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‹ View all articles 26th May 2016

The key to presenting data... is to NOT present data

Public Speaking Essentials

You have proof. Dizzying amounts of numbers, statistics that PROVE you know what you're talking about. You've worked really hard to identify all the data to support your epic speech topic. Before you go making dozens and dozens of pie charts and graphs, hold on just a minute.

It's all well and good to have this overwhelming amount of data, but will people really listen and/or understand all those slides?

Your numbers, pie charts, tables, graphs, and slides aren’t really about the data. They’re about the meaning of the data. It's your job to make the meaning of all those numbers clear and concise before you make your audience's heads spin. Your audience will NOT digest raw data. It's meaningless unless you tell them the story.

What do you want the numbers to say for you?

Are you speaking to prove a theory? Perhaps get people to donate to your cause? Are you bringing a call to action to your audience or maybe trying to change company policy? Are you seeking to be an authority or gain credibility in your field? Whatever your purpose is... you need to be clear about it. If you're just throwing a bunch of numbers up to 'look good', an audience can spot your lack of authenticity a mile away. Ever hear the saying 'Who are you trying to convince you or me?' fits here. Don't hide behind the data, make it work FOR you. It shouldn't detract from your words but only enhance your point.

 

 K.I.S.S (S) Keep It Short and Sweet (and simple)

There's a big temptation to use really fancy analysis, especially if you're good at statistics and data collection. That's all well and good but ask yourself 'Is this fancy numerical data useful to my audience?' Does it help you make your point? If you answer NO to either of these questions then simply don't use it.

Data is absolutely meaningless without the proper context. And if you're trying to prove how amazingly smart you are by using lots of statistics, then you've already lost the heart of your audience. It's like the kid in class who always tries to use the biggest words or always has their hand up with the answer before everyone else. People will like that you know what you're talking about, but they certainly will NOT like a know-it-all.

  • Data rule of thumb - If you can't summarise it simply, in a few brief sentences, don't use it.

Stories are magical.

Stories spin raw data into gold. They make distant theories real and plain numbers into real life struggles. Telling the stories of the numbers themselves make them personal and meaningful, instead of ideas and theories on a screen.

If you have statistics in your speech on the effects of second hand smoke on children, you can begin with the story of a child who has suffered respiratory infections induced by second hand smoke. Talk about their environment, what he/she suffered, her hospital stay, her struggles to breathe. Then reveal that this child was just ONE of the 300,000 lower respiratory tract infections identified each year in infants and children under 18 months old caused solely by second hand smoke.

Context is key!

Raw numbers mean nothing without the proper context. If I were to tell you that I've worked with over a thousand clients, it may impress you. It might not. Is a thousand a lot or a little for this type of business? McDonald's has served BILLIONS. (Now that's a big number.) Now if I were to add to that statistic by saying that Ginger is one of the most successful public speaking companies in the UK, would that make a difference? That makes it a bit more clear yes?

It's all about context.

The way you present data is the way you present your brand.

Is your message/company/personal brand fun and innovative? If your answer is Yes, then you know exactly what to do. Make the numbers innovative, fun, and exciting. Unless you're presenting at a statistics convention, resist the urge to use your inner excel nerd. Remember it's not about the numbers themselves, it's about what they MEAN to the audience.

Infographics and images are a great way to talk your audience through the numbers. You CAN make numbers fun! Use animation, whiteboard apps, music... there are so many innovative ways to present data these days there's no reason for it to be boring! Read more about some amazing visual learning apps we love!

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