26 Jan 2013

6 Ways to Ace Data Heavy Presentations

"What do you do differently when you are presenting a lot of data?" I was asked this question by a reader sometime back. Here is my answer.

I made a one hour long presentation just two days back. This presentation was all about numbers. Slides after slides of numbers. Market size and market growth rates. Market shares of our brand and competition. Retail penetration (reach) of brands and so on. Out of 57 slides I presented, 40-45 had some data (mostly tables).

I did take feedback about the presentation from the audience later that day. My worry was presenting too much data might have gone against me. The response however was good. "It was easy for me to get what you said" said one colleague. "You moved at a slow pace and I understood everything" said another.

Six things you can to do when you present too much data:

1. Present data gradually (one after the other). Feed your audience slowly. Do not go with a machine gun and shoot everyone with data. Do not flood them. Do not stuff their mouth (and their minds).

2. Make your audience want to know the data. Make them care. First tell them why they need to know this data. Do not present the data without anyone caring about it. Spend time to make them care. Do not assume they want to know it.

3. Ask questions before sharing data. First ask what is the market share of Samsung in smartphones. A few people in the audience give some answer. Then go ahead and share the data. This way you get people to pay attention. Use this technique frequently (but not on every slide).

4. One slide, one point. Every table or chart has a key message. Summarise that before moving on to the next slide. What is the take away for the audience? What is the one thing they must remember from this slide?

5. Connect everything. You shared some industry growth data when you started. Come back to it when you are talking about brand growth rates. In the end, your presentation has to be cohesive and make sense as a whole. Help your audience make sense of the entire stuff. Connect different parts of your presentation. Do not let them hang loose.

6. Do not present everything. Practice restraint. First look at all the data you have. Analyse and figure out what is your key message (or main key messages). Now decide what is the minimum amount of data needed to communicate the key message. Do not present data, just because you have it. Ask "Is this going to be of any help to your audience?" and "Can I remove this table and still not cause any damage to my argument?" Always try to present as less data as possible.

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