I’ll talk you through this data slide…

Data slides usually resemble a “Where’s Wally?” picture. Presenters either offer to “talk you through” something like the worst slide in the world or simply talk whilst the audience desperately scan graphs and columns trying to derive meaning from facts. This should be addressed in the construction of the presentation, not its delivery.

Consider what precisely you want the audience to take from the individual slide.  Remember it simply is not possible to compute large amounts of data whilst at the same time listening to the speaker. It may be pertinent to the discussion for this data to be available afterwards: this is what a handout delivers. We are no longer at school and it is acceptable to have the handout delivered before the presentation. Your purpose is to draw meaning from the data and communicate that, not simply to regurgitate it.


Scientific or technical presentations are not the same as journals. There is no requirement to annotate graphs in intricate detail. Other data may have been gathered but unless it accentuates the point you are trying to deliver, then it distracts. If you consider all of the data equally important then you have no clear understanding of what you are trying to say. Simplification in explanation is the display of understanding and this is the basis of teaching.



What single fact are you trying to illustrate? Is there a way to simplify all of that complex data such that only that which you consider appropriate for that moment is communicated? If there is more data, give it the prominence it deserves. If there is too much, then rationalise your thoughts.

Can’t make sense of that last slide? You will when you hear me talk about it.

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  1. Pingback: A scientific presentation at BBTS Conference - p cubed presentations

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