can you present data so that your audience gets it? Whether you're presenting
a budget, analyzing inventory or projecting sales figures, working with data
in meetings can be tricky. To clearly convey the meaning behind the numbers,
you need to pay special attention to how you deliver the figures. Consider these
helpful guidelines on how to present data more effectively.
Check Audience Background
Do your meeting participants have a financial or accounting
background? Are they people who work with numbers on a day-to-day
basis? Presenting to number-crunching experts versus numerical
novices requires a different approach and determines the speed
and style of your presentation. Accounting folks know financial
acronyms and jargon. They're also trained to see behind the
number and think about its implications. Non-accounting folks
may need data explained in simpler terms. If you’re unsure
of your audience's background, always break down formulas,
describe how you arrived at figures, write out acronyms and
include any equations you may have used.
Seeing Is Believing
really works! Use graphs, tables and charts to convey information
and support your spoken words. A recent study printed in Information
& Management Journal revealed that using visual aids enhances
audience attention, comprehension and retention of material.
Additionally, the use of visual aids also influences the audience's
perception of the presenter. Presenters who used visual aids
were regarded as more professional and credible than those
who lacked visual aids.
Create slides to support spoken words and illustrate data. Use horizontal visuals
instead of vertical – the bottom half of a vertical graph can be difficult to
see and verticals are often hard to project in rooms with low ceilings. Follow
these quick tips when preparing slides:
|Choose colors that contrast well as some people may be colorblind
or unable to differentiate reds and oranges. Use three colors, four at
most. Colors should clarify and differentiate. Too many colors may be
pretty, but will detract from your message. Remember that black has positive
connotations when you’re dealing with data, while red signals debt – so
avoid red at all costs!
||Show step by step how you arrived at a figure. Explain the
relevance of each step. For example, explain which months are included
in your company’s Q3. Differentiate between net and gross figures.
|Less Is More
||Bigger Is Better
|Build complex ideas gradually, one step at a time. The number-one
problem with visuals is that they contain too much information. Ask yourself
if all information is relevant to the point you wish to make on the slide.
||Use bold, thick lines with figures and illustrations and
avoid unnecessary details in images.
You most likely use Excel or similar spreadsheet software to work with numbers.
Use a multimedia projector connected to a laptop or PC to show the live spreadsheet
in the meeting. If you need to take notes, you can use the whiteboard to capture
notes in electronic ink. Your notes can then be printed, e-mailed or saved to
a computer file for future reference. Add interactivity with an interactive
whiteboard such as a SMART Board. Interactive whiteboards work with your projector
and laptop to provide touch control of your projected software applications.
Practice Makes Perfect
This old adage is annoying, but true – practice is the key to a smooth presentation.
If you run through your presentation even once beforehand, you will be clearer,
more confident and more relaxed. That way, you can focus on the audience instead
of worrying about your presentation style.
1. Dr. Judson Park