8 Tips for Using Stats in Your Presentation

Posted on Oct 16

How do you feel about statistics? Does it produce excitement or a big yawn?

Maybe you love them or loathe them but sometimes in your presentation you are expected to provide lots of facts and figures.

Many people find it challenging to make an impact in a way that is memorable for your audience rather than switch them off and in the worst cases the message can be entirely lost.

And this can have serious and horrific consequences as in the case of the Colombia space shuttle disaster in 2003.

In a study conducted afterwards looking into the causes of the disaster, a technical report presented in PowerPoint before the disaster happened was held partly to blame for causing the crash.

According to the study, when NASA engineers were reporting to management on the risk posed by tile damage on the shuttle wings, key information was so buried on the slides that it was virtually indecipherable.

Many reports in all sorts of sectors are now created and presented in PowerPoint and they are crammed with text and data.

It’s assumed that because all the information is there, the audience will understand the message.

But too many facts and figures actually get in the way of the meaning as was deemed to be the case for the shuttle disaster.

There is a common misconception that a lot of data creates the impression of a knowledgable presenter.

But being knowledgable isn’t enough. It doesn’t necessarily follow that because you know a lot you can communicate clearly.

Thankfully, a confusing presentation is less likely to have life-threatening consequences in a  business environment, but it can still lead to poor decisions, wasted time and unnecessary expense.

9 Tips for adding stats to your presentation

1. Find the story

Look for the story behind the figures rather than making the figures the focus of your presentation. The conclusions of your report will formulate your key message, so start with that and then present the reasoning behind it.

2. Have a clear purpose

Know why you are presenting the information and what outcome you are looking for. Are you trying to convince your team that a project is on track, to convince a client to award you the contract or to reassure staff about the company’s performance?

3. Use a structure

Make sure that your presentation has a logical structure and is not just a series of graphs and charts. Each section should link together to tell a distinct part of the story, backed up by the necessary data.

4. Create visual messages

A picture paints a thousand words so your PowerPoint slides should convey an instant visual message.Bullet points are a poor way of conveying information. Use images and graphics instead. This will create a more powerful and memorable message.

5. Inspire rather than inform.

Speak with energy and conviction – just because you’re presenting the facts it doesn’t mean your delivery must be flat and lifeless. Use your voice to draw attention to important points. This will not only enable you to get your message across more effectively but will also bring the story to life for your audience.

6. Use your voice to anchor key facts and figures

When delivering data and figures it’s crucial to keep your voice from descending into a monotone. Use the full range of your voice and highlight important numbers and key words with a lift in pitch, to ensure they stand out to your audience.

7. Concentrate on one key point per slide

Too much information in one go is difficult for the brain to deal with and leads to confusion so have 1 clear distinct point per slide  with just a few facts and figures to back it up.

8. Avoid visual distractions

Heavy or dark grid lines, decorative backgrounds, complex fonts, whizz bang effects  -  all distract your audience from your key message. Eliminate unnecessary dimensions e.g. 3D graphs are particularly difficult to read. Make your images clear, vibrant and easy to read from anywhere in the room.

Don’t be the person described by Andrew Lang ….

“ He uses statistics like a drunken man uses a lampost– for support rather than illumination”

Until next time,

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You can find more ideas on how to wow people using statistics in your presentations in my Chapter 6 of Public Speaking Tips from the Pros.

“ One of the best discussions  you’ll read on how to use statistics in a speech”

Available from Amazon now.
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Posted on Oct 16 in Business Pitching, Business Presentations, Communication skills, Presentation Skills, Public Speaking, Sales

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