24HOP: Summit Preview 2016


I have the pleasure and honor not only to talk about of one of my favorite topics at the PASS Summit 2016 in Seattle but was also invited to give a sneak preview of this talk at the “24 Hours of PASS – Preview Edition“. As you can guess from the name of the event: It is featuring 24 consecutive one-hour webinars from upcoming PASS Summit 2016 sessions.


The title of my talk is “My Favorite Pie (Chart) – Simple Rules for Clear Visualizations“. As I will make clear very early in my talk: I have plenty of favorite pies – but do not really like any sort of pie chart. And as it is not enough to just criticize things you do not like and show disadvantages of – in this case – pie charts, I came up with easy-to-remember and easy-to-follow rules to generally improve visualizations. Those rules will help you to find out in which (rare) cases a pie chart would be the visualization of the choice and in which cases another (and which) type of visualization would be the better choice:

1.Use proper chart-type

2.Display as few information as possible, as much information as necessary

3.Encode accurately

4.Highlight important things

5.Calculate measures

Use proper chart-type

Many BI tools on the market offer plenty of chart-types. Unfortunately most of the tools are not very good in doing useful recommendations which chart to use on the data one is analyzing. On the other side, in my experience the “gut-feeling” of many users will not help very much in choosing the best visualization.

Therefore we will discuss the most common chart types – including “ordinary” tables, which have sometimes a bad reputation, despite to their usefulness in many  cases.

Display as few information as possible, as much information as necessary

The idea of visualizing data in form of tables or charts is to give insights to the report users. For this reason we should only show information on the screen which is necessary to achieve this goal. Unfortunately many tools available are not very good in coming up with useful defaults when creating a table or a chart.

Therefore we will discuss why we should reduce the “ink-factor” and watch out for proper scaling.

Encode accurately

Again: The idea of visualizing data is to give insights to the report users. These insights should be achieved intuitively – which can’t happen if the most important things are not shown in the most prominent way on the screen.

Therefore we will discuss sorting and the proper use of colors.

Highlight important things

We can help the report users tremendously when we not only show data, but give a hint about how good or bad the number actually is for the organization or him/her.

Therefore we will discuss how we can highlight those numbers where the user should be alarmed and set actions.

Calculate measures

I can’t remember how often I have seen people in offices in front of their high-end PC’s and laptops grabbing for an ordinary pocket calculator to compute a sum, a difference or a more or less complicated performance indicator from the numbers on their screen on this device. But I can remember that in any single case I was stunned and watched with my mouth open.

Therefore we will take some time to discuss how important it is to add calculated values in you visualization.

Call to Action

The talk will be online and seats are limited – so save the date (september 7th or 8th – depending on your time zone), be sure to register to “24 Hours of PASS – Preview Edition” as soon as possible and watch out for twitter tags #pass24hop and #sqlpass.

I am looking forward to have you in my talk!


Markus Ehrenmüller-Jensen



24HOP: Summit Preview 2016