PodiumWise | Tips for advanced presentation skills

In my last post I talked about using a personal interest story to open a talk.  Such stories draw audience members in and generate early attention.

Personal interest stories have another capability that makes them a valuable speaking tool.  They can bring a statistic alive.  They can give it flesh and bones, and create an emotional reaction that the statistic by itself couldn’t generate.

Joseph Stalin understood this when he said: “One death is a tragedy.  A million deaths is a statistic.”  When a number is given a face and a name, the whole dynamic changes.

We are assaulted by numbers constantly.  What passes for news these days is often nothing more than the latest poll figures.  At work, everything that can be is quantified.  “If it can be measured, it can be managed,” we are told.

The problem is that all these numbers start washing over us.  They can be dramatically big, dramatically small, or represent a dramatic change, and we are unaffected.

Anecdotal evidence without the supporting numbers can be misleading, if not downright dishonest.  However, statistics without the personal stories, can fail to generate any meaningful reaction from an audience.

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