Bring data to life


Manufacturing quality pioneer W. Edwards Deming once said,

“In God we trust, all else bring data.”

While it’s always a good idea to back up your pitch with data (see our blog on Logos), it’s not always easy to do it in a way that tells a story. No offense to Mr. Deming, but data alone isn’t always the best way to get your point across.

For example, a client recently wanted to show that, in today’s scary world of cyber-security, phishing attacks are unbelievably fast and effective. And, they had great stats to back up their claim.

We started with this (used with permission):

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It will never hang in the Louvre, but it’s not horrible. It’s main weakness is that it needs to be explained to understand the story (or worse, you need to puzzle it out on your own). When you look at this slide, what do the numbers tell you? (OK, remember that story, we will refer back to it in a second.)

To make this story easier to understand, we broke it up over several slides and supported it with some animations. Watch the video to see the result:


See the difference? How does what you know now relate to what you knew before? How much mental effort did it take for you to get there?

This approach puts each piece of data in context, and uses simple visualizations to show what those numbers really mean. It’s far easier to follow, and leaves a more lasting impression on the audience – since it’s a lot easier to remember a story than a statistic.

Now, look at how small the text is at the bottom of the slide. This is intentional! These slides were presented on stage, so you are seeing them without the talk track.

And that talk track is important! Every time you reveal something particularly meaningful or insightful during a presentation, be it data or otherwise, it must come from you first. If you say it, it makes you look smart. If the slide says it, the slide looks smart. So deliver the insight, then click to back it up with your slide and deliver a one-two punch.

To sum up; data is good, data plus a story is better, and always make sure you look smarter than your slides!


Peter McKiernan

Director |