How to Use Data in Your Presentation

By Lou Solomon

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Analytical-leaning professionals like engineers and finance specialists understand complexities. Their professional lives rely on the use of data. 

They want to speak from data and about the process because they want to help others unwind the complexities that they understand.

The problem with this approach is that the spoken word does not travel well on large hunks of process and information at the exclusion of story, illustration and meaning. 

Forego the Data DumpDo not be tempted to "data dump" your audience, even if it is filled with engineers or accountants

Even an audience of analytics benefits from occasional “soft breaks” of humanized case studies, analogies, and examples to make the information memorable.

I cannot count the number of times I’ve been warned by my contacts within organizations for whom we conduct courses that, “These are senior, attorneys/engineers/scientists who do not want fluff—they want substance with practical application. They don’t want to get real and tell stories.”

Furthermore, what’s interesting about this advice is that it assumes authentic communication is new-age gobble-de-gook and less serious than what is useful. It assumes that all storytelling is long, personal tales of intimate details.

At Interact, we often work with analytical professionals. From senior bankers to accounting executives and engineers. They often believe they are valued for the semi-truck of information parked on the left side of their brain. 

But do these folks really prefer to talk data only?

Speak to the Whole Brain With Useful Data

Over and over, skeptical people leave Interact Studio with a shift in perception of what’s possible when they present.

I’ve learned that everyone is unique and has something important to say about life.  If you give people a warm opportunity to speak authentically, they will take you up on it. They will take their expertise and add to it their stories, insights and experiences. 

When I work with a group of skeptics, I like to ask, “Do you want to engage people in such a way that they will find you meaningful and memorable?”  If so, let’s look at the science of whole-brain-engagement.

Roger W. Sperry was the biologist who rocked the world and took the 1971 Nobel Peace Prize with his research on the functions of the human brain. He discovered the right-brain-left-brain dichotomy of the brain:  the left brain handles logical, factual and analytical thinking.  It thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words.  

The right brain is the conceptual brain that deals with the big picture, concepts, stories and short-term memory. It thinks in pictures and can help make sense of information. 

At Interact we call these pictures “storybites” that can be found in relevant examples, analogies and illustrations. 

How to Use Data in Your Presentation

The Interact Influence Ladder

As illustrated, the Interact Influence Ladder demonstrates that the Right and Left Brain approach is not about “either-or,” it is about “and.”

If engagement, understanding and retention are the goal, the whole brain approach is required.  That approach is a dynamic mix of compelling facts, story and meaning—and means climbing the ladder of impact and influence. 


Please reach out if you are developing a keynote or presentation that conveys process or relies on data. We can help you find a way to communicate to both sides of your audience’s brain

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