Switch the focus from the data to the audience; Issue #226 January 4, 2011

PowerPoint Tip: Switch the focus from the data to the audience

A few months ago I advised a senior executive at a research firm on an upcoming presentation.  Today I want to share the advice I gave her because it can benefit all presenters who are sharing data with their audience.

This executive was about to present data to a client and the desire was that the client understand what that data meant to their business.  This type of scenario is common to many analysts and other professionals who present internally or to clients.  She was struggling with how to make the data make sense.  As we chatted, the key issue became clear.

She was focused on the data, where it came from, how it had been collected, and proving that the data was accurate.  All important aspects to her, but not important to the audience.  The audience didn’t care as much about the origins of the data as it did about what that data meant to their business.  They cared about what directions the data suggested, what this data implied for their future initiatives, and what they should do now given the results of the research.

Once she heard what I was saying, she was able to view her presentation from a totally different perspective, the perspective of the audience.  She focused her presentation on the key conclusions from the research and gave a few points of proof from the data.  It helped the audience understand and act on the points she presented.  She also mentioned that she found it easier to present since she was focused on the few key messages and could stay on track without getting lost in the details of the data.

The key for this executive, and for many presenters, is to switch the focus from the data to the audience.  By taking the audience’s perspective, you gain great clarity on what they are looking for and what is important to them.  If you have a lot of data, you’ll see that the audience is really only interested in the conclusions, not the data itself.  They don’t need to hear all the background behind the data.  They need to know what they should do based on what the data and analysis has shown.

Make this switch in your perspective, and you will find data driven presentations become far more effective.