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.
One of the best ways to affirm someone is to propose a toast. We don’t need a plaque or certificate to show our love and appreciation for someone; we can do it with words. That is what a toast consists of. A toast is a special way to celebrate an event or date in a person’s life with words of affirmation and encouragement.
I attended a wedding recently at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. The wedding and reception, naturally, had a baseball theme, and one side of the room looked down on the ball field. With this as a backdrop, Stephen Byers delivered this toast to his brother and new sister-in-law:
“There comes a time in every man’s life when he has to quit warming the bench and watching the game from the sidelines and step up to the plate. Today, Rick, is that day for you. Spring training is over, your friends and family are cheering you on from the stands, and you’re at bat. In my own 31 seasons, I’ve learned that life is an unpredictable pitcher. Often times, when you’re feeling good—the count is in your favor and you think you’ve got it figured out—you get thrown a curve ball. But it’s nice to know that now you have a teammate for life who will help you round the bases toward home plate. To quote a friend of ours, ‘When God put you two together, He hit a homerun.’ Let’s raise our glasses in tribute to Rick and Ashley’s marriage.”
Here are traits that make this a model toast: The toast is short. Two minutes should be enough length to keep the audience attentive and provide a complete message. The toast relates to the context of the event. There are references to the marriage and he predicts positive results of this wedding. The toast is unique and creative. The analogy to the baseball theme is memorable and meshes with the surroundings. There are no extraneous words or clichés that often accompany toasts such as, “I know so many things about Joe that I don’t where to begin,” or “I’ve always admired you and loved you as we have grown up together.”
There is structure to the toast. The audience can follow the narrative easily. Even though there are references to the challenges of marriage, there is an upbeat spirit that has a nice positive tenor. It ends with a prompt to actually drink to the couple.
Any accomplishment is a reason to propose a toast. Use these tips and you will add happiness and a positive aura to the occasion.