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How to Create Killer Reports with Data Visualization: Lesson 2

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Reports help your business in every way. The information—especially data—communicated shows what you’re doing right, what you’re doing wrong, and how you could do things better. But the story and insights are only effective if they are properly presented. In this series, we show you the 4 steps to crafting a killer report that makes an impact.

Today, we continue with Lesson 2: Making an Outline. (If you missed it, check out Lesson 1: Understanding and Analyzing Your Data first.)

To create a compelling report, your content should be appropriately structured around a narrative. Even if you are reporting on less-than-sexy KPIs, understanding the core of what you are trying to communicate is necessary to guide you.

To start, identify the beats of your narrative (aka, the main points of your story) and how they will help communicate your report’s objective. Analyze your data sets to see what content maps best to each point in your narrative. Consider your audience as you align your data with your story. A sample structure might look like this:

Outline ReportAs you craft your outline, keep these questions in mind:


Make sure you are engaging readers from the get-go, making it clear from the introduction that this content is relevant.

  • Ex) Material expenses are on the rise; the bottom line will be affected.

WHY SHO (3)Is it showing the context necessary for the reader to understand? Is it lending deeper insight to the topic?

  • Ex) Data proves that macroeconomic forces are driving costs up over the last 6 months.


Define what the conclusion should be. This doesn’t necessarily have to be direct or prescriptive (“switch to this vendor”), but it should make a clear point.

  • Ex) We should consider looking at alternate sources for materials.

This outline will help you weave the story through your report to ensure your audience is following and, ultimately, swayed.

Stay tuned for Lesson 3: Crafting Your Content.

Want more? Check out A Business Guide to Visual Communication and download our new e-book: How to Use Data Visualization to Win Over Your Audience