Big data continues to play an increasingly pivotal role for organizations. Managing big data through data governance is futile if the data itself is incomprehensible to an organization's primary decision-makers. Organizations that are able to effectively communicate or 'humanize' data are more likely to reap the benefits available from big data. We offer three simple strategies for presenting big data to audiences composed of people who are non-experts in data governance (i.e. most of us).

1. Present a narrative

Rather than first presenting data in its raw form, or through pictures, graphs or other images, introduce your audience to the data through a narrative. Providing a brief and easy-to-understand narrative of the data that you are presenting will help to ensure that you do not overwhelm the audience with technical details at the outset. It is helpful to make immediate connections between your data and your organizational strategies. This will help to trigger audience engagement with your material.

2. Focus on key metrics and variables

Keep your audience in mind and remember their goals. Focus on key metrics for your audience and limit your presentation of variables to those that are most meaningful. If there are minor impact variables that may be of interest to some audience members, simply make note of how this information can be accessed after the presentation. Remaining focused on key metrics and variables will help ensure that your presentation of data remains interesting and engaging for the majority of your audience.

3. Engage your audience with visuals

The use of simple and clear visuals will help enable more of your audience to grasp the importance of your data. Visuals, as opposed to data and text alone, tend to persuade audience members to offer ideas and feedback. This will encourage contribution to the conversation in a more meaningful way. It will be important to keep in mind who your audience is, and to ensure that the level of complexity reflects their level of knowledge.

The ability to effectively communicate big data to organizational decision-makers will become more essential as big data continues to present complexities and opportunities. Beginning a presentation with a narrative, focussing on key metrics and variables, and engaging your audience with visuals are just a few of the ways to improve this invaluable skill.