How to be persuasive when presenting data
If you deliver a lot of data-heavy presentations, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and approach each of them with the same goal, “I just need to deliver the information.” You might be tempted to assume that the data speaks for itself and that its usefulness is obvious. The problem, though, is that when you assume your presentation is solely about the data, you aren’t doing anything to make it relevant or important to your listeners.
Motivating Listener Interest is Different than Informing Them
The next time you put together an informative presentation, assume that your goal is to motivate your listeners’ interest. Getting your listeners to want the information you’re presenting will put a persuasive edge on it.
Here are some ways to motivate interest as you prepare your next presentation:
- When you set the goal for your presentation, focus on what you want your listeners to think or feel about the information when you’re finished. Let this goal guide you. It will help you approach the presentation with a specific audience reaction in mind.
- Name your audience’s Current Situation to create context for the information you’re presenting. This can be as simple as referring to why they’re in the room, a quarterly meeting or project review, for example. Whatever the context for the presentation, articulating it clearly up front helps put everyone on the same page, draws attention to the reason you’re delivering the data, and why they should be interested in receiving it.
- Clarify the benefit of understanding the data you’re presenting. How will your listeners be better off when your presentation is over? This is very much like discussing the benefits usually associated with persuasive presentations. Only in this situation, it’s the benefit of understanding something, not doing something.
As we recommend with most presentations, it’s usually a good idea to assume a little skepticism from your listeners. Doing so encourages you to work a little harder to get and keep their interest.
Here are some ways to motivate interest as you deliver your next presentation:
- Acknowledge your listener’s state of mind. Be in tune with your listeners when you begin to speak. Prove to them that you understand what they’re feeling right now. It’s often a good idea to use phrases like, “I know this is only one of the many project updates you’ll be hearing today, so I’ll keep it short.” Or, “You might be worried that this presentation is going to be long and detailed…” Acknowledging their state of mind will help listeners distinguish between the data and your delivery of it.
- When you deliver the data, use tiebacks and applications. Tiebacks connect the data in the body of your presentation to the benefits you laid out in the frame. Applications emphasize the relevance of the information you’re presenting to your listeners’ situation. It’s up to you to point out why the information you’re delivering is important to your listeners and how they can use it. Remember, what may seem obvious to you may not be obvious to them.
- You are not your data. Never go into an informative presentation assuming that the data you’re delivering sets the tone for your presentation. That’s your responsibility. The data might be complex. It might be difficult to understand. But your delivery of it does not need to be. By being clear, concise, enthusiastic, and demonstrating concern for your listeners’ understanding, you’ll motivate their interest.
One final note about informative presentations: remember that your perspective on the data is important. Listeners learn a lot when they hear how you think about or prioritize the information you’re delivering. Don’t be afraid to say things like, “What I find really interesting on this slide is…” or “The results here are unique. We don’t see this sort of thing very often.” Opening the door to your way of looking at the information you’re presenting invites your listeners to understand it more fully.
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