CommCore Blog and News

Making Statistics Sing and Dance! (Or at least a little less boring)

Hans Rosling is a Swedish medical doctor, academician and statistician – but he is also an engaging and entertaining public speaker. He has captivated audiences large and small for many years and the world over.
What does he talk about? Statistics! If you’re wondering how statistical data points can be enthralling, you’ll have to see it to believe it! Here’s one where Dr. Rosling discusses global demographics, health and wealth over a 40 year period at a 2006 TED Conference:
Some 100,000 data points went into this 20-minute talk and yet, Dr. Rosling made it compelling – even riveting. How did he do it and what can we learn about presenting our own boring data?
First of all, Dr. Rosling used a software program he helped develop to make data points come alive and animate in a way that makes it entertaining. Many presenters will not have the option to use such software for a variety of reasons. But, what are other aspects of the way he presented these boring statistics that we can learn from? Here are a few from CommCore’s point of view.
  • Excite Through Your Own Excitement: In the video clip (and in the many others you’ll find on the web), you can see how Dr. Rosling injects his own personal passions and excitement – often in a humorous way – with high energy when he explains the data and trending. The audience responds in kind. I would wager that you can take the same audience with exactly the same content, but delivered in a more subdued way, and the response would be a sea of yawns.
  • Call Outs For Specific Examples: Often, statistics alone – or even grouped into a trend – bury your message by making your audience’s eyes glaze over. But take a key portion of the statistics that is memorable or surprising and make a specific example or comparison out of it. Try out these call outs – create different examples and comparisons and find which make your point in a compelling way.
  • Two Illustration Options? Sometimes Choose Both: For some of your most important “take-away” messages, you may have a couple of different options to illustrate graphically. Sometimes, you may well consider using both. Bar graphs and pie charts may prove memorable to some, case study pictures and maps might work better for others. “Let me show you this in another way…” This can really help you expand and expound while underscoring what you want your audience to take home with them.
So, the audience then asks: ‘Ok, now what do I do?’ – we In our experience at CommCore find many talented speakers who successfully bring excitement out of their content, but fail to make a connection to the audience. It’s one thing to bring boring statistics to life, but you must be sure to be clear with the audience about what you want them to do with this information or how to use these data. It’s a simple, but critical preparation step.
I recognize that many of us – especially those in regulated industries – do not have the luxury to use special software to bring life to boring statistics like our friend Dr. Rosling. But, there are some important reminders here.
What others are there? What has your experience been? How else can you bring excitement to otherwise boring content?