Research has shown that the single best indicator of success – for any profession – is how often you are asked to deliver presentations.
According to Estienne de Beer, author of “Boosting Your Career,” those who give more presentations tend to have higher salaries than those who give fewer presentations.
This means that good presentation skills are not a “nice to have” skillset, but instead are mandatory if you intend to move up in your organization and eventually make more money.
This is further confirmed by research firm, IDC. After combing through 14.6 million job postings, they identified the ability to synthesize, present and communicate information as one of the primary skills that is required for the top “high-growth, high-wage occupations that will account for 11.5 million new hires and 28 percent of job growth by 2020.”
That means that if you’re not working on your communication and presentation skills…well, you’re missing out – big time.
So what does it mean to be able to synthesize, present and communicate information?
It means being able to create compelling presentations with clear messages. But many presentations given fall short – mostly because they forget to make a point.
So let’s dive into a few rules to help you get to your point, and eventually, help you march up the ladder faster.
Rule #1: The Rule of Two’s
Lots of people use pie charts to communicate their information, so let’s start right there.
On the left-hand side in the graphic below, you can see a classic example of what you might put up on your slide. But what you’re trying to say is what is highlighted on the right-hand side.
And notice how much clearer your data is when you boil it down like this.
If you used the example on the left, not only would the audience have no idea what you’re trying to say, but you yourself might forget what you wanted to point out during the presentation. However, if you used the graphic on the right, I bet you would know exactly what to say and that the audience would immediately know that 70% of the web traffic is organic.
And that’s exactly what putting the “Rules of Two’s” in action looks like.
When presenting your data as a pie chart, the “Rules of Two’s” means that you can only show two data points (even if you have to consolidate your information as I did above). By boiling your data down into just two data points, you create a crystal clear visual to help you make your point.
To go deeper into the “Rule of Two’s” and some other aesthetic guidelines I have for using pie charts, watch the short 5 minute YouTube tutorial, 2 Pie Chart Tips – What’s the Point of that Slide?!
When getting to the point of your slides, the first step is to get rid of the extra complexity as we did here with the Rule of Two’s. The next rule will help you get to a more impactful point.
Rule #2: The Magic is in the Middle
When synthesizing, presenting and communicating information, it’s important to remember that context is often what drives home the point of your slides.
And context is created by simply taking your data point, fact or figure, and comparing it to something else.
For example, just having a single data point (like 70% of our traffic is from a single source) is next to meaningless without context. Chances are that your audience it somewhat familiar with your topic; but they may not know how important 70% is. Is it high? Is it low? Has it improved?
So the first step is to add some more data points around your original one.
And now this is where the “Magic is in the Middle” rule comes into play. The context (and thereby, the point you are trying to make), can be found in the space between your data points.
For example, if the graphic below was on your slide, you would want to address what happened there in between the two data points. What happened to make the purple 2015 number become the blue 2016 number on the right?
There was a 40% growth in traffic…the “Magic is in the Middle!”
Depending on your point or recommendation, you could further dive into things like:
- What does the growth rate mean?
- Is it sustainable? Why or why not?
- What should your company do to continue the rapid growth?
- What should your company do to stop the rapid growth?
And that’s the beauty of using context and then highlighting the difference to shake out a point. It gives you room to tell your story, make your recommendations, and present and communicate your information better.
The better you can synthesize, present and communicate your information, the better off your slides are going to be – and the better off your career is going to be!
For additional help with the “Magic is in the Middle” and more examples, see the short 5-minute YouTube tutorial below.
For additional help with how to better present your information by using storytelling (like turning your data points into memory glue), see our blog post on 15 storytelling tips.
Getting to Your Point to Increase Your Salary
Learning how to effectively synthesize, present and communicate information is a lifelong learning process, but it all starts with understanding how to make a point.
In this post, I covered a few rules you can apply to a wide variety of data visualizations to help you get to the point of your slide. As a quick recap, those rules are:
- The Rule of Two’s – Boiling down complicated pie charts into only two pieces of information that you can highlight, contrasting one with the other.
- The “Magic is in the Middle” – When comparing two pieces of data, focusing on the difference between the two data points and why it’s important enough to put it up on your slide in the first place.
At the end of the day, remember that data points are static…they don’t create themselves and they don’t explain themselves. People are what makes data talk. So staying focused on what caused one data point to turn into another is always the first step to presenting your information and crafting an interesting story.
You audience, your boss, and your wallet with thank you!
ABOUT TAYLOR CROONQUIST
Taylor Croonquist is the shortcut and productivity guru for Nuts and Bolts Speed Training company, which helps companies build better PowerPoint slides in shorter time frames. Hailing from the home of Microsoft and Starbucks, he came up with the “One Armed Mouse” technique in order to be able to combine these two passions: PowerPoint-ing with a coffee in one hand and a mouse in the other. For more information about the company’s services, visit nutsandboltsspeedtraining.com.