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Want People To See The Numbers Like You Do? Think Like A College Tour Guide

Have you ever been on a Zoom call with a busy PowerPoint slide shared on the screen while a confident speaker proclaims, “The numbers speak for themselves!" You look at the slide and wonder, “Do they?”

When a speaker makes this assertion, here’s what the audience might be thinking:

  1. The numbers do make sense to them, and in a way that’s consistent with the intended meaning of the speaker;

  2. The numbers do make sense to them, but in a way that’s inconsistent with the intended meaning of the speaker;

  3. The numbers do not make sense to them, and they don’t have a clue what point the speaker is trying to make.

Two out of three of the scenarios above are bad for the speaker.

If you want people to “see” the numbers the way you “see” them, then walk your audience through the numbers like a student guide might lead a college tour around campus.

For example, “On the left side of the chart, you will notice a second-quarter dip in sales. We believe this was caused by a familiar and expected seasonal effect. However, as we move from the left to the right side of the chart, third-quarter sales continue to lag and this result is neither familiar nor expected…”

Each of us “sees” the numbers through different lenses. Our experiences, education, mindsets, and filters can vary dramatically. When we assume that the numbers speak for themselves, we may miss an important opportunity to connect with and persuade our audience.

Have a persuasive day!

Originally published with The Latimer Group updated 1/27/22

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