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

Kara Powell | Apr 24, 2014

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

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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