– Estimated minimum net worth of Mitt Romney: $190,000,000
– Estimated inflation-adjusted net worth of George Washington: $525,000,000
[Citation: Romney for President, Inc. (Boston); 24/7 Wall St. (N.Y.C.)]
The statistic above (derived from Harper’s Magazine’s Harper’s Index) tells us that Mitt Romney’s estimated net worth is a drop in the bucket compared to the inflation-adjusted net worth of George Washington. So, what does that have to do with your next presentation? As it turns out, quite a lot.
Comparisons, like the one above, are a simple and helpful way to put abstract facts into perspective. They place seemingly arbitrary statistics into a framework that reveals a particular viewpoint or stance. But the most important thing to remember about comparisons is that when you use one, you are telling a story, whether you intend to or not.
Consider for a moment the story that these two statistics, placed side by side, imparts on the reader. What conclusions immediately come to mind after comparing them? Sure, there are a million conclusions that could have come to mind, depending on your political and personal beliefs, but keep in mind how the editors have guided your thinking in a specific way. They didn’t offer a comparison between Obama’s net worth and Washington’s net worth, just as they didn’t offer a comparison between Obama’s net worth and Romney’s net worth. They may not provide the reader with a clear, direct statement delivering a case-in-point conclusion, but they certainly guided your train of thought along a certain path.
Choose comparisons wisely in your presentations. Be conscious of the connotations and conclusions you’re insinuating by comparing particular information. But don’t be afraid to take it a step further than the Harper’s Index editors do by making clear conclusions for your audience. Don’t be afraid to tell them the story you want them to hear. Present your comparison and then tell the audience clearly and passionately what you want them to know.