Great Graphs

Why wait until the end of the year to write a lengthy report when you can share data early and often with dashboards? Your organization’s leaders have more important things to do than read lengthy reports. Dashboards get to the point so that leaders can understand the numbers and take action.

During this session, you’ll see sample dashboards from a dozen organizations like yours. I’ll share the story behind each dashboard so that you can learn about each dashboard’s audience and goals. For example, some of the dashboards were designed to track progress towards goals. Other dashboards were designed to help organizations compare their different program areas. You can decide which elements of each dashboard would be most applicable to your own work.

Then, you’ll vote on which dashboards you’d like to create from scratch. We’ll spend most of our time designing static dashboards within Excel. These dashboards will live inside of Excel and get shared with stakeholders as PDFs through email or as printed handouts during meetings.

Target Audience

This session is designed for participants who need to share data early, often, and easily with others (e.g., with a Board of Directors, supervisor, or colleagues). This session is also ideal for participants who want to design a one-pager of key findings (instead of a full report or slidedeck).

Learning Objectives

Attendees will learn:
  • data visualization design principles (a brief overview, not a full course);
  • page layout considerations (graphic design techniques like grids, sketching, white space, and text hierarchies);
  • major dashboard types (an illustration about comparing categories, tracking progress towards goals, etc.); and
  • dashboard design how-tos in Excel (with visual strategies like data bars, conditional formatting, and spark lines).

Hands-On Activities

This workshop begins with brief lecture content. Attendees will view a dozen sample dashboards from real-life projects that they can use for inspiration in their own projects. Then, we dive into the fun stuff—creating dashboards on the computer!Due to the highly interactive nature of this session, every participant must bring a laptop loaded with Microsoft Excel. No tablets or smart phones. PCs preferred; Macs okay.

Materials Provided

Attendees will receive:


Sample Workshop Agenda

Here’s a sample workshop agenda so you can get a sense of which topics and activities we might cover in your session. Every workshop is customized. Your agenda might look a little different.

Audience Analysis and Content Strategy:
Who are you trying to reach, and how? The planning phase is the most important phase of every dashboard project. Attendees will learn key considerations for customizing their dashboard to their desired audience.
  • Discuss each participant’s desired audience: Whether the audience is technical or non-technical, how often the dashboard should be updated for each audience type, and so on.
  • Discuss each participant’s larger content strategy. How else are they planning to share information? (e.g., through reports, slide decks, press releases, and/or infographics)


4 Dashboard Types and their Tools:
What type of dashboard will you build? The term dashboard can be confusing because there are several different types of dashboards. We’ll discuss single vs. series and static vs. interactive approaches.
  • Narrow down the type of dashboard that your audience needs—single or series, static or interactive. The dashboard type will determine the software tool needed.


15 Ideas for Dashboard Content:
What will your dashboard show? We’ll view a dozen dashboards from real projects. Attendees will learn about each dashboard’s goals.
  • View a dozen real life dashboards.
  • Review the Dashboard Cheat Sheet and discuss which visual elements could be applied to your own projects.


10 Tips for Getting Started:
“Where do I start?” is a common question from attendees. Attendees will learn what to do first, second, and third when designing a brand new dashboard.
  • Attendees spend the vast majority of workshop time creating static dashboards inside of Microsoft Excel.


Sample Before/After Dashboard Makeover

During the session, you’ll see several before/after makeovers from real dashboard projects.

Transforming a University Library’s Dashboard:
In the original, the icons were too colorful, and the outlines were stealing attention away from the data points. And, the original dashboard only showed the university’s results, but didn’t allow readers to compare the university’s progress to its stated goals. In the makeover, we grouped the variables into categories and added much-needed context: how the university library was performing compared to their goals.