Imagine attending a presentation by a representative from the Singapore Changi Airport. Trying to impress you with the ability of the airport to handle massive numbers of passengers and the popularity of the airport, the presenter starts off the presentation with presenting statistical data in this manner:
“The Singapore Changi Airport has handled 46,543,845 passengers and the highest number of passengers handled in a day is 165,345. In terms of baggage and cargo handling, the airport has handled 56,000,000 bags and total cargo weighing a whopping 1,865,252 tonnes. The airport has also reportedly managed 301,711 flights in 2011 alone!”
Yes, I did mention in a previous post about starting your presentation with little known or shocking statistics but by doing what I’ve mentioned above, ranting on with strings of figures, you are not only hearing numbers but will also go ‘numb-er’ as the presentation proceeds with more statistical data dumped on you.
Just within a short span of 10 seconds, the presenter has successfully drowned you with strings of numbers. However by reading the above statements, you have it easier than if you had to hear them. In a presentation, when you hear these statistics instead of seeing them or having the presenter to translate these numbers into something more familiar and meaningful, you are basically left to do all the hard work yourself! In reading, you can return and re-read the statements till you get it but not so in a presentation. Not only do you have to visualize these figures in your head, you will probably be asking yourself questions like “So how much is 1,865,252 tones?” “How many is 46,543,845 people?”
Present statistical data meaningfully in these 3 simple ways:

1. Relate the statistics to something familiar

By this, I mean present statistical data and relating them with something which the audience can understand. So there’s absolutely no point in saying that 46,543,845 passengers is about the population of Spain, if your audience is predominantly Singaporeans. I would say that 46,500,000 passengers is about 9 times the population of Singapore! That will be something which Singaporeans can certainly identify with better. Or, to translate the tonnage into something more meaningful, I can say that 1.8 million tons is about the weight of 358,000 fully grown elephants.
Just to give you another example, you can use the people in the room as a ‘visual aid’ in presenting statistical data. Say If you want to explain infant mortality rates in third world countries, you can say that in every minute, 5 infants in the third world countries die due to lack of proper medical care. This means by the end of the 20 minute presentation, 100 infants would have died. If you look around, this is as many people as we have in this room.
By doing this, the audience will better understand that infant mortality is indeed very high, as they are able to ‘see’ how massive the problem is by looking at the sheer number of people in the room. Certainly you can make it even more dramatic by elaborating further. So by the end of an hour, the number of infants who would have died will be 3 times the number of people in this room!

2. Round off numbers

In my earlier example, I explained that I would relate the number of passengers to the population of Singapore for a group of Singaporeans. Notice that not only did I round off the 46 million figure, I also used the term ‘about 9 times’.
Well, certainly you can be very anal about numbers and start doing your calculations and give your audience very accurate figures. I could have said that Changi Airport received a total of 46,543,845 passengers which is 9.168 times the population of Singapore. But is it necessary? In some instances, yes perhaps you do need to be very precise about the numbers you give but if it’s not crucial, rounding off is definitely a better idea to present statistical data.
Rounding off statistics helps the audience to visualize the numbers more easily and helps them focus on you and your idea rather than spending unnecessary time and effort processing long strings of numbers.

3. Visual aids

Indeed a picture paints a thousand words. Use graphs, pie charts, bar charts to sell your story! It makes it clearer for your audience as it helps explain trends, progress, percentages almost instantaneously upon one glance…if it’s done well!
There you have it! 3 simple ways to help you present statistical data in your presentation. You would want to relate the numbers to something which the audience can understand and relate to, round off long strings of numbers and use visual aids in your PowerPoint. However as explained, visual aids need not be confined to just slides, you can use the people in the room as the ‘visual aid’ to help them ‘see’ and understand the sheer numbers you are explaining.