The Best Way to Present a Spreadsheet to a Group

Here's a three (3) step formula for getting the most out of presenting a spreadsheet to others:

1. Describe each field, and walk through a single row of data
All too often, presenters of a spreadsheet jump-in to "the weeds" – details that are important and make sense to them, but typically not important and confusing to others. Take the time to explain what each field/column represents:

  • Column 1 (e.g. Date) denotes the date in PST
  • Column 2 (e.g. # of Sales) represents the total number of sales recorded, excluding refunds
  • Column ...

Feel like there's too many columns in your spreadsheet? Create a summary tab that only contains the most critical fields, and use that for your presentation

Once you have everyone informed on the fields, walk through a single row of data and tell the story for that row. This will help you solidify understanding of what's being displayed, but more importantly help you segue to the next two steps.

2. Validation of Data Integrity and/or Material Annotations
Skepticism on the validity of data is common, and rightly so – sometimes it's hard to get your hands on a perfectly "clean" dataset. One way to ease the tension here is to put your validation efforts on the table:

  • Where was the data sourced?
  • Was there any clean-up necessary, and if so, what did that consist of?
  • What context surrounds the dataset that's worthy of an annotation?

Pick no more than three of the most important annotations you'd like to make, and share them. If you're working with a smaller, and knowingly "perfect" dataset, then possibly you could skip this step. However, in most cases we've found this to be an incredibly powerful way of building trust and showing that you're well-attuned to the dataset.

3. Insights + Recommendations
Now that you've got everyone on the same page as to what's in the spreadsheet (#1), there's trust in the data being presented and all are aware of any material context (#2), it's time to deliver the goods: insights and recommendations. This could come in a variety of ways:

  • What's the most interesting thing you noticed?
  • Is there anything particularly great, or negative happening?
  • Where should we go from here?​