December 19, 2016

Tangible examples always win

Speakers face some of their biggest challenges when it comes to presenting data. There is something about pie charts and diagrams that PowerPoint users are drawn to like moths to a flame.

However, your audience doesn't usually need the level of detail that you provide, and they are typically overwhelmed.

How can you present data in a way that gets your point across, making it concrete, while giving the audience just as much information as they need and want to know?

Use an example or a comparison to something that your audience is already familiar with. There is always a story behind data; you just have to find it.

Here's an example I found in our local weekly paper.

Click the image to see it full-size.
The number of mattresses that are sent to landfills every year is almost 2 million. But numbers that big sometimes become meaningless to our audiences. They're so vague. So this ad takes on the vagueness of a big number, and compares the hypothetical stack of mattresses to the orbit height of the International Space Station.

Now, I can't really fathom that distance either (249 miles from the earth) and you could argue that it's also vague; however, I do know that the ISS is in SPACE! And I know that space is really, really, really far away. That's enough for me to comprehend that a stack of mattresses higher than the ISS is a really, really, really high stack of mattresses.

And that is so much clearer to me than a number. 

What examples have you seen of turning numbers and data into engaging stories and examples for audiences?

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