When you’re presenting any kind of data, it’s important to remember not to overwhelm your audience with an over-abundance of facts and figures. This is especially true if you’re giving only brief overviews or introductory information. It often happens that, because people presenting data are so interested in and enthusiastic about their subject matter, they forget that not everyone is able to wrap their minds around such concepts as easily.
To avoid being the presenter who doles out information that goes over everyone’s heads, try using smaller, “snack-sized” bits of data when presenting. This will give your audience relevant information that’s easier to digest, but it can also help your presentation skills. How so?
It forces you to focus on what’s most important.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with being excited about the work that you’re doing, much less the data that you’re mining from various analytics and research endeavors. But it’s also important to remember that, depending on your specific areas of focus in a presentation, not all of it will be relevant. When you focus on smaller, snack-sized bits of information, you have no choice but to pare down your findings to what is the most important and relevant information for this particular presentation. This means that your audience gets the most interesting and compelling info when it comes to the topic at hand, and because they don’t feel inundated with data, they’re more likely to retain that which is most important.
It opens up options for future presentations and content marketing.
When you’re only using the most important pieces of data in your presentations, it opens up a few options for you to keep your audience engaged. First, depending on the reason for your presentation, as well as for the kind of presentation that you’re giving, it opens up the possibility of follow-up engagements. If you have a lot of relevant data, you might choose to disperse it over time, so as not to overwhelm your audience with too much information at once.
You’ve also got the option to do some content marketing. If you present the most interesting and relevant data, maybe you make a full report available to participants who are interested in learning more. Maybe you do a series of blog posts or videos in which you discuss more of the data over time. This gives people the chance to receive all of the data, but at a more agreeable pace that allows them to better process it.
‘Snack-Sized’ means presentation materials that are easy to skim and scan.
Like it or not, we are a society of skimmers and scanners. Our attention spans just don’t last for a long time (reports vary from 7 to 20 minutes). For that reason, as a presenter, it’s your job to make sure you’re keeping people interested without wearing them down. This often means shifting gears (and focus) on a pretty regular basis.
How does this help your presentation skills? Well, it sort of ties in with the first point about getting you to focus on what’s most important. When you determine the most important facts and figures to present, you can more easily tailor your presentation materials to your audience (remember, it’s always smart to know what kind of audience you’re dealing with prior to a presentation). This gives them materials that they can annotate as you speak, and easily skim and scan afterwards, allowing them to blog about it or use the data in other ways, as well. Don’t forget that the materials you provide are just as important, especially if you want to make a lasting impact so that your audience doesn’t forget the information they’ve been given. Here’s a perfect example from slideshare.
Remember: ultimately, it’s all about striking a balance. You don’t want to present with so much data that your audience is overwhelmed and can’t follow you, but you also don’t want to skimp on the details. Not providing enough information means you’re taking a risk on just wasting everyone’s time, which is certainly not what you want to be doing. Find the balance with “just enough” relevant and interesting data.
What benefits have you noticed when using smaller bits of data in your presentations? How has it helped you as a presenter? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
image credit: smbc-comics