nature shows when the baby giraffe takes those first wobbly steps – its not graceful and yet you are kind of pulling for him – and who doesn’t cheer for Leonard on the Big Bang Theory TV-show – same thing – and it translates into many kind and sympathetic votes for the awkward geek stuck in the middle of all those strong speakers………(I strongly suspect when I was done they wanted to start chanting ‘Rudy….Rudy….Rudy….”)….we have many very kind and probably sympathetic clients.
2) My second theory, is that people are really trying to understand their data more and have probably already struggled to do so and are looking for a means to do MUCH more – and perhaps even those that don’t care much about data analysis know of people in their companies that do – in fact more than a couple people said things like “My manager would love this” and that was great knowing that while it did not appeal directly to them, they knew of its importance for others and were willing to take back more information.
I am not really sure which theory I am hoping is correct but I am excited that we are finding more and more people interested in doing more with their data because in the communications world, one thing our clients all across the nation have is a lot of data.
Count on many more data-related posts coming up since I have completed some long-term projects at work and am now back to focusing on some new data marts and how we are going to evangelize the best use of that data for our clients.