Let’s be real for a second: You don’t have a monumental bit of news to report every time you have to give a presentation. Maybe the third Tuesday of the month has just rolled around, and it’s time to update your team on the latest batch of figures. And whatever status report, project review, or operational details you’re going to share with them, you know it’ll be dull.
So how do you make those basic facts and figures more than a form of ritualized torture? Here are a few pointers.
1. TURN DATA INTO IMAGES
If you’re worried your presentation is going to be boring because it’s heavy on numbers, try using imagery to describe the data. Numbers can become dull if you don’t give enough context about what they all mean and amount to. Unless you make the data concrete, your audience will start to zone out.
It’s simpler than you probably imagine. Think about the last weather report you caught on TV. Maybe the meteorologist was reporting on the size of hail. They didn’t list off the average hailstone’s diameter or weight; they said “golf-ball sized” or “softball-sized.” By using imagery, they become much more engaging and memorable. What’s more, you don’t need to be a graphic designer to throw together effective visualizations; here are a few tips.
2. MAKE SURE YOU’RE SELLING SOMETHING
The surest way to wreck an already boring presentation is to just be the messenger, delivering data or giving an update. In reality, you’re always selling. As the CEO of a Fortune 500 company told me, “Every time you present, you are selling. You’re either selling your idea today or planting the seed for selling your idea in the future.”
And to sell successfully, you need to position yourself as your audience’s trusted advisor. As Mitch Little, VP of sales for Microchip Technology, describes in his book Shiftability, that means getting past “features” to talk about “benefits”—matching your ideas to your listeners’ needs. They’ll trust you when they see you as a partner whose opinion they value—who helps them see things they might’ve missed.
Yes, that might sound like a tall order when you’re giving a quarterly update. But try stepping back for a moment and thinking about the purpose of that update. Move away from, “I’m just giving them information and telling them why it’s important” toward, “I want to explore how we can move forward together more creatively.” This change in mind-set will can help you position your data in a more “benefits”-oriented way.
3. ADD MORE CONTEXT
Sometimes the reason your presentation is so dull is because there’s not much numerical change since the last time you presented. This is really common for leaders who are asked to report on market share, for instance. If you’ve maintained the same market share since your last presentation, how can you make that interesting?
The answer is to just add more context around the latest figures. Let’s say your organization’s market share was the same from the first quarter to the second quarter. To make your presentation more interesting, you could discuss some of the outside factors that were at play. Obviously, you always want growth. But perhaps a competitor introduced a new product—in that case, maintaining the same level of market share was actually positive news.
You can also put information in context through comparison. For example, if I tell you that Poland exported $1.6 billion of chocolate last year, that’s not necessarily an interesting data point. But if I tell you that it produced twice the amount of chocolate that Switzerland did, that might surprise you. So if you’re having trouble making your facts and figures sound interesting, look for comparisons.
4. SHARE SOMETHING THEY’VE NEVER HEARD BEFORE
Finally, if you’re struggling to spice up a dull presentation, tell your audience something unfamiliar. Share a compelling conversation you had or some insider information that few people know about yet. That can create an “aha” moment for your audience to come away with.
Maybe you work in financial services and need to give a status report. Unfortunately, not much has changed. But you did have an interesting conversation with someone from the Federal Reserve, who told you that a proposed regulation was going to be rolled out slowly. This would be something you could tell your audience that would make your presentation more intriguing.
You might feel like you work in a boring industry or department, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage your audience. These simple strategies can help you leave more of an impact—even if the facts and figures, all on their own, don’t.