presenting data with confidence

10 Tips and Tricks to Present Data Confidently

Data consists of raw materials about a particular phenomenon, or in other words, data is what there is out there.

Information is a processed version of the materials provided by data. Information helps us make sense of the raw data in front of us, by providing particular details about the nitty-gritty of the nature of the data.

Data alone does not always suffice the purpose of a research or a study; information fuels the study further by bringing in insights and other relevant revelations to the table. 

“The goal is to turn data into information and information into insight” 

– Carly Fiorina ex CEO of Hewlett-Packard

Be it presenting data or imparting information, a lot of the onus of you creating an impact on your audience lies on how you present the data.

It is about the art of communicating data in a manner that not only strikes a chord with your audience but also helps you grow as an orator. 

The way you communicate and present your data should depend on the inherent features of the data. Your medium of presentation needs to match the nature of your data.

Imagine learning to bake a cake through a PowerPoint presentation. Boring right? I am sure you would rather prefer someone perform the process in real-time or through a video, with actual raw materials in front of them.

When there is congruency between data and the mode of presentation, the morale, and enthusiasm to present it and indulge the audience in the presentation boosts up for sure. This is because of the confidence that is instilled in you, the presenter, by the concreteness and relevance that dominates your data. 

Now, having established the importance of compatibility between your data and how you present it, working on some tangible aspects will help you transform your data into a resource that is easily noticed and comprehended by your audience.

10 tools to present data confidently:

  1. Colours
  2. Using all CAPS
  3. Being Minimal
  4. Simplifying data
  5. Nervous v/s Excited
  6. Rehearsed but Natural
  7. Buy time by giving your audience some time
  8. Maintain eye contact
  9. An Open posture
  10. Being vulnerable on stage

1. Colours

Colours are prevalent elements around us that we can manipulate according to our needs when it comes to presenting data. Leatrice Eisemen, who is a colour specialist, affirms the strong associative powers colours have on us.

Now, there are extremely high rates of subjectivity in this realm that you cannot control. But by following some general rules about the use of colours, you can make your data presentation something for the audience to look forward to!

Playing around with primary colours i.e. red, blue, yellow, and green is something that you can incorporate, besides the inevitable use of white, black and grey.

Our brains are wired in a way that makes us respond differently to the four primary colours. You can go ahead and experiment with the different shades of these colours to add variations and avoid monotony. 

Having said that, do not feel pressured to restrict your use to only these colours. When it comes to creating an impact on the aesthetic sense of your viewers, pastel colours can do wonders as well!

Keeping in mind the homogeneous aspects of your presentation slides work well for the visual stimulation of your audience.

As you can see in the picture above, the colour of the text and the background belongs to the same family of colours i.e. Grey and Brown. This creates homogeneity among and within the slides, thus maintaining an organized and a pre-determined theme for your presentation.

Concerning the above points, I’d like to introduce a new concept here- Colour Blocks. They can be thought of as a background or a theme.

If it’s for a background, then colour blocks can be understood as a variety of shades of one colour arranged aesthetically on the backdrop of a slide.

If it’s used as a theme, then it simply means using different shades and textures of one colour throughout your presentation, as explained above.

This technique increases familiarity with the colour and doesn’t consume much of your viewer’s energy on adjusting to a new colour every time for every slide. 

One more trick that you can indulge in is using a slightly different or a thoughtfully contrasting colour for a finding or a result or any other important detail in your slide. This will make that particular piece of data stand out from the rest of the content.

Now, this does not mean that you shouldn’t use more than one colour; it purely means that just because we have a palette of colours available, doesn’t necessarily mandate us to use them all. Select a few depending on the purpose of your presentation and use them wisely. 

Colour blocks consist of multiple shades of the same colour, thus giving an aesthetically familial theme to your presentation.

Speaking of colours, it’s also important you match your attire to the environment of your presentation. We’ve written an in-depth article called Guide: Colours to wear during a presentation just for this purpose if you want to read more.

2. Using all CAPS

Think about the last time you were at a mall during a sale. Do you remember being bombarded with exaggerated visual stimuli of “SALE!!!” written in red everywhere?

Well, it caught your attention, didn’t it? The purpose of the advertiser was fulfilled the minute you turned your head and gazed towards those loud red signs that itched you through your peripheral vision.

People respond differently to different fonts and styles of texts. But as I mentioned above, there are always some general rules and exceptions of perception that apply to everyone, for obvious reasons.

When presenting data, it’s no different. Just how the word sale written in all caps stood out from all the other stimuli present around you, an important finding or a piece of data in your presentation will stand out if you incorporate the all caps rule. 

Attention goes to what stands out. And why won’t it? If something’s standing out, it means that it is different from the rest of the stimuli. If there’s a conclusion or a summary of sorts, you might want to incorporate this rule for letting your data stand out from the rest of the material on that slide.

When you present your data in this manner, it stays with the audience, they remember the details vividly.

To add more spice to your data presentation, you can also try inducing the bold format in your already caps information. But be aware of not having all your information in bold; only the key features need to stand out. If everything is in bold and caps, your purpose will be defeated.

Using this principle in amalgamation with the first point will definitely enable you to curate an impactful way of presenting your data. 

3. Being minimal

Having a lot of information to share is something common in all presentations. But it is not always feasible or even recommended to share all of it, especially in one slide.

This may have many reasons, but the ones that I am going to be focusing on are perceptually driven:

  • “Less is More” is the motto of Minimalism, that happens to be a school of thought and a way of living. Less is in fact more in a presentation, because the lesser data you have on one slide, the more content you will have remaining to share orally. Keeping only the key points in your presentation slide and orating the backstory of those points will have a better impact than having everything on your slide and merely repeating the data orally. By following the former rule, i.e. by saying more by showing less, you are technically engaging with your audience instead of simply resorting to a black-board method of imparting information.

“Minimalism is not deprivation, it’s about intentionality.”

D. Stojanovic
Your slides create more impact with less information in them.
  • Minimalism also adds to the aesthetic sense of your presentation, in terms of the slides’ spacial features. The audience need time and space to decipher the data that you are presenting, and minimalism helps you right on with this. By enabling you to share less on the slides and more in your speech, Minimalism is a good assisting tool to resort to for a presentation.  

4. Simplifying data

Data visualization elements like a bar graph, pie chart, or a line graph all represent a specific set of numerical data. Depending on the nature of the topic and the purpose of your presentation, this set of data needs to be simplified.

Be it a chart or an infographic, more often than not, the way you present your data determines your success as a presenter than your data alone. 

Cramming up all the data in one slide, one below the other may not always work for you. While preparing for a presentation, understanding the relativity of your data is important.

By relativity I mean, the fact that your data will need to be organized in a different way depending on where you’re presenting and what’s your target audience like.

You also need to consider the amount of time you’ve been allotted to present. Under such tight circumstances, it will do more harm than good to get all your data on one page in an attempt to want to “get done with it”. 

Try using these techniques under this realm to organize your data in a scheduled manner:

Tell a story

Now, you literally don’t have to make up a story with the numbers and graphs in front of you. Telling a story is more like connecting the dots and having a flow in your speech. This establishes a concrete context for your audience, thus making it simple for them to decipher the meaning of what is being shared.

Having diagrams and charts in your presentation will help you connect the dots and form a story from the content being presented.

Related content and media

Let’s admit it, a presentation that only consists of numbers and facts and loads of jargon can get monotonous. Such a presentation can even shift the audiences’ attention because of lack of stimulation and variation of sorts.

To keep your audience hooked to your presentation, you need not shy away from adding light-hearted humorous content in between.

Of course it should be related to your topic. It could be funny quotes or intellectual quotes by some eminent personalities from the field of your topic. This will not only lighten the mood but will also help your audience to stay on track. 

These were some of the technical tips to help you out with your data presentation. Below are some tricks to help you with your oratory skills.

No matter how many speeches or presentations you may have delivered in your life, there will be some amount of anxiety within you before going up on the stage, or in today’s times, switching on your camera and unmuting your audio in a zoom meeting. 

Presenting data, or anything for that matter, requires you to have faith in your preparation and the information you will deliver. This can get tricky because at this point you have a lot to do: gather data, convert it into useful information, prepare for your presentation and deal with your anxious, and often irrational thoughts. But don’t worry, we have got you covered for the confidence-building part of this seemingly endless process! 

5. Nervous v/s Excited

Getting jittery before a performance or a big event of which you are a part is a natural process. This way your body alerts you and makes you aware of your actions and surroundings.

But, here’s the catch: don’t call it nervousness, treat it like excitement, something that you’re looking forward to doing.

This will trick your brain into sending positive signals to other parts of the body, signals that your brain would send before a sports match or a date that you’re really excited about. Think about how differently you act when you’re nervous than when you’re excited. 

Turning your nervousness into excitement

6. Rehearsed, but natural

Don’t skip this point under the impression that it’s going to talk about the same old things related to the significance of rehearsal before a performance.

Yes, rehearsals are very important because the act of going over your data, again and again, will make your brain habituated to that set of stimuli and will help you remember stuff better.

However, rehearsal is not all that there is that’s going to help you ace your presentation. A lot of it relies on how you deliver it. 

For instance, you have practiced your speech and presentation several times to instill a sense of confidence in yourself about your performance. Now practice it a few more times to make your presentation look natural. Meaning, it often happens that because of multiple rehearsals, we tend to orate robotically, without any pauses or without the notion in mind that we have an audience in front of us.

You can make your speech or presentation look natural by adding a few filler words or conjunctions like “umm”, “uh”, “and” etc.

Make sure that you don’t overuse these filler words as they may annoy your audience. 

Another trick that you can resort to is practicing in front of a small audience, which could be your family or friends. This will, again, make you mindful of the presence of other people in front of you who are absorbing the content that you’re delivering.

As Ken Haemer rightly said, Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern.” 

Related article: Surprisingly Simple But Effective Processes to Practicing for a Speech

7. Buy time by giving your audience some time

Having understood the importance of pauses in your presentation, it is time for you to, now, use those pauses for your benefit during the course of your presentation.

When you pause, you are essentially giving some space to your audience to take in the stimuli that you have presented them. But indirectly, you are buying yourself some time to rehearse the next set of data that you will be presenting.

When you pause or take some time for a breather, it is understood that you are confident enough to pause in the first place. By taking a moment, you show that you are comfortable with that small patch of silence between you and your audience. And in that small gap, you get to prepare yourself for the next set.   

Pausing boosts the efficiency of your presentation.

8. Maintain eye contact

I am sure that maintaining eye contact is challenging for a lot of us, and I agree with you on this one. Locking your vision with someone else’s while delivering a speech may seem intimidating, and may even be considered best to avoid by some.

But it is an essential element of a presentation because when you look at your audience and address them, they feel more engaged and consider themselves to be an active part of the setting. It also helps you, as an orator, to establish a rapport with them.

A failure to maintain proper and purposeful eye contact will make you come off as less believable and low in confidence. This, in turn, will have a negative impact on the engagement that the audience has with the content that you’re presenting. 

“Looking into the eyes of others may make you feel as if you are staring at them, but you are not doing any such thing. You are simultaneously being assertive and empathetic because you are asserting your opinion and then watching their faces to understand their response”,

Writes Sims Wyeth writes for INC. 

(Here’s an interesting study that showcases the importance of eye contact for your reference).

Easier said than done, indulging in the act of maintaining purposeful and strategic eye contact is very tricky; here are a few tips that you can integrate into your preparation:

Talking in front of the mirror

This will enable you to monitor the way you speak, the way you stand, and your overall body language, aside from assisting you in regulating your eye contact.

Create an Illusion

Addressing an audience is very different and way more challenging than talking in front of a mirror. But doing the latter is a stepping stone to mastering the former.

Having said so, the game changes when you step on a podium or a stage, and notice a hundred, probably a thousand eyes looking at you. Now, this can make anyone shiver, especially if you are a beginner at delivering speeches and presentations.

But here is something that can do to lessen the tension within you with respect to maintaining eye contact with your audience- no, I am not talking about picturing everyone naked, as against that, I am suggesting looking at their fully-clothed selves and focusing on either their foreheads or their chins.

This technique creates an illusion of you looking at them without actually having to look at them. It takes birth especially when you focus on their forehead as it’s right above the eyes.

If looking at people’s foreheads is something that you don’t think will help you, you can simply look at the corners of the auditorium or the room where you are presenting. This will give the impression that you are covering a large area of the circumference of the seating arrangements.

Be it a small room or a large auditorium, organizing your eye contact throughout the area is an integral part of a presentation.

Form a ‘W’

If and when you become a little more confident and comfortable in front of an audience, you could use another technique to work on your eye-contact skills during a presentation.

This one is a tad more challenging than the above trick, but it is also very effective.

As you begin your presentation, it may not occur to you to look at different directions in the room. It can also get very annoying to constantly remind yourself to look in different directions.

To avoid this, you can practice the W technique. This involves forming a W in your visual field by moving your eyes and tracing the shape of a W among the area where the audience is seated.

This practice will give the audience a sense of being talked to and ensure consistency in maintaining proper eye contact on your end.

It will take a while for you to get adjusted to this trick, but once you’ve mastered it, it will definitely come in handy on the main day!

Record yourself

If talking in front of a mirror doesn’t work for you, try recording yourself on a device while you’re practicing. This will take the possible awkwardness that some of you might face while talking to yourself in front of the mirror, and give you a feeling of being a Youtuber for those few minutes of your practice session! (if that’s something that you want).

9. Keep an OPEN posture

About what I said in the above points, having a proper physical stance, along with maintaining eye contact is essential for your data presentation as it establishes a sense of confidence among your listeners in your presentation.

While on stage, try not to restrict your body movements; for instance, keeping your arms crossed in front of your chest might make you look defensive.

That posture might be ok for you to assume when having a one-on-one conversation with a friend. But when you’re addressing an audience, you need to keep your hands free to be able to use them as and when required.

This will portray you as an effective and confident orator and enhance your inner energies towards your presentation. 

10. Being Vulnerable on stage

One of the most important elements of presenting data confidently is how you present yourself to your audience. There’s a thin line between you being genuine in your data and self-presentation, and you coming off as someone who is showing off on stage and being, well, for the lack of a better term, cocky.

Your aim on stage, while presenting data, should be to educate the audience in terms of imparting your understanding of the topic to them.

In doing so, you need to be mindful of how much value you are adding to them during the course of your presentation.

Another aspect of being vulnerable on stage includes making a mental note of what your audience might want to know in relation to the data already being presented, and actually working on it in your presentation.

This will increase your chances of creating a long-lasting impact on them and also gaining experience in the realm of being a considerate presenter.

Those were some tricks to help you with the oratory and aesthetic parts of a presentation. In addition to the above-mentioned tips and tricks, here are a few more points that you can include in your preparation:

Bonus Points to Presenting Data With Confidence

Wear something comfortable

A lot of your confidence stems from what you’re wearing and how you look. Keeping in mind the decorum that needs to be followed for the occasion of your presentation, wear something that you are comfortable in.

If there is no leeway for you to be picky about what outfit to wear, wearing something that makes you feel uncomfortable but is deemed to be appropriate for the occasion, as a practice may help you. 

Sleep well

Lastly, having a good night’s sleep before your big day is important because your brain needs some space to rest, and a lot of energy to function under the high pressured environment in your system because of all the butterflies fluttering around!

Conclusion

This was it from me on how to present data confidently. I hope that these tips and tricks help you in your journey of becoming a more efficient data presenter than you were before.

Of course, this goes unsaid that the list is not restricted to only these 10 tips and tricks. There is always room for you to be creative to incorporate other methods and practices that work for you and the occasion that you need to prepare yourself for.

Here’s another article we wrote on 11 Steps to Add Facts in A Speech Without Making It Boring if you want to check out more information on this topic.

Hrideep Barot is the founder and chief writer at Frantically Speaking, a portal to help people learn everything about public speaking. The purpose of franticallyspeaking.com is to showcase the lessons that he has learned (and still learning) from his numerous stage experiences and mentors over all these years.