How Speakers Should Handle Presenting Numbers And Statistics

by drjim on July 10, 2012

Speakers can quickly lose an audience when they present numbers…

Speakers can quickly lose an audience when they present numbers…

I’ve got a question for you: what’s the fastest way to lose an audience? Answer: start to present numbers or statistics. Sorry, even though numerical information can be a very powerful way of backing up what you are saying and lends a lot to the importance of public speaking, when you start to present it, your audience is almost guaranteed to stop using their listening skills and check out. Looks like we’re going to have to have a talk about how to keep them around…

Pictures Are Always Better Than Numbers

When a speaker displays numbers to an audience, just exactly what do you think that they are going to do with those numbers? I mean, we look at numbers and what kind of impression are we going to be left with? Wow – those are big numbers?

When you find yourself in a situation where sharing numbers with your audience is called for, consider transforming those numbers into a graph. Graphs provide our audience with the same information that the raw numbers do; however, due to the rich variety of graphs that are available to us we can present a lot of information in a way that will “stick” with our audience and not cause them to tune us out.

Get Interactive

One of the better presentation tips for using numbers or statistics in a speech is to move from the passive to the active. If you involve your audience in your speech when you are presenting numbers, then they will be less likely to check out.

One way to go about doing this is to make your presentation of numbers interactive. I’ve seen this done many different ways but one of the best is when you present your audience with two different sets of numbers and ask them to choose between the two sets. It can be “how much money would you like to earn” or “how much money would you like to save”, etc. This causes your audience to have to think and remain involved in your speech.

Perfection Is Required

As speakers, we all make mistakes. We stumble over words, we misspeak ourselves, and we make all manner of verbal mistakes during a speech. It turns out that this is ok – our audiences will both understand and will forgive us.

However, when it comes to numbers, this is not the case. The first time that your audience detects that you’ve made a mistake in your numbers, they’ll start to doubt all of the numbers and statistics that you present after that point.

This means that you will have lost your audience. Take the time to double and triple check your numbers before you present them.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we try very hard to find ways to connect with our audience – thats one of the benefits of public speaking. We want the words that tumble out of our mouth to go into our audience’s ears and lodge there. However, whenever we include numbers and statistics in a presentation, all too often our audiences mentally check out on us.

We can prevent this from happening if we go to the effort of disguising our numbers as graphs or pictures. Likewise, if we present two different sets of numbers and then challenge our audience to pick between them, we’ll be able to hold on to their attention. Finally, we need to make sure that our numbers are always accurate – our audience will ignore everything else that we say if we present numbers that are in error.

Considering how powerful numbers are when it comes to backing up a presentation, all of us need to find a way to include them in our next speech. Use these tips to make sure that when you get done with your presentation of numbers and statistics that your audience has not already left!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: What do you think that you should do if you have a lot of numbers to present – is it even possible to communicate them in a speech?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Got any thoughts on how you would like to start your next speech? What words of wisdom will you use to start your speech in a way that will capture the hearts and minds of your audience from the get-go and cause them to use their listening skills to really hear what you have to say? Hold on, it turns out that if you wait until you start speaking to start your speech you may already be too late — no presentation tips are going to save you now. I’ve got a better way for you to get your next speech off to a good start…

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Braithwaite July 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm

So important to remember this, Jim! I wrote about it on my blog today, in fact, with some great examples from CNN and National Geographic: http://coachlisab.blogspot.com/2012/07/how-big-is-7-billion.html.

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Esteban Knauss November 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm

Everyone is frightened when it comes to public speaking but with practice, speaking in front of an audience would become natural. ,

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Dr. Jim Anderson November 23, 2012 at 10:06 am

Esteban: You are correct, most people seem to fear public speaking. However, the good news is that with a bit of practice, this is something that we can all overcome…

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