When it comes to presenting in front of high-level decision makers within your organization, data, analytics, and objective insights are king. The problem is that communicating this information is challenging.
If you aren’t careful, your presentations will come across as shallow, boring, and out of touch. In order to be influential in today’s business landscape, you need a clear plan of attack.
4 Tips for Better Presentations
While there are exceptions to the rule, most people are prone to doze off and fall asleep when presented with cold, hard facts. Yet, if you’re presenting something of value to decision makers within your organization, data is your best friend. It’s objective and irrefutable. Thus, in order to maximize the value of data without tranquilizing your audience with a heavy dosage of boredom, you have to find a way to make your presentations engaging. Here are some suggestions:
1. Use the Right Software
Raw data is basically useless in a presentation setting. While you can use it to generate findings and reach conclusions, your audience isn’t going to follow you step by step through the discovery process. They want data delivered on a silver platter – already clean, refined, and ready for consumption. The best way to show them your findings without oversimplifying or overcomplicating is to use data visualization and analytics software.
At the moment, SAP Lumira software is the leader in this space. It combines self-service BI discovery and visualization with analytic applications and interactive dashboards – all in a single solution that can be used throughout the organization for optimal oversight and collaboration. In terms of presenting, the real-time performance dashboards with gorgeous charts and graphs allows you to share data points that are accurate up to the minute you’re delivering.
On the flip side, there are lots of software programs out there that make similar promises, yet don’t live up to the hype. If you get caught up using a rudimentary system, you’ll find that glitches, errors, and other shortcomings hold you back. This leads to poor data and embarrassing mistakes in presentations. Take your time and select software that fits your needs.
2. Structure Your Presentation Properly
How you structure your presentation will, to a large degree, determine its influence. Know your audience and choose a structure that’s conducive to smooth mental processing. Many speakers find the rule of three to be ideal when delivering data-based presentations.
“Humans are both neurologically and culturally adapted to the number three and its combination of brevity and rhythm,” Mandel explains. “We know from studies in neuroscience that our brains seek out patterns and finds the structure of three to be a complete set; it feels whole.”
There are multiple ways to follow the rule of three, but it typically involves (1) Raising a problem or opportunity to grab attention; (2) Suggesting how a problem can be resolved; and (3) Sharing a tightly focused agenda that reconciles the problem and provides direction.
3. Leverage Visual Storytelling
There’s a time and place for dishing out statistics in a spreadsheet, but you’re almost always better off leveraging visual storytelling. Colorful charts with simple legends and clear takeaways – coupled with real-world illustrations that exemplify the findings – are the way to go.
If you’re using a slideshow, keep your slides simple. Provide only what’s necessary and then explain the rest. Too much information will be overwhelming.
4. Summarize Your Findings
Finally, make sure you provide your audience with a summary of your findings (particularly if there’s lots of data). You should do this in a couple of different ways:
- At the end of your presentation, audibly recap what you’ve covered by synthesizing the data into a couple of key points.
- Provide a handout at the end of the presentation that lists off the key data points on a single sheet of paper. After the presentation is over, these are the takeaways your audience will remember.
Data is your friend – but it must be used strategically. You can’t rattle off dozens of statistics and expect your presentation to be influential. Instead, you’ll come across as being out of touch with reality. Hopefully these suggestions have given you some food for thought. If nothing else, they represent an opportunity to tweak one or two aspects of your presentation style.