Is your audience switching off when you present data? – Part Three

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Presenting data is a very difficult challenge. It may be important that you be seen as the expert, but you are faced with the challenge of presenting this sometimes overwhelming mass of data so that an audience can understand and appreciate it. In Part One we acknowledged that, as for any presentation, the first step has got to be articulating for yourself what you want from the presentation, and that outcome needs to drive all that you say and all that you do with your presentation. In Part Two, we looked at visuals as a powerful support in this process and how to maximise their impact. Today, let’s look at the presentation skills needed to present data most effectively.

The first is to simplify the material as much as you can. Leave out some of the detail, if necessary, no matter how interesting it may be, so that you can keep your presentation focussed. And use language that will ensure the audience understands exactly what you want to communicate. Use plain English. Avoid jargon. If you must use acronyms explain them. Never take for granted that your audience is as familiar with your terminology as you are. Anything that will ensure there is no confusion, and that every detail of the presentation is understood.

Engage your audience. Data threatens to be boring. So add our own passion to the presentation. Make the delivery energetic and enthusiastic. You must be authentic. So inject your own personality and use your specific speaking strengths. If you are naturally funny, use that humour. If you are a natural storyteller, harness that. Enthusiasm is contagious!

Another way to engage your audience will also make the data more relevant and impactful. Use visuals, as we mentioned in Part Two. Draw on a whiteboard, or use photographs or images on your PowerPoint slides. Add a visual that makes the data real. Give it a human face. If you can, add a video of a person that represents the population in the data. Add emotion by telling a story about that person or the data represented, or use an analogy, and you will multiply the impact.

Finally, interact with the audience. This builds engagement. It will also give you the chance to make sure that everyone understands you and that you are getting the message across. Let them ask questions. Ask questions of them. Get them to agree or disagree with you so that they take ownership of the presentation and of the data and its relevance.

Keep your audience engaged and entertained. Keep them and yourself focused on your message and you will have a successful data presentation.

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