Many years ago, one of our coaches took a statistics course at a local community college. His professor had such a heavy French accent that he literally could only understand about a third of the words he said. He learned everything from reading the textbook. Most presenters that use a lot of statistics don’t do much better than that professor: the numbers come across to listeners as a foreign language.


Indeed, statistics are the most commonly used yet least effective form of evidence. But there are some keys to using numbers and statistics effectively:

  • Limit the numbers. If you have a lot of statistics or financial information, don’t go over every number during the presentation. Focus on one or two key numbers and then hand out the rest and take questions.
  • Show simple relationships. Say you’re talking about the drop in the cost of computers over the last 25 years. Rather than give the actual percentage decline, you might do a relationship comparison to bring the figure to life. You might say that if the cost of cars had declined by the same degree, a Jaguar would cost only $50.
  • Use an analogy. An acre is 43,650 square feet. To help your audience see an acre, tell them to visualize a football field without the end zones.
  • Tell the story behind the numbers. Don’t just say sales are down. Dig behind the numbers to show why sales are down. For example, you might start by showing how sales dropped five percent last month because of poor weather. Well how does poor weather cause reduced sales? Tell me a story about a single salesman and his inability to make his rounds due to the excessive rain.

Numbers aren’t the best way to bring a presentation to life. But if you’re going to use them, use them in a way that connects with your listeners.

Speechworks is a communication and selling skills coaching firm. We teach professionals how to craft and deliver complex messages in a simple, persuasive manner. Since 1986, through workshops and one-on-one instruction, we have helped countless individuals become better presenters and communicators. You can reach us at 404.266.0888, or on the web at

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