Who are the Internet Bandwidth Hogs? Graphs Tell the Story on #MakeoverMonday

The latest #MakeoverMonday challenges us to visualize this data, showing who is using up all the internet bandwidth. I teach storytelling with graphs in my full-day workshop, and will be releasing a book soon sharing all my secrets for creating clearer and more engaging graphs. As an educational opportunity, I wanted to tackle this data set.


1. What’s the story?
The first step to visualizing data is always going to be: what’s the story? There are actually lots of options here but I’m most interested in the fact that the top two bandwidth hogs are Netflix and YouTube – video streaming services. In fact, we also see Amazon Video Services is #4 and Hulu is #7. So we can summarize the main point as “streaming video makes up 61% of internet traffic”. And we’re going to put that summary in the graph title.


2. What does this look like?
One of the questions I begin asking upfront is “what does this look like in real life?” Because that will suggest the type of graph or table that will bring the data to life. Storytelling with graphs is not about just visualizing data. It’s choosing graphs and other design elements that make the data look more like the real event being measured.

In this case, I’m already visualizing in my head an internet pipe carrying data broken into different lanes. Each lane’s width could represent each data series, showing size by the width of the lane. To finish the look, I’ll add a transmission tower on the left and a house on the right. Now we’ve peeled the lid off the data and are peering down into the actual thing being measured…internet traffic.

Slide43. Highlighting
We want to draw attention to certain parts of the graph so we use darker colors for the slices that represent streaming video services. We also use larger and bolder fonts for the largest sections. Everything else stays gray so it whispers in the background. It’s readable, but not calling attention to itself.

Slide54. Logos
We’re using the icons of the transmission tower and house. But I also want to use the logos for the video streaming services. Logos have emotional impact, especially logos we associate with fun and enjoyment. Many people feel excited when they watch Netflix start up on their TV or computer, and we can harness those emotions by using the logo. Similar feelings might be embedded in the YouTube, Amazon and Hulu logos. The logos also act like signposts, directing the reader’s attention to where we want them to look.

Slide65. Color
I could use any color for the highlighting. But I’m going to use the exact red you find in the Netflix logo. Fortunately, it also matches the YouTube logo pretty closely. How did I get the exact color match? By using a free software tool called Color Cop.

Slide76. Motion
Finally, I want to really give the impression of internet traffic flowing left to right, and not just a stacked bar chart. That reinforces the idea of bandwidth traffic. So I create an impression of the shape bending forward. I did this by adding a triangle, filling it in with white and then removing the outline, like this.

Slide8And voila! Here is our finished graph!

Slide9Storytelling with graphs is more than just visualizing data. It’s bringing the data to life in a way that engages the audience and encourages understanding and discussion. Look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” which should be released in the next few months. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get an email when it’s available.

Storytelling with Graphs cover

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Will Trump Win GOP Primary Race? Graphs Tell the Story.

Trump was narrowly defeated in Iowa, where he was the favorite just days before the election. Cruz won (some say “stole”) and Rubio surged into a breathing-down-your-neck third place. The actual vote was quite different than the polls predicted. What happened?

Iowa polls versus resultsThis is an important question because if the polls were wrong about Trump winning Iowa, could they be wrong about Trump winning in New Hampshire, and perhaps even the GOP presidential nomination?

One part of the explanation is late-deciders, those voters who don’t make a decision until the week before the vote, or even the day of the vote. Oh, if a researcher calls and asks who they favor, they will give an answer. But some are not committed to that answer all the way through to the voting booth. They change their minds.

Surveys find anywhere from 25% to 45% of voters are still undecided a week before they vote. In 2012 entrance/exit polls (NY Times, CNN), researchers asked people as they were going into the vote (or leaving) “when did you make your decision?”. On average, 32% of voters made their decision THAT WEEK.


Yikes! So there are a lot of people who answer polls months before they vote, but don’t stick with their choice on election day. They don’t decide until the last minute.

In Iowa, we see that nearly ONE HALF of voters didn’t make their choice until the week before the election. And the later they decided, the less likely they were to vote for Trump. Instead, they tended to favor Rubio (28%) and Cruz (22%). Of those who decided in the last week, only 15% selected Trump.


That makes sense, doesn’t it? Many studies found the people who supported Trump were also the most convicted. Trump recently bragged he could shoot someone and not lose his supporters. One CNN reporter quipped “If Donald Trump punched a baby in the face, Trump’s supporters would say that baby had it coming.” But that also means if you weren’t swept up in Trumpomania three months ago, you aren’t likely to be swept up on voting day.

We saw the same thing in 2012. Ten days before the Iowa caucus, polls had Rick Santorum at just 8%. But he surprised with 25% of the vote! That’s, in part, because 39% of voters were undecided until the last minute. And among those undecided voters, 35% chose Santorum.


The undecided voter will play a bigger part in the Republican race than in the Democratic race. We see that the polls were very accurate for Bernie and Hillary. But we also see that only 20% of voters were undecided heading into the Democratic caucuses. Again, this makes perfect sense. There are only two candidates, so it’s easier to differentiate their personalities and policies. And they are relatively divisive personalities. You either love or hate Bernie’s socialist ideas. And you either love or hate Hillary’s brash style. Nearly 60% had made up their minds several months ago!


But it’s different for the Republicans. There are still 8 strong candidates duking it out, and it’s not so easy to distinguish their differences. You are likely to stay undecided longer and vacillate up to voting day. But as candidates drop out and it’s easier to distinguish the remaining candidates, voters will rally behind Cruz and Rubio – not Trump.

A Feb 4, 2016 survey by Public Policy Polling found that in a 3-candidate or 4-candidate race (Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Bush – strangely, they didn’t include Carson) voters rally behind Marco Rubio and vault him ahead of Trump.

Slide7And that’s one problem with the polls over the past several months: asking someone to choose among 14 candidates. That’s not how the primaries will play out in the coming months. Candidates will drop and we’ll be asked to choose from three or four candidates, not 14. Of the 8 remaining candidates, we’ll see more drop out after disappointing results in New Hampshire — probably Fiorina and Christie.

Those who remain will face a budget crisis – it’s expensive to keep campaigning beyond New Hampshire. Christie and Kasich each have less than $5 million in the bank (compared to $50 million for Cruz and $25 million for Rubio). Ben Carson recently slashed half his staff because of dwindling funds. Donors don’t like to keep spending money on a long shot. By mid-March we’ll be down to three or four candidates.

What does this mean? It means the January polls are not going to be good predictors of the Republican primary results. There will be a lot of people deciding on the last day. And those people not already committed to Trump won’t be easily swayed on the day of voting.

As the field winnows down, voters will migrate to the remaining candidates – likely Rubio and Cruz – and not the Donald.

New Hampshire will be a critical battleground. Trump has a commanding lead in the polls (29% vs 12% for both Rubio and Cruz). But in 2012, 46% of voters decided the week before the primary elections and all indications are that it will be similar this year.

Paul, Huckabee and Santorum have already dropped out, thinning the field – where will their supporters go?  Independent voters in New Hampshire can choose to vote in the Democratic or the Republican contest, further clouding where the votes will land. Strong showings by Cruz and Rubio in Iowa are likely to sway undecided GOP voters to put their votes “where they will count”. In fact the latest poll shows Rubio is up to 19% (Trump is still at 29%), illustrating the effect of the late deciders.

Trump will still be a formidable candidate throughout these primaries. But I expect undecided voters will put their weight behind Rubio and Cruz, especially as the field thins, and Trump’s results will be lower than the polls predict in most states. Come back later to see if I’m right.

And if you like my graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs”, which shares all my secrets for analyzing data, choosing and designing graphs, and even using storytelling principles to make graphs more engaging. It should be released early this year.

Storytelling with Graphs cover

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.

Graph Makeover: Dealing with Crossing Lines in Line Graph

I just learned about #MakeoverMonday, an informal challenge and fun weekly event run by Andy Kriebel and Andy Cotgreave, where people do a graph makeover. This week, they asked, how can we improve this graph (raw data here)? As an educational opportunity, here’s how I approach it.

Hotel Revenue vs Travel Agents

1.Crossing lines

First, we have to be careful about letting lines cross on a dual-axis line graph. Research finds it’s more difficult to understand line graphs when the lines cross over.

The other problem is that when lines cross, it sends an unintended message that something has shifted. Something that used to be larger is now smaller. That’s not what we’re saying, and yet there is that subtle message out there. And in fact, there is no reason the lines have to cross. Think about it. They are only crossing because of the arbitrary choice of scales. We can change the crossover point by changing the scale.



So, generally avoid having lines that criss-cross like this. Instead, change the scale so the lines never criss-cross, or use a combination bar/line graph, or use two different graphs.


2. Graph title

Whatever point you are trying to make, write it out as the graph title. Right now, the graph title tells you what data is being measured, but not what conclusions you should draw. When you leave the point unstated, people may not get it, or may get the wrong idea. So spell it out clearly.


3. Cause and Effect

I’m going to use two different graphs. Which one comes first? If you are making a cause-effect statement, as we are, put the cause first and the effect second.


4. Graph choice

Now, I could use a line graph because nothing says TREND like a line graph. But I’m actually going to use a bar chart instead. Because I want you to get a sense of something DWINDLING down to nothing so I want there to be substance in the graph.

Slide75. Color

With bar graphs, use a soft color for the bars. When you use a dark color, it looks like zebra stripes and creates a moire effect, which is uncomfortable on the eyes. I’m also going to use a positive color for the growth of the online hotel booking revenues and a more negative color for the decline of the travel agents population.


6. Pictures

No matter how hard you try, graphs will lack a lot of emotional impact. That’s because they are abstract, and appealing to people emotionally requires something more concrete. Pictures is the missing ingredient.

In particular, pictures of people give you the most emotional impact. And whenever I create a graph I want to ask myself “Are we talking about people right now?” Because if we’re talking about people, and the impact on people, I want to add pictures of those people.

In this case, we’re talking about the decline of travel agents (people!). We’re also talking about rising online hotel bookings. But hotel bookings don’t rise by themselves. They rise because someone is doing something (more people!). So I’m going to reflect that through pictures.


7. Contrast

One last thing. Storytelling is about contrast. Good versus evil. Life versus death. Loneliness versus love. So if there’s contrast in the story we’re telling, we want to emphasize that. We’ve done that through the use of color (positive green versus negative red) and choice of pictures (happy older couple versus unhappy younger male). I’m going to punctuate that point with arrows (up versus down).

One blog visitor, Sheila B Robinson, pointed out in the comments section another reason for the arrows: some audience members are color-blind and cannot see certain shades of green and red. The arrows are another cue.

Another blog visitor, Andy Cotgreave who helps run #MakeoverMonday, also posted a helpful comment that the arrows I originally used are too large (see original here). I agree. I like adding annotations to graphs, like arrows, because they quickly summarize data. But the rule is to make them only as large as they need to be, and no more. And I agree the original arrows were like throwing one too many persons into the lifeboat, so here’s my revised final with smaller arrows. (I’ve also used one of my favorite techniques for titles: using ellipses to join two different graph titles into a coherent story.)

CrossingLines Final

Storytelling with graphs is not about accurately visualizing the data. It’s about determining the story in the graphs and then intelligently using design principles to bring that story into our minds and straight through to our hearts. If you want all my techniques for creating clearer, more engaging and more persuasive graphs, look for my new book “Storytelling with Graphs” which I’m hoping to release this year.

Storytelling with Graphs cover

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.