You know the scenarios: you’ve been working with complicated numbers for months and it’s finally time to present your findings to your colleagues. Or maybe your company has a new system that can give you 25 pages of extremely useful data to help you wow your client and win new business. In either scenario there is a lot of content to cover and data to explain – what do you do now?
Tip #1: Know Your Audience.
Don’t assume that they want to see ALL of the data. If it is your job to analyze the data then it is your job to present the findings. Your job is not to relive for the audience exactly what you did for the past three months (unless that is the expectation of your audience) – your job is to share what’s most valuable to them. And while those 25 pages are chock full of good stuff, most audiences want you to give them the summary or the highlights of the data. Sometimes you need to be prepared to answer any second-level questions and that is when you can refer to an appendix or handout with your supporting documentation. Please do not present your supporting documentation unless it is absolutely necessary to meet the needs of the audience. You run the risk of losing their attention.
Tip #2: Identify the Story.
Begin by asking yourself, “What is the story I am telling with this data?” Is it the growth trend over a 5-year period? Is it a smallest number hidden in the chart that will affect the growth potential next year? Is it a cautionary tale that what made us successful in the past won’t make us successful moving forward? Is it a story of hope? Don’t assume the story is obvious. Identify and share your story of the data to connect with your audience (and keep them interested).
Tip #3: Stress Something!
For this presentation, to this specific audience, at this moment, keep in mind that not all of the data is important. Know that while all of your data may be important to you, your job is to pull out the piece (or pieces) MOST important at this presentation moment. That data/fact/story is what you need to stress. You can stress what is most important with the tone of your voice, highlighting it on your slide, etc. How will you stress your most important points?
Remember: please don’t expect your audience to see what you see. “It is obvious here that…” is not always obvious to them. They haven’t been working with the data like you have. You need to:
1 – Pull out the data most important to this audience
2 – Give them the story of the data
3 – Stress what is important for them to know right now
Now go deliver that data!