Presenting Numbers: Bring Your Statistics to Life

One of my students recently delivered a persuasive speech on straws. The single word STRAWS glared across the first slide of her visual aid, and I wondered how on earth she planned to hold our attention for nine minutes.

The answer was surprising: statistics. In order to inform the class about the harmful global impact of a seemingly inconsequential tube of plastic, she used compelling data that helped us to understand the massive scale of the problem.

“Americans use 500 million straws per day,” she began. “To put that number in perspective, that’s enough straws to fill 125 school buses every day. That’s enough straws to fill Yankee Stadium 9 times a year, or to wrap around the globe 2.5 times. And that’s only Americans.”

She could have stopped at 500 million, but what does that number really mean to an audience? We don’t have a clear picture of 500 million plastic straws unless she provides one. She knew that in order to connect her audience to the problem, she’d need to present her data in a way we could see it, feel it, and understand it.

To put that number in perspective…

If you have a presentation full of numbers, statistics, ratios, dates, or dollar amounts, consider ways to bring that data to life for your audience. Here are three places to start:

To read the rest of the article, visit the Good Sophist website. 

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