Here are some suggestions for you to consider when you’re preparing to give a presentation that includes data. It doesn’t matter if you’re presenting to your company’s management, to clients, to industry colleagues at a conference – ultimately most people process data in a similar way.
- Subordinate the data to the story. When you’re describing data, you’re not describing numbers. You’re telling a story. The numbers are simply elements of the story you are telling.
- Use as few numbers as possible. Every number in your presentation should be there for a reason. When a number appears in your presentation, explain what it means, why it’s important. Avoid presenting entire tables unless absolutely necessary.
- Split data on to separate pages. One of the ways to guarantee your audience will be bored is to cram too much data onto one page and stay on it for minutes at a time. Instead, split it up across multiple slides. A good rule of thumb is to make no more than one point per slide.
- Use pictures. Pictures are interesting. Numbers are boring. Pictures grab attention. Numbers lose attention.
- Make your data pretty. When possible, illustrate numbers rather than giving digits. Even a simple bar chart can be elegant, and it communicates a mathematical relationship more effectively than a table.
- Don’t read. Never, under any circumstances, read your slides. This is probably the biggest differentiator between a good presenter and a bad presenter. One way to ensure you don’t read is to put very little text and numbers on your slide, so you are forced to make your point extemporaneously. Also, not reading frees your eyes up to look at your audience.
- Have fun. If you love data, and if you love your subject matter, your enthusiasm will come across. And don’t be afraid to have a little fun, to be a bit whimsical. Self-seriousness is seriously offputting.
I hope these tips are useful. Feel free to add your tips for presenting data in the comments section below.