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Cite numbers that come alive

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in Office Communication,Workplace Communication

If you know your topic inside out, your knowledge can work against you when you deliver a presentation. You may spout statistics with ease—and put people to sleep.

Drowning your audience in a sea of data will probably not persuade them. After a certain point, they may tune out if they feel overwhelmed with facts and figures.

At the same time, you gain an edge by supporting your assertions with hard-hitting numbers. Just don't go overboard.

Impress your listeners by choosing the one or two most compelling statistics you can find—and jettisoning the rest. Even if you sense that people are impressed with the first few strands of information that you cite, stop there. Resist the urge to keep throwing numbers at them.

Quantifiable data resonates with people when it's simple and easy to understand. By comparing a statistic to something that's familiar to everyone (such as minutes or hours in a day), you heighten its impact.

Whenever possible, involve your employees in crunching the numbers. By engaging them, you raise their interest level.

A reader tells us that he was preparing a presentation to his 40 employees to explain the rationale behind a recent deal that his company made to acquire a competitor. When attendees entered the room, they each found a pocket calculator on their seat.

Rather than pelt them with reams of data that he used to justify the deal, he asked them to plug in certain numbers and compute the answers on their own. By allowing them to do the math, he helped them appreciate the projected return-on-investment of the deal.

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