Making Data Persuasive – How Business Presentations Have Changed

Over recent years, business presentations have changed so dramatically, they are almost unrecognisable from what was done a decade ago. Just as the introduction of PowerPoint/Keynote required business presenters to learn new modality, a similarly different skill-set is required to present effectively now.

Then & Now

The most important business presentation is the one focused on getting agreement or buy-in from the audience – approval for a buy or the go-ahead for a project. before this presentation was given to people in the room who were hearing the proposal for the first time with a comparatively short question and answer session (generally at the end).

Now, most of these kind of presentations include both people in the room and others attending remotely, they have seen the proposal well in improvement and they expect to be able to ask questions at anytime throughout your presentation. Worse nevertheless, some people assessing your proposal might never see your presentation and will make their decision based purely on what they read.

Every presentation prepared for an audience that the speaker perceives being as in a superior position will be data-heavy. The temptation is irresistible. You have so much data obtainable to you and you don’t want to risk appearing ill-prepared or lacking in hard ‘proof’.

Using Data to Persuade

Data should never be the most persuasive part of your presentation. This will come from your examples, images, stories and anecdotes. However, you will give yourself the best chance of success if the data in your presentation is as persuasive as it can be. Based on our knowledge of how the brain processes information, here are some simple guidelines.

  • Make your graphic suit your purpose. Most people select a graphic that can encapsulate the most information – which is wrong in rule. You should not select a graphic to show data; you should select the graphic that best illustrates your point. Ask yourself, “What is the point I am trying to make in showing this data?” and select your graphic consequently.
  • Make the figures real with powerful comparisons. For example, “The amount that it costs to satisfy one child in a village for three days is what you pay someone just to deliver your meal to your doorstep.”
  • Put statistics ‘in the room’. For example, “48 percent of the population is affected by this change. So, in this room (of 24 people) that will be eleven of you.”
  • Use anchoring to your advantage. This rule proves that the first figure people hear becomes a reference point for later figures. So, for example, if you were trying to emphasise the increase in efficiency, you would not say, “Our efficiency has increased 22% which is excellent given that last year it was 10%.” Instead you would present it this way, “We have an excellent consequence in our efficiency. Last year we increased efficiency by 10% and this year we’ve increased it to 22%.
  • Deliver data most powerfully by emphasising the numbers and putting them at the end of your sentence. So, instead of, “This will produce a 25% increase in profitability.” You would say “This will produce an increase in profitability of 25%.”

Prepare the Answers

The different delivery modality method much more of your presentation should be focused on your responses to their questions. If they have seen your proposal in improvement, try and look at it by their eyes. What would concern them? What are the possible incorrect assumptions they might make?

Data-heavy presentations will not go away. Information is not knowledge and knowledge is not wisdom. Your role is to turn this information-move into knowledge for your audience so they can have the wisdom to do as you ask.

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