Communicating Complex Data

Even the best and the brightest have trouble communicating complex data.

But when there is a lot of information, there are things that people can do. You can make the presentation more appealing to an audience.

I knew a man–he was a scientist at Rockefeller University. He loved to walk around the office saying “Data, data everywhere, and not a thought to think!”

So when you’re delivering a presentation with a lot of complex data, remember this. Your audience is somewhat interested in the data. But what people are really interested in is what you think about the data. They want to know what the data means. They want to know how to interpret it.

First and foremost, get your opinion in there early. Complex data is very abstract. That means that your opinion or interpretation needs to be clear up front. People want to follow along. Otherwise, it’s just a data desert.

In fact, if you put somebody into an FMRI machine and show them some data, there is very little that lights up from inside the brain.

However, if you put somebody into an FMRI machine and you tell them a story, there’s a huge amount of activity that occurs in the brain.

So have case studies in your presentation. Include opinions and personal things. These will leaven a presentation that is chock full of data.

Follow Sims Wyeth on YouTube to get more tips and help with your presentation and speech challenges. He coaches executives and works with small groups to help everyone understand the importance of clear content and energetic delivery. Plus, he stresses the importance of rehearsal to ensure the new skills stick and become a part of the way the company does business.

Also, he is the author of W.W. Norton’s The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking. This is a collection of short and insightful pointers on the power, potential, and practice of public speaking. Among the many pieces of expert advice in The Essentials of Persuasive Public Speaking is this nugget: “To capture attention, define a problem that keeps listeners up at night.”

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