Wednesday 2 May 2018

How do I present complex data in an engaging way?

Data presentation is one of those topics which gets poor presenters excited, and which makes audiences groan before the presentation’s even got going! Presenting complex information in PowerPoint™ in a way that truly engages the audience is a skill that very few people have. But it’s something many people want to learn, and which should be learnt to prevent the sort of death-by-PowerPoint™ presentations which are commonplace in boardrooms and lecture theatres around the world.

The combined expertise of Navanter (experts in presentation skills) and Naturally Spreadsheets (our other brand – experts in Excel™) brings you these 5 tips from the audience’s point-of-view to liven up even the dullest data on the big screen…

1: Think about the purpose of your presentation

Why are you presenting this data? Is it to inform, insist or influence? What’s the difference? Let’s see…

Inform: You’re sharing information with me.

Really? Is there any point in giving a presentation? Just send an email...

Insist: You’re telling me to do something.

That would be great, but unless you’re my boss then I’m unlikely to do what you ask…

Influence: You’re trying to persuade me to do something.

Most presentations fall into this category – you’d like me to do something, you’re justifying it with facts and data, and you hope that will persuade me to take action.

2: Don't tell everything

Assuming your purpose falls into the third category above, you want to influence me through the data you’re going to present. Now I don’t need to know everything in your data – some of it really isn’t relevant to me, nor to anyone else in the room. Only present the key points which I need to know in order to convince me of a course of action.

3: Think about the story

To give an influential presentation, there needs to be a story. You might love your data, but I don’t – yet I do love a good story to get me thinking. What story is your data telling? How can you engage my emotions? How can you influence my actions?

4: Don’t show me everything

Excel™ is a great piece of software for calculating answers, presenting things clearly and using visuals (i.e. charts) to communicate a message. Use these things as intended, rather than just showing me a screen-shot of a data table.

5: Make attractive slides

Just like Excel™ is great for data, so PowerPoint™ is great for presenting. Make sure the key points are big enough on the slide, dim or fade the areas which don’t matter to make my eye go straight to the heart of your message. Don’t over-clutter – less is more.

6: Present with the audience in mind

You know your data, I don’t. If you stick something complicated on the screen, I’ll be trying to decipher it myself rather than listening to you. As soon as you show some data, tell me in max 15 seconds what I’m looking at. Use your hands to indicate key areas. Remove the confusion for me so that I don’t have to work it out myself, then you’ll have my attention and can tell me want the data means rather than just what it is.

Next steps

If you’d like to learn to present data like a professional, sign up for our brand new live e-learning course: Presenting Excel™ Data in PowerPoint™.

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