At some point in your career, you will inevitably have to include numbers or graphs in your presentation. They are often mind-numbingly boring, but necessary. Ever heard a presenter say something like this:
‘For the next twenty quarters, our R25million per annum slush-fund will be divided among 14 accounts, to service 23%of total growth. We expect a 5% drop in total revenue for the next thirteen months, while 28% of passive sales will double at a rate of 10 units per yearf or the next three seasons.’
Did that mean anything to you? No? Then why do we subject our audiences to similar mind-numbing statistics?
The best presenters always bear in mind that their objective as a speaker is not to impart information, but to help the audience to understand. Information is only half of the job. Understanding is the goal. That is a fundamental truth in all communication. It’s not about what we say, but what they get. And from this point of view, it’s futile for you to have all the numbers at your fingertips if you are not able to make them meaningful to your audience.
Illustrate your point
Fortunately, there are alternative ways of expressing numbers in pictures and comparisons.
A picture worth a thousand words
Pictures are simple visual depictions of numbers; mental images that people can see and understand. For example, insteadof saying, ‘R800 million Rand,’ you might say, ‘R800 million, enough money to feed the entire population of Soweto for four months,’ or ‘Enough money to fill a public swimming pool with stacked notes.’ Suddenly people have something‘visual’ that helps them to comprehend how much money they are dealing with.
In early discussions about the Gautrain rail system, a figure of R13 billion was bandied about. The media soon turned that abstract number into a ‘visual’ by claiming that it was sufficient to buy a row of S-Class Mercedes Benzes that would stretch around the globe.
Comparisons are like pictures, but they area little more creative, in that they draw similarities to something else. For example, instead of saying that 200 000 people is ‘a lot’, you might say, ‘The size of the entire South African Defence Force’.
The next time you are forced to include numbers or statistics in a presentation, try to help your audience to understand exactly what they mean. You may relate numbers to something ordinary and familiar to your audience, such as the amount of money requiredfor a monthly telephone bill, or for a family of four to eat out, or the amountof petrol they might use for their cars each month. The goal is to associateyour amount with something that the audience can relate to quickly while you areon the way to your next sentence. Making it visual makes for swift processing.