One of the best ways to lose an audience’s attention during a presentation is by presenting a slide with indecipherable data on it. You know the kind– packed with hundreds of teeny tiny numbers accompanied by equally tiny images that might be photos of cows or maybe cars? Such cumbersome slides encourage distraction. They may as well have “close your eyes and relax for a minute” or “time to check your email” as headers. Here are some tips to make data interesting. It’s possible, we promise.

Firstly, it’s important to determine precisely what it is you want to convey with the data. If there’s a boatload of data to disseminate, break it up into appropriate sections. Most importantly, don’t overstuff a slide with data. If it feels crowded, it probably is. Simplify. Create more slides with less information on each. Find an appropriate balance between simple and complex. Don’t bore the audience with an infantile slide, and don’t intimidate them with an overly intricate slide.

When you’ve narrowed down the content and allocated data to the appropriate slide, channel your inner artist and get your draw on. Sketch out how you want the data to look, visualize how the data can work together to illustrate the idea you want to convey. Avoid the sleep-inducers: cramming too much info on one graph, long lists, illegible words or numbers.

Next, get creative. Think of new, interesting ways to get your data’s message across that don’t involve pie charts, bar graphs or the like. Remember, people like beautiful things, so try and make your data as beautiful as possible. Is there an infographic you could fashion rather than using a stale line graph? Is there a metaphor you could employ that aids the understanding of the data? Is there a way you could show the data with pictures, perhaps inside of a large picture? Data becomes a lot more fun when there’s creativity involved, so get those creative juices flowing.

We’ll encourage creativity and original thinking until the end of days, but be mindful to keep the data’s meaning clear. Don’t sacrifice understanding for an out-of-the-box approach in design. First and foremost, the audience must be able to understand the data. Feel free to get as creative and weird and compelling as you want, as long as the data is clear. In the end, that’s all that matters.

Lastly, combine the left and right sides of the brain to associate your bulky data with a story. Appeal to your audience’s heartstrings even when presenting dull facts and figures. Create some kind of lasting, captivating takeaway even if the data you’re presenting is particularly bland and boring. Your audience will always get more out of information if it’s presented in a relatable story-like fashion. It’s the ‘Oh!’ effect: present difficult to understand data, and then clarify it with a story or example of why it matters or how it works. “Oh!” your audience will think, and they’ll remember the data because it was presented in an interesting, thoughtful way. Winning on all fronts.

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