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The Quick and Dirty on How to Persuade with Data and Numbers

Photo by Lindsay.

In an hour I have a meeting with many leaders I respect at Fuller, including our wonderful (fairly new) president, Mark Labberton. Had I read this HBR blog by Nancy Duarte beforehand, I would have created different handouts.

Nancy Duarte is widely recognized as a leading voice in helping presenters make better presentations. She’s perhaps best known for her insights into the “structure of great talks”, which she presented at a 2011 TED Conference.

In Duarte’s HBR blog, she gives 5 questions to ask before you prepare data to present in a meeting or talk:

  1. Am I presenting or circulating my data?
  2. Am I using the right kind of chart or table?
  3. What message am I trying to convey?
  4. Do my visuals accurately reflect the numbers?
  5. Are my data memorable?

If you’re curious, the mistake I made in preparing for today’s meeting is in #2. Looking back, I asked a FYI teammate to prepare a pie chart (which looks beautiful and is even color!) when a bar chart would have been better.  On a scale of 1-10, this error is probably about a “4”. I don’t think the outcome of the meeting will be different. But there will be future occasions when the way I present data could change the course of a conversation.

With all the messages floating around these days,  we each need to do our VERY BEST to make sure our message is clear and vivid.

For an off-the-chart idea on how to make visuals interesting, be inspired by Hans Rosling's stunning visualization of world statistics.


Kara Powell

Kara Powell, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women to Watch”, Kara serves as an Advisor to Youth Specialties and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences.  Kara is the author or co-author of a number of books including Sticky Faith, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Deep Justice Journeys, Essential Leadership, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum.

...read more by Kara Powell

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