I recently coached an executive whose speech content often includes quite a bit of data, so we discussed how to make statistics and graphs come alive to an audience. One of the techniques I advocate is to personalize technical information whenever possible.
You can do that by referring to names when appropriate. Name the study from which the data came. Name the people involved in developing the data. Name the company that might have been the source of the information. Name a person in the audience who has used the data.
Another method of making data come alive to the listener is to give an example that applies the data or demonstrates the veracity of the statistics. Here is one I have used.
According to the National Traffic Safety Administration, you are three times more likely to have an automobile accident if you are multi-tasking than a person who is not. Eating an Arby’s roast beef sandwich as you drive 65 miles per hour on Interstate 75 near Sharonville Road puts you in serious danger of an accident. Add listening to Beethoven’s Fifth on your iPod and you and other drivers around you are at great risk.
Even if the audience is not familiar with a particular road or a piece of music, naming helps personalize the data and increases the impact of the statistics.
When possible, name people who are participants in the development of the data. For example, perhaps you are an admissions officer for a university speaking to a high school senior class to encourag them to go to your university. You mention the percentage of high school seniors from that school who attend the university you represent. You find the names of some of the current students who graduated from that high school and mention them to the class. Now that percentage means something to the students. They may even remember a name or two as you list them.
Naming rights of stadiums show the value of a name. Great American Insurance paid $75 million dollars to have the Cincinnati Reds’ stadium named Great American Ball Park. So when you are faced with delivering a presentation with lots of data., keep it lively by naming names.