Every presentation contains data and our greatest challenge as presenters is to share it in a way that is clear, relevant and valuable.
Everything is data
Numbers, facts, ideas, insights, updates, stories and information; it’s all data. Many professionals believe that data is exclusive to spreadsheets, charts, graphs and complex diagrams. At Mindful presenter we believe that every word we speak or bullet point we show is data.
The data myth
We work with organisations that operate in extremely complex and technical environments; investment banking, pharmaceuticals, biotech, law, aerospace and engineering. Many of these organisations face the daunting challenge of presenting very complicated and data rich material to their audiences. Many professionals in this position approach the challenge under the illusion that the most effective way to communicate their message is by telling their audience everything they know.
They craft their presentations sharing every number, fact, ratio and detail that they can lay their hands on in the fallacy that they believe that is what their audience wants and needs.
Sometimes they do, but mostly they don’t.
The truth about data
Your audience only want what they need. In other words, they want what is personal and relevant to them. They want what they need to know to help them to:
Whatever data you are presenting has to serve a very clear purpose. That means that you have to have absolute clarity on what you want your audience to do with the information when you’ve finished speaking and how you want them to feel about it. Keep in mind that they are unlikely to do what you want them to do with the data unless you have created some kind of emotional connection to it.
The curse of knowledge
The curse of knowledge is an affliction that many presenters suffer from. They know so much about their topic that they share it all with their audience, forgetting that they don’t know as much and then struggle to understand why they don’t ‘get it’.
It’s where the presenter makes the assumption that their audience already knows a great deal about the issue, so they fail to explain things in a way that makes it easy for them to understand. Sometimes they will do the complete opposite; they assume their audience knows nothing and so they tell them absolutely everything.
How to present data
- Find out how much your audience already know. The easiest way to do that is to ask them.
- Find out what they want and need to know and why; ask them.
- Put yourself in their shoes and imagine how they may be feeling about attending your presentation, what they may be dreading and what would interest and excite them.
- Filter the data. In other words, be mercenary with the facts and resist the urge to tell them everything you know.
- Have a clear purpose by knowing exactly how you would like them to feel about the data and what you want them to do with it. Ask yourself how it will serve them.
- Craft a message which is clear, concise and powerful and make sure that everything you say and show supports it.
- Present one idea or point at a time especially if you are using slides.
- Don’t make them read.
- Don’t make them work hard to understand you, keep it simple.
- Tell them the story behind the data (make sure it’s relevant and of value)
- Share your insights about the information.
- Use examples to explain what you are trying to say. Paint pictures in their minds.
- As yourself ‘so what?’ For every fact, idea or number you share ask yourself how you would respond if your audience interrupted you to ask you, ‘so what, why should I care about that?’
- Less is more. If you have 20 minutes to present prepare for 15.
- Start with the end in mind. In other words, don’t save the punchline for the end like a comedian. Let them know why you’ve called them together right at the outset.
- Be like a tour guide. Your first priority is to make sure your audience never get lost.
- Check in with them by asking them questions to see whether they understand or whether you need to expand or clarify your point.
- Be specific. Get to the point, stick to it and don’t waffle.
- Ditch the jargon. Don’t complicate things by using language you don’t need to when you can keep things simple.
- Don’t set out to simply inform your audience. Aim to connect with them
Some audiences will want everything. Make sure you identify them in advance and prepare accordingly. If you don’t know or can’t be certain then have everything with you in your ‘back pocket’ just in case. Include all of the remaining data they may want to know at the end of your slide deck that you can turn to if you need it. Create a handout which you can give to them afterwards which gives them all of the supporting data they need.
Don’t consider data to just be about numbers. It’s everything.
Your job is to breathe life into the data.
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If this article has inspired you to learn a little more about how effective your presentation skills are you may want to take a look at our presentation training and presentation coaching pages to see how we may be able to help you. You will also find a great deal of really helpful ‘free’ information in our Learning Centre.
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