Academic and statistician Hans Rosling’s TED Talk, “The Best Stats You’ve Ever Seen,” accomplishes what most presenters only dream of: giving numerical data a soul. How does he accomplish this? And how can you use his technique to help present a data-heavy presentation

It Starts With Storytelling

Why do numbers matter to Hans, the audience, and the students he first presented them to? He makes sure you realize all of these conjunctive relationships before he shows any information; first establishing that his students knew less than random-selection chimpanzees about global wellness at 1:53. Not out of ignorance, but out of preconceived notions about the world. Most importantly, he answers the question of “why?” This establishes the value of what he is about to say, adding weight to the information.

“Data is Often Better Than You Think”

After establishing the “why,” Hans launches into a passionate explanation about a chart which relates family size and life expectancy, changing the notion that there is a “Western World” and a “Third World” opposition. Starting at about 4 minutes, he narrates and moves through the projected data as it evolves over the years, adding drama and energy to the “data dots” which would have lost the audience’s interest in the hands of another presenter. Enthusiasm matters in a presentation; even charts can be delivered in a memorable way by an invested presenter. Hans Rosling is a perfect example of this technique in action.

Visual Design

By choosing motion graphics to present Rosling’s data, the viewer’s eye follows along where it needs to during the presentation. The numbers are presented with vibrantly colored bubbles and travel through the “years” fluidly, which make the presentation much more engaging than click-through slides with stagnant charts. Hans proves that beautifully designed data matters for public consumption, and that the information he presented should be accessible at 15:23. The whole point of the presentation is to show how preconceived notions and poor decisions hinder progress when the data is not available, clear, and consumable.

Statistics, graphs, and data don’t have to scare audiences and terrify presenters if they are approached with the same energy as Hans Rosling. His arm-waving and booming Swedish voice should be an inspiration for even the stuffiest board room presenter

Question: How can you use Hans Rosling’s techniques to present data during your next presentation?

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One response to “Bringing Data to Life: Lessons from Hans Rosling”

  1. Steve says:

    I've just came across your site after I'd written a blog post about PowerPoint and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts!

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