Imagine this: it's your 4th straight hour of Zoom meetings. Your eyes are glazing over. Your brain is shutting down. And the presenter says enthusiastically: “Stay with me folks; only 20 more slides to go!”
Numbers can be both impressive and baffling at once. Like explaining the details of a $2.2 trillion stimulus package. Or breaking down a $5 trillion budget deficit. How do we make complex data meaningful? By placing it in a context people can understand. Apple founder Steve Jobs was a master at this. When he introduced the iPod, he touted its storage capacity of 5GB. Then he quickly explained: “That’s like having 1,000 songs in your pocket.” Likewise, when Jobs announced the iPad Mini, he specified that: “It’s 7.2mm thin …about the thickness of a pencil.”
Do your presentations sometimes contain big numbers or complex data? If so, think about making these stats come alive by placing them into a context. Most of us can’t grasp the impact of a $2.2 trillion infusion into the U.S. economy. But we can readily relate to a $1200 distribution to each qualifying adult.
More ways to help participants relate to the data you’re presenting:
-- tell me exactly where to look, step by step. "Here you see a graph showing how quickly we respond to customers. LOOK AT THE X-AXIS: that's the timeline in weeks from May 2019 to now. LOOK AT THE BLUE LINE: that's..." You're a tour guide helping the audience make sense of your slide. Never assume the visual speaks for itself - if it did, then we wouldn't need to sit through the presentation!
-- simplify your visuals, so that you don’t overwhelm your audience with needless complexity. "We reduced our response time from 10 weeks to 3."
-- draw parallels by using examples from everyday life, like Steve Jobs did with the pencil and iPad Mini. "Faster response time means customers can place and receive 3x as many orders per year."
-- provide a SO WHAT after presenting the data, like Steve Jobs did with the iPod. "Sales team - what are your ideas for sharing this with clients?" “I know this slide is confusing and hard to read, but…” Think about how many numbers-intensive Zooms you’ve endured. The presenter may have had an amazing story; but did it turn into a data dump? How many times did they show 3 tiny graphs on one slide? Remember this: there is strength in numbers. If your data is vital, bring it to life for the audience. Create a context they can relate to. Otherwise, you’re just dumping data while your attendees are watching the clock.
Do you need some help with presenting numbers and data? We’re here for you.