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Dave Hill – Presentation Skills Excellence

Imagine you are 5 ft. 2 1/2 in. “tall” and you are web surfing and find a business article with statistics which state, “On average, tall people get paid about $900 more per year than small people.” As a “vertically challenged” person, imagine your anger as you consider this blatant societal imbalance and unfairness.

You continue to read the article while biting your lower lip with resentment. It goes on to state that there are two notable exceptions, Jack Welsh, the ex Chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, who are both 5 ft. 8 in. tall. As you consider this statement, you bite down even harder on your lower lip with a voice shouting in your head, “Since when did 5 ft. 8 in. people get to sneak into my “Small” Category?”

That was me back in 2007, and at the dinner table I ranted at my wife and two kids asking them rhetorically, “Where does that leave me? I seem to be too short to fit into the ‘Small’ category. If my height puts me somewhere between a small person and a dwarf…am I…a Smurf “? It was that point I started my quest to find out where I fitted in society. Like everything in my life, it turned up in a very unusual place, and under very unusual circumstances.

Fast forward a few months, I am in the Sym’s department store with my family to buy a new suit. Shopping is not my “cup of tea” and I was not in a particularly good mood. The suits were arranged on racks according to shape and size and went on for what seemed like several hundred feet.

The store assistant escorted my wife, son, teenage daughter, and me. We came to the suit rack and it had categorization tags, “Tall and Athletic”, then “Tall”, “Tall and Portly”, and we eventually got to my category. Under what seemed like a dim and dusty 40 Watt light bulb was a categorization tag…”Short and Stout”. It was then my teenage daughter with a big smile on her face, and without missing a beat, shouted out, “Daddy, you’re a little teapot…tall and stout”. Let the record show that my category in society is not “Small”, it is not a “Smurf”, I am…a “Little Teapot”.

This is an anecdote illustrating that statistics can be annoying and questionable. It leads into an important point for presenters and their use of statistics.

What is the major benefit of using statistics in presentations?
1. They are one method of providing supporting information for your points, helping to build your credibility, and enhancing your presentation.

What are the success strategies for using statistics in presentations?
1. Utilize an attention-grabbing statistic to start a presentation. This can be an impactful way to open a presentation, particularly if it has some “shock” value.
2. Unclutter your statistics. Round off the numbers where possible.
3. Limit the quantity of statistics you use at a time or you will lose your audience. Frequently a single one can be effective to support a point. A maximum of three at a time is often recommended to minimize the potential for confusion or boredom.
4. Incorporate graphs, charts and other visuals to illuminate your statistic and drive home your points.
5. Use analogies and anecdotes to specifically help people relate to the statistics.
6. If the audience can relate to the statistics and/or the anecdote you are using, they will have better comprehension.
7. Use statistics that are specific, credible, and within the norm.
8. Use recognizable statistical sources where possible. For example: “The US Bureau of Labor Statistics stated, “Nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses among private industry employers declined in 2009 to a rate of 3.6 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers – down from 3.9 cases in 2008.”
9. If you try to convince people to act based on a statistic that is on the far end of the scale, the audience may feel you are trying to manipulate them with loosely applicable or questionable facts.
10. Do not use statistics that are incomplete, exaggerated, or wrong, or you can end up eroding your credibility.
For example: In 2007 the New York Times questioned some of the statistics that Mayor Rudi Giuliani had used in his speeches. He was put in a defensive mode and ended up “clarifying” some of the statistics he used. The article is at: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/us/politics/30truth.html

How to use statistics to incorporate humor
Make sure the statistic is noticeably exaggerated or wrong so that the audience understands that they are being entertained rather than being given some credible facts:
Examples:
1. Canadian research shows that if a bear charges at you and you run at it, the bear will run away 9 out of 10 times. I wonder how much they pay the poor intern to find out.
2. They say that you are 3 times more likely to be killed driving to a store to buy a lottery ticket than to actually win the top prize.

 

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