Are You Getting Your Message Across?

Voice and Communication Skills Top Tips: Presenting Facts and Figures

Presenting a lot of facts and figures can be a difficult task. In the worst cases the message can be entirely lost. No more so than in the example of the reports presented prior to the Colombia space shuttle disaster in 2003. In a study conducted afterwards looking into the causes of the disaster, a technical report presented in PowerPoint was held partly to blame for causing the crash.

According to the study, when NASA engineers were reporting to management on the risk posed by tile damage on the shuttle wings, key information was so buried on the slides that it was virtually indecipherable.

Writing reports is a key part of a manager's role and many executives now create their reports in PowerPoint and then present exactly the same slides, crammed with text and data. The assumption is that because all the information is there, the audience will understand the message. But sometimes, too many facts and figures get in the way of the meaning. There is a common misconception that a lot of data creates the impression of a knowledgable presenter. However, it does not follow that being knowledgable equates to having the ability to communicate clear messages.

A confusing report is, thankfully, less likely to have life-threatening consequences in a corporate environment, but it can still lead to poor decisions, wasted time and unnecessary expense.

Top Tips from the Professional Voice Coaching Team

1. Find the story
Rather than making the figures the focus of your presentation, look for the story behind the figures. The conclusions of your report will formulate your key message, so start with that and then present the reasoning behind it.

2. Have a clear purpose
Make sure you know at the outset why you are presenting the information and what outcome you are looking for. Are you trying to convince your team that a project is on track, to warn management about a worrying trend or to reassure staff about the company's performance?

3. Structure logically
Make sure that your structure is logical. A presentation is not a series of graphs, it should have a beginning, middle and end. Each section should link together to tell a distinct part of the story, backed up by the necessary data.

4. Don't inform, inspire
Speak with energy and conviction - just because you're presenting the facts it doesn't mean your delivery must be flat and lifeless. Contrast the good news with the bad. Use your voice to draw attention to important points. This will not only ebale you to get your message across more effectively but will also bring the story to life for your audience.

5. Use pitch to hold audience attention
When delivering data and figures it's crucial to keep your voice from descending into a monotone. Use the full range of your voice and highlight important numbers and key words with a lift in pitch, to ensure they stand out to your audience.

6. Posture, pace, projection!
Poor posture conveys a lack of confidence, as does speaking too quickly or too quietly. You need to look and sound in control if you want your audience to pay attention.

7. Create visual messages
Your PowerPoint slides are there to back up your story and should convey an instant visual message. Bullet points are not always the most useful way of conveying information. Images and graphics, if used effectively, will create a more powerful and memorable message.

8. Have a focal point
Where do you want your audience to look? Use size, colour and shading to direct the audience's attention to the key information on the slide.

9. Show the meaning, not the methodology
Charts, tables and graphs are not there to show how much work you did or how many numbers you crunched. Your visuals should show your conclusions, not how you got to them. And avoid visual distractions such as heavy or dark grid lines, decorative backgrounds, complex fonts and unnecessary dimensions - 3D graphs are particularly difficult to read.


If you are interested in how we can help you to deliver clear and memorable business messages, please call us on:

+44 (0)208 579 6662