Do you need help presenting data? – These 4 tips will help

Dashboard on laptop

Do you need help presenting data?

It doesn’t have to as difficult as some presenters make it.

We’ve all been a casualty of data dumps in bad presentations. The graphs, charts and tables surrounded by tiny text where the presenter gleefully says, ‘You probably won’t be able to read this, so I’ll read it for you.’

There is a mistaken belief that the key to  success in presenting data is to give the audience everything. Doing so results in the audience working hard to filter the data to find what is relevant and matters to them. At Mindful Presenter we see less than alluring visuals every week. 

Presenting your audience with a plethora of numbers  is not helpful. It’s like asking them to look for the ‘needle in the haystack.’

Mindful Presenter can help presenting data

The following 4 tips will help you when presenting data in a way that will your audience will thank you for.

1. Find the ‘needle’ first

Avoid the habit of filling an entire slide with a maelstrom of data. Doing so results in you simply telling your audience everything you know. 

When presenting data, our  job is to find the ‘needle’ first.

The ‘needle’ represents what the audience needs to know to help them to understand your point and help them to make a decision.

Presenting data means we have to take a reality check. Most audiences don’t need to know everything that you know. It’s rare that they will want to understand all of the data you have in mind for them.

Show them the ‘needle’

That means:

– Filtering the data and presenting only the most important and relevant information

– Mindfully selecting the data that supports your message

– Excluding anything they won’t easily understand

– Putting yourself in their shoes

– Telling them why the data is important and matters

– Sharing the story behind the key data

2. Less is more

However interesting you believe the data may be to you, not everyone will feel the same. The following question will help you to focus.

 ‘What if I only had 90 seconds to tell my audience what they really need to know?

This is a powerful way of ensuring that you are focused on the ‘needle’. You may have 20 minutes or more to present your ideas but challenging yourself in this way can be very helpful.

“I’m sorry I wrote you such a long letter. I didn’t have time to write you a short one.” – Blaise Pascal

At the heart of your 90 seconds is your message. Make this is as clear and concise as a ‘tweet’. 

3. Lighten their load

Every single number, symbol, image and piece of text on a slide takes your audience brain power to process. Scientists call it ‘Cognitive load’.

Remember that meeting you went to recently where the speaker projected a slide with 12 bullet points?  You probably felt compelled to reach for your mobile phone as you stifled a yawn. That slide was quickly followed by slide after slide of complex charts, graphs or spreadsheets. If you felt any level of discomfort as you endured that, you were experiencing excessive ‘cognitive load’.

In simple terms, your brain was overloaded with information that it simply couldn’t process.  To add insult to injury you can be sure you wouldn’t remember most of it either.

At Mindful Presenter we call it ‘Clutter’.

Don’t blind your audience with a deluge of numbers or bullet points. Show them what they really need to know and make it stand out.

4. Design it

When presenting data, if you want to make your presentation memorable then you have to think like a designer. 

Numbers can feel a little cold and intimidating. The key numbers brought to life with compelling images brings focus. Most people have far better recall for pictures and images than they do text and numbers on their own. A good designer brings the numbers to life through the use of images using colour, contrast and focus.

The key is to make the pictures relevant and compelling

Never stretch images; use large ones

Use high quality images; not blurry ones

Don’t use multiple images on a slide; find one and stick with it

Avoid clip art like the plague

Avoid distracting images, dots, swirls, rainbows, etc.

Be creative but be consistent

It’s never really about the data

It’s about the story behind the data. What  does the data mean? Why your audience needs to know it and why they should care?

If you need help 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

Photo by Luke Chesser on Unsplash

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