Archive | WAW Recaps

March 2023 — Hollywood Storytelling Secrets You Aren’t Using in Your Data Presentations with Lea Pica

One of the benefits of having been running a meetup for 15 years and having awesome sponsors is that we are able to occasionally bring out-of-town speakers back by popular demand. It’s almost like we sometimes produce sequels, which, thematically, lined right up with this month’s event!

Lea Pica last presented at WAW in 2017, and we were beyond excited to bring her back to be on the in front of a big screen to once again provide attendees with tips and tales of storytelling done well..

This time, Lea wrapped her content in something of a thought experiment: what would happen if blockbuster movies and TV shows were delivered the way that most data presentations get delivered? For instance, imagine Game of Thrones as a corporate presentation:

“Game of Thrones” Reimagined as a Corporate Presentation

With that basic premise, Lea then shared five “Hollywood tips” for creating and delivering data presentations that are high impact:

  1. Begin with an irresistible hook—think about movie posters that tease an upcoming release…and then revisit the title slide for your presentation
  2. Learn to create anticipation—did you know that every TED Talk presentation is required to have a “throughline” identified—a single sentence that summarizes the entire talk? Put the effort in to determine the throughline of your data presentation, and you will be setting it up to be high impact and effective.
  3. Take your audience on a journey of transformation—the “narrative arc” (exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution) is part of cinematic and prose Storytelling 101 for a reason. It’s effective! Approach your data presentation as an Insight Journey existing within a narrative arc!
  4. Present a clearly defined plan of action—S.M.A.R.T. recommendations are Lea’s twist on S.M.A.R.T. goals. In the context of recommendations, the acronym stands for: Specific, Measurable, Assigned, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
  5. Conclude with a definitive ending—don’t the the presentation metaphorically just fade to black and drift off.

Whether you attended or not, you can request a really handy 15-page guide to these tips at!

To demonstrate the impact of the approach, Lea shared at the end of the presentation that what she had delivered…had actually illustrated and applied all five tips. How meta is that?

The Narrative Arc Was Present in the Presentation We’d Just Witnessed

And, now, while it lacks a narrative arc, below are some pictures from the event!

February 2023 Recap – Contextual Advertising with Tony Zara

Tony Zara, founder of ecommerce advertising agency Iron Pulley, gave us a glimpse into the programmatic advertising ecosystem and how one might succeed as an advertiser within this system. Tony pointed out that of the many ways to target potential customers, contextual targeting is one that is both least affected by privacy restrictions and least subject to fraud.

So what is contextual advertising? Fundamentally it’s a simple concept: showing ads that are relevant to the page they appear on. This classic method has been losing out to user-based targeting for several reasons, but one dysfunctional reason is that contextual doesn’t maximize revenue for the ad networks as well as user-based targeting does.

When we talk about display ad platforms, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is of course Google. In order to place a contextual ad, you need to have an ad tag on a website that is topically related to what you want to advertise for. Google currently controls 90%+ of this inventory, so if they want to make it hard to do contextual advertising they can (and have). Tony recommended reading the DOJ’s complaint against Google for a good overview of the situation.

So how does one do contextual advertising? Tony’s method is to find the sites that are relevant through human research. Advanced Google searches, SEM/SEO tools like Ahrefs, industry knowledge, etc. Finding the legitimate high-quality sites and doing placements on those sites rather than letting algorithms do “optimization” for you.

Tony has generously provided his slides:

And, some pictures from the event:


Please join us in March when we will have Lea Pica talking about Data Storytelling Secrets!

January 2023 – How to Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Google Business Profile (GBP)? What happened to Google My Business (GMB)? The former replaced the latter! At this month’s event, Katie Bradley split the difference between a primer and a deep dive on the subject and armed attendees with what they needed to know to claim, manage, and drive results using the free* GBP platform. In a nutshell, the session went through:

  • The key differences between GBP and GMB (with a conclusion that the change is generally for the better)
  • How to claim and verify a (Google) business profile
  • The various ways to optimize a profile: proper categorization, a solid description, good (geo-tagged) photos, and adding products (if relevant)
  • How to add Google posts (and what makes for good ones)
  • The importance of soliciting customer reviews, and how to get as much mileage and impact as possible from good ones
  • How to track and measure the impact of the profile over time
  • And more…!

The slides from the event are here, and some pictures from the evening are below!

* “Free” in that there is no monetary cost for claiming a business and then working with the listing. But, TANSTAAFL, amiright? Putting Katie’s many tips to use does take some time, but it can often be an investment with a seriously positive ROI!

October 2022 — Customer Research As A Differentiator

Is your business competing as a commodity or competing on experience? Or…trying to do both? At this month’s event, we learned that a “both” approach is an awfully tough row to hoe!

Sarah Ahern from PATH presented on how to smoke your competition by listening to what they want and then fostering experiences to give that to them! Ultimately, this can be boiled down to a 3-step process:

  1. Listening…to customers, employees, and the market.
  2. Building a process that is cross-functional, primed for action, and prepared to take action with what is heard.
  3. Monetize the results through evolving and improving the experiences for the right customers

You can see Sarah’s slides here.

And a few pictures from the evening:

August 2022 – Google Analytics Alternatives

After having several presentations on GA4 migration, the haters finally got a night of their own.

Except Jason Packer, our presenter of these GA alternatives (and author of this post), actually thinks GA4 is pretty good. Jason encouraged everyone to primarily not see GA4 as the default choice, but one possible choice in a world of many different options.

And boy are there a lot of options. We took a list of 120+ and narrowed it down to about 15 products based upon existing installation base and talked about some of these products strengths and weaknesses. Then we talked about how to frame up some questions that can help us pick a few different options to evaluate.

Then we did a live consultation with a couple of volunteers to try and narrow down what options could make sense for their particular needs.

Find info on Jason’s book on Google Analytics Alternatives here.


June 2022 – Google Analytics 4 (Meetup AND Bonus Seminar)

As we are just over a year out from when Google has announced they will end-of-life Universal Analytics as of July 1, 2023, this month’s meetup included a bonus follow-on seminar on Thursday morning.

Ken Williams (creator and maintainer of in-depth Google Analytics 4 resources on and Cory Watson from Search Discovery presented at both events. Some of the highlights and takeaways from the event:

  • The entire philosophy of how the collected data is structured is different from Universal Analytics—it relies solely on events, and each event can have multiple parameters (as Cory put it, “the event is what happened, and the parameters are the context around that”)
  • This model does have more flexibility, but it’s still got some gaps in its functionality; mostly, these are things that Google is working on
  • Bounce rate was going away…to be replaced by a vastly superior concept of “engagement.” This was awesome…but there was a backlash from a sufficiently large number of users (who should really be ashamed of themselves) that Google is going to add bounce rate back in as an available metric
  • Planning is key: actually accessing the data once it’s captured will be reasonably straightforward or an absolute nightmare depending on how well the implementation is planned. Ken and Cory suggested that organizations should plan for 11 to 17 weeks to implement Google Analytics 4
  • Something to think (freak out) about is that lots of organizations expect to have access to year-over-year comparisons. That means, starting July 1, 2023, they’ll be wanting apples-to-apples comparison data that goes back to…July 1, 2022. <gulp>

This post can’t possibly do a complete recap of the material. You really had to be there.

But, if you weren’t (or, if you were, but you’d like to review the content), the next best thing are the slides, which Ken and Cory graciously shared!

The slides from Wednesday’s meetup:

The slides from Thursday’s seminar:

And, hey, just in case you wanted to see a few more pics of the event:

April 2022 – Modern Culture of Data

For our April event, Thomas Kilbane, Jeewan Singh, and Eric Hayslett from Slalom Consulting presented on the people and process side of the data: pillars that are critical for organizations to establish if they want to meaningfully put data to work on an on-going and ingrained part of the organization.

The five pillars:

  • Bold Vision—and it needs to be a vision that is clear and business-aligned (“We’re going to do AI” doesn’t count)
  • Access & Transparency—users need to be able to be able to get to the data and understand how to interpret it
  • Data Literacy—users need to have both the hard skills (using tools) and the softer skills (hypothesis development) and the incentives to be putting the organization’s data to use
  • Guardianship—governance of the data so that it can be trusted by the users as to its accuracy, as well as ensuring it is compliant with regulatory requirements
  • Embedding Insights—a pillar that is dependent on all of the other pillars: actually incorporating the use of data into all relevant aspects of the organization’s day-to-day operations

Slalom’s support for the event also enabled us to up our game on the food, with a delicious spread from Chef Jeff!

The event photographer has finally learned how to set a custom white balance on his camera. He even occasionally remembers to reset it when he moves from the meeting space out into the atrium. Occasionally.

February 2022 – The Future of Data Analytics and Where to Find Talent

The first event of 2022 was in-person and almost felt…normal. We had a good-sized crowd, pizza, some of Columbus’s finest microbrews, and a thought-provoking presentation about finding and developing analytics talent in an incredibly tight labor market.

And masks.

I said almost normal!

Jen Wells and Bill Baldarez shared the research, thoughts, and experiences they had that led to the creation of TalentID Academy. The essence of talk was that:

  • Organizations need to be more flexible in how and where they look for talent: focusing on aptitude and potential (initiative, curiosity, critical thinking, problem solving) rather than “traditional”credentials (college degrees, X years of industry experience, experience with specific tools). And, they need to be willing to hire and develop talent (Jen: “You can hire someone and spend six months developing them, or you can keep looking for another 6 to 8 months and hope you will find someone who needs less talent…but also will be more likely to hop at the next opportunity.”)
  • Job seekers need to demonstrate initiative (the Google Analytics Academy is free!), seek out formal mentors (just ask!), and explore ways to learn tools and skills that fit their budget and learning style. (Jen also counseled against being convinced to “work for free”—anything that feels like an unpaid internship, even if it goes by some other name; in this market, it’s unreasonable for organizations to expect this!)

The full deck is available, too!

The event photographer was pretty pleased with himself that, over the course of the last two years, he actually learned how to set a custom white balance on his camera. Scenes from the evening:



December 2021 – A Little Content and a Lot of Holiday Cheer

We made another run at an in-person event in December, with the hopes of being in-person every other month in 2022.

Because it had been a while since we were in-person, emcee Bryan Huber did some audience participation with some real-time data gathering (sadly, said data was not rigorously collected, so no reporting or analysis will be provided here).

Bryan Huber Surveys the Attendees

We did a light bit of actual content while we munched on pizza and sipped on mulled wine, with Tim Wilson presenting on some of the potential pitfalls of working with time-series data, and how the technique of “first differences” could be used to check that two metrics that appear to be correlated are not simply both trending over time.

Tim Wilson: Possibly a Staged Photo Prior to the Event

Tim explained that first difference is simply looking at the change in a metric from one period to another: if two metrics are correlated, then they should both move proportionally over time.

First Difference Calculates the Change from Period to Period

Correlation of Raw Values vs. Correlation of First Differences

The complete deck is available here: 2021-12 Columbus Web Analytics Wednesday – First Differences

Perhaps the evening would best be summarized with a poem:

There was laughter
But ‘nary a tear.
And pizza eaten
Washed down with beer.

There was mulled wine;
It was the season!
And “time”-ly content
For R-squared reasons!