The challenge of presenting data

man presenting

Presenting data effectivley is a significant challenge for many presenters

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 is data.

The data myth

We work with organisations that operate in extremely complex and technical environments from:

Investment banking






Many face the challenge of presenting complex 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.

Some will craft their presentations sharing every number, fact, ratio and detail that they can lay their hands on. They firmly believe that is what their audience wants and needs. Interestingly, when we enquire as to whether they’ve asked their audiences if they actually need it all, most say that they haven’t asked.

Some do but most don’t. They simply continue presenting data regardless.

The truth about data

Your audience only want what they need.

In other words, they want what is personal and relevant to them. They are happy with you presenting data if it serves explicitly to help them:









Whatever data you are presenting has to serve a very clear purpose.

That means having absolute clarity on what you want your audience to do with the information. Keep in mind that they are unlikely to do what you want them to do with the data if you haven’t created some kind of emotional connection to it.

The curse of knowledge in presenting data

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. Often forgetting that their audience  don’t necessarily want or need it all.

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

When presenting data, find out:

– How much your audience already know. The easiest way to do that is to ask them.

– What they want and need to know and why.

– How they may be feeling about attending your presentation, what they may be dreading and what would interest and excite them.

When presenting data, don’t:

– Make them read.

– Force them to work hard to understand you, keep it simple.

– Save the punchline for the end. Let them know why you’ve called them together right at the outset.

– Set out to simply inform your audience. Aim to connect with them.

– Complicate things by using language you don’t need to when you can keep things simple. Ditch the jargon.

When presenting data, please:

– 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.

– Tell them the story behind the data (make sure it’s relevant and of value)

– Share your insights about the information.

When presenting data, always:

– Use examples to explain what you are trying to say. Paint pictures in their minds.

– Ask 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?’

– Remember that, ‘less is more’. If you have 20 minutes to present prepare for 15.

– Start with the end in mind. How do you want them to feel when you’ve finished speaking.

– Be like a tour guide. 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.


Occasionaly, 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.

If need help with presenting data:

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

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