What is worse than reading reams of spreadsheets? Listening to someone else read them to you. If your audience’s eyes gloss over the minute those statistical figures appear on screen, you need to read this piece. After helping hundreds of keynote speakers harness the power of data, I’ve put together my top tips on how to make data sexier- and dare I say- awe-inspiring.  

Let’s visualise that data.

It’s time to help those little numbers (you spent hours analysing) claim their spot in the limelight. No one wants to see your excel screenshot pasted on a slide (No matter how much you love that pivot). No one said you couldn’t show a good statistic proudly, but you have to make sure it tells a story. Sounds good? Let’s get down to the 3 principles that will turn those numbers on a screen into memorable stories and get you that coveted standing ovation (unless your audience is sitting, in which case we’ll go for a thumbs-up emoji.)

#1: Simplify the data.

 Make the numbers work for you. No one will appreciate your intelligent data visualisation pictograms or infographics if they don’t understand your content. What is the main point that you want to tell your audience? Start there. Tell your story first and introduce the data you will be showcasing upfront. The numbers are there to back up your story (Think of the data as your wingman or woman, but you are the hero of the story).

#2: Ctl-Alt-Delete redundant data.

 Eliminate all unnecessary information. No one will give you brownie points for showcasing your expensive modelling software unless you are selling the software.  Choose the numbers that show the point you are making and leave out everything else. You can always send any auxiliary data as a docu-deck in a follow-up email.

#3. Personalise the data.

Now it’s time to let the data sing. The data is there to make your point land with your audience. A great way to do this is by using imagery or a metaphor that resonates with the crowd you are addressing. “The company grew its staff compliment year on year by 80%?” sounds okay. But you know what sounds better?  “We welcomed 60 new team members to our company this year. Now we have 5 rugby teams vs 1 team the previous year.’  The number now feels real. And let’s face it, that X-Y axis can’t compare with the imaginary cheers your audience is hearing when they picture their favourite players on the fictional field.  

“Let the data speak for itself” is not sound advice.

While it may work in crime scene movies, it does not apply to presentations. The data is only brought to life by your narrative. Tell your story and let the data illustrate your points. If done well, your data will bring your presentation to life, rather than an untimely death. If you are ready to level up your slide narrative and how you present numbers and data, look no further. We have been helping people keep audiences engaged for over 20 years.  If you’d like to explore how we can help you, take a little peek at our programmes here.
Josh Peterse

Josh Peterse

Presentation Trainer - Missing Link Academy
Presenting online training

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