Posts Tagged "statistics"

Lies, Dam Lies and Statistics

Lies, Dam lies and Statistics

How to make statistics interesting…..


Are You the Authority?

You are speaking to a prospective client. You are making your pitch for business. As part of your presentation you quote some figures to support your argument. The question is, ‘Do you quote the source of the figures or do you leave that bit out?’

What is the answer? Well that all depends. What are you trying to achieve? Are you setting yourself up as the expert or are you after another authority to back your argument.

Today I was working with Peter as he prepared his sales pitch for new business. He is an expert in trading commodities (iron, oil, wheat etc). During his presentation he said,

‘BHP tells us that in the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

So should you quote the figures as coming from BHP or leave them off?

What is the effect of quoting BHP in the figures? Quoting BHP as the source will set them up as the expert. They will be the people with the information and you will be seen as ‘the messanger’ that knows the information. This puts you in a subordinate role and not the true authority.

To overcome this, we changed the sentence to read,

‘In the last 10 years, China has used more steel than the U.S. has used in the past 100 years. You need to be in commodities to be part of the action.’

The difference is subtle, but profound. Without the reference to BHP, Peter became the expert. He was no longer playing a subordinate role to BHP. Peter was now the one to be listened too and the centre of authority. If he is pressed on where the figures come from, he could state that the figures come from BHP. This would act to further reinforce his position.

Should this be the tactic that you use all the time? Certinally not. Once you have set yourself up as the expert, you can use other authorities to support your position. By using other authorities to support your stance as an authority you are strengthening your position. However, if you do it the other way around, you will be seen as trying to achieve your authority by riding on the coat tails of others.

What if you are not an expert at what you are trying to argue? What do you do then?

This is where you can draw on other authorities to establish your credibility (as opposed to authority). By stating what you believe and then having others support your position you gain vicarious authority. Alternatively, you can state how others support what you are saying. This authority will never be as strong as setting yourself up as ‘the’ authority, but it will be better than having no authority at all.

Do you agree?



Speak Motivate and Lead: How Real Leaders inspire others to follow

How to Make Statistics Training Interesting!

I recently had the opportunity to offer some presentation coaching with a client – Trina – who spent her day delivering statistical training. Her area of speciality was ‘imputation’, which looks at how you estimate certain numbers. As you could imagine, you could make the topic very dry and boring without even trying!

As I watched Trina deliver her training, I noticed that the people in the room were actually becoming involved and excited (well OK – Just involved) in what was being presented. Granted the participants were interested in the information, but lets face it, this was the fourth day of a full week of advanced statistical training! People were bound to be tired and over it. Why were these people so interested?

At the end of the training, Trina came up to me and apologised for all the things that she did wrong, and wished that she could do better. She said this was why she needed public speaking coaching. She apologised for holding her notes while she spoke, apologised for being nervous and apologised for being genuinely excited about the topic when no-one else was. What she did not realise was that her excitement for the topic was what made her so successful at her job.

Her enthusiasm for her topic was evident from the start. She told the participants that she was genuinely excited about the statistical Normal Curve, and what could be achieved by understanding it. She told stories of how her last employer ignored the normal curve, and how it cost them dearly. She showed the participants how they could follow the rules and avoid the same dire consequences. This is what involve the audience.

It was her enthusiasm for the subject that really entertained the audience. She was excited, and happy to be training and the carried her through and the audience through what was at times very tough and tedious learning

The fact that she held her notes, was no real distraction. The audience knew it was a technical presentation, and knew there was a lot of information to be presented, and understood that it would have been difficult to present off the top of your head. I gave her a few pointers on how to reduce the number of notes. She had several pages of the notes she was using. These were primarily be PowerPoint slides she was talking to. She could have made these notes more useful to her by reducing the amount that she wrote on them. Simple bullet points instead of full sentences would have helped her.

She also would have been better do not read the slides verbatim. Many public speaking articles have been written about how to use PowerPoint properly. They all suggest that you should not read what is on the slides as it simply distracts the audience. In fact, there is some research coming out of the University of New South Wales suggesting that reading the slides at the same time as people listening to you and reading them reduces the amount that they take in. This is due to cognitive overload. Our brain can only do so much at once and if we have to listen and read the same stuff, we will not taken as much information.

So yes it is possible to make statistics interesting! If Trina could make statistics interesting, can’t you make you all topic interesting? How do you do this? Follow Trina’s example: be excited about your topic; have stories relate to your topic; & show how the stories relate to your audience.

You can get more information about stories in public speaking by following this link to Executive Speaking.

Till later,



If you liked this, there are more great tips on making any speech interesting at Speak Motivate and Lead.
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