Text and photos by Paul J.F. Bowman, Senior Editor at Business Wire
When it came to the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting, the Q&A sessions with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger dominated the news cycle. Lesser known was the meeting’s accompanying expo: a trade show of companies in which Berkshire Hathaway holds a significant stake. As a Berkshire Hathaway company, Business Wire was afforded a booth at the event. Other Berkshire displays included a giant GEICO Gecko, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, a Clayton Homes prefabricated house, and a Challenger 650 NetJets plane cabin. While all of that was entertaining and impressive, what was especially awe inspiring was the addition and prominence of data visualization throughout the 2016 event.
As a thought leader, Business Wire regularly advocates the importance of multimedia in today’s communications. We even went as far as proclaiming that visual journalism should just be called journalism. What better way to practice what we preach than to take a look back at the wide range of #dataviz displayed at one of this years biggest events, visually.
Directly inside of the expo, three 20’-by-10’ infoposters detailed the current state of Berkshire Hathaway resources. These towered over attendees as they entered the main floor. The displays were a graphical “State of the Company” address: informative, visually interesting, and detailed Berkshire’s various assets clearly. Separating the information into parts allowed visitors to find specific resources and geographies quickly. It makes sense to highlight your foremost data at conferences and trade shows; data visualization is an exceptionally efficient way to self-promote without unnecessarily repeating information. Additionally, our brains process images quicker than text—60,000 times faster according to The SAGE Handbook of Political Communication—and multimedia increases the likelihood of information comprehension from your audience.
Creating infoposters can be costly, but keeping current or potential investors interested and confident in your company is priceless. Hiring a top graphic designer to create these images is unnecessary; the posters need to be more intelligible than flashy. Essentially, data visualization does not need to be elaborate to be impactful. For example, layering too many graphics above or below each other will only complicate reading—not to mention updating—the graphic(s). Convoluting the image(s) may distract from your primary goals: presenting and enhancing understanding of data while keeping the reader’s attention.
There were other tall stands with infoposters from Berkshire Hathaway companies throughout the venue. They maintained formality and consistency while presenting data from a range of industries. Whether organizing or presenting at a trade show/conference, consider asking your graphic design team to create infographics/posters with congruency to the show’s design and palette. You may even be able to obtain the specific font types and stock graphics from the organizer of your event ahead of time. For example, these posters use a standard format (fonts, colors, icons) while their logos, products and highlighted data are very different:
The most prominent data visualization highlight was the BNSF booth. Behind their elaborate model train display, audiences watched what could be a future component to earnings calls: an infographic-type video looping on the booth’s backdrop included data of total track length, asset totals, sustainability, carbon emissions and other notable statistics for both consumers and investors. Imagine an earnings conference call that kicks off with an impactful video equivalent to bulleted financial highlights!
While viewing the video, consider how your company could make its own version. BNSF’s digital 2015 Annual Review, the inspiration for the backdrop video, is definitely worth a view as well.
(A special thanks to the BNSF Corporate Communications team for uploading the backdrop video solely for this piece!)
Business Wire is a strong proponent of data visualization and other multimedia; news releases with photos and videos receive up to five times as many views. Take a quick look at the type of multimedia releases being issued using Business Wire’s services.
To learn a great deal more about the expanding intersection of text, images and video in modern news distribution, download our free Let’s Get Visual: Multimedia and the News Release white paper.
You can also watch the Yahoo Finance webcast of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting in its entirety (7 hours, 10 minutes).
Keep the data visualization coming!