Making Statistics Meaningful

Statistics are boring

Complex Mathematical Formula

Presenting statistics without making them clear, impactful or meaningful, is boring. On their own, statistics are just numbers. You, as the presenter, have to make them meaningful, relatable and memorable.

Bring Size to Life

For example, if you are trying to get across the size of the moon, as compared to that of the earth, you could say that the diameter of the mSoccer and Tennis Ball Size Comparisonoon is 3,474 km compared to that of the earth’s, at 12,742 km. However, saying that the moon’s volume is only 2% of that of the earth is more direct and concise. Saying that you could fit 50 moons into the earth will be less conceptual and more memorable. Saying it’s like comparing a tennis ball with a soccer ball, really brings the bacon home. That is, using a visual, has instant impact and clarity.

Show Us

Circular Bar Graph of World Statistic as a Percentage
Click on image to enlarge

There is a saying, “Show us, don’t tell us”. That’s partly why bar graphs are used. Because the length of each bar shows the difference visually. I like the image on the left, it uses circular bar codes to bring large numbers down to a percentage, visually.



Below is another example of using images. The point it’s making is that in  Australia, a total of 13,750 refugees are accepted to enter our country annually. That’s 0.059% of Australia’s population. That’s 1 refugee for every 1682 Australians. Each statement above, in-turn, clarifies the point. However, the visual below makes the point instantly and more powerfully.

Spot The Refugee - One Per Sixteen Hundred


What’s Your Point?

In general, if you ask yourself, “What am I trying to say with this statistic?” Then the answer is your message or point? Sure, quoting a statistic gives your point credibility. But I suggest you can say it or show it more clearly, more succinctly and with greater impact than the statistic alone would. The audience is then more likely to remember your point and be more convinced. Again it’s about the power of story telling, the story behind the statistic. Check out the Ted Talk below and note how well the presenter tells his story.

Make statistics meaningful, visual and memorable, so you connect with your listeners.

Speak to Connect and make a difference.

Author: Henk van den Bergen

I have been speaking on Champagne for 20 years and decided to improve my speaking skills by joining Toastmasters International 13 year ago. I'm still a member today and I'm passionate about sharing what I’ve learned. I’m also proud to be the 1998 “Vin de Champagne Award” winner and being a three time Australian finalist in the International Speech contest.

2 thoughts on “Making Statistics Meaningful”

  1. Great message and examples here. I really liked the one about the moon and earth, and the refugee stats hit home (as I’m in Australia too). So thanks for sharing.

    You might like this critique I recently wrote about a video from the Toastmasters website. (If you’d like to, comments and links are always welcome on my site.)

    I’ve been blogging about public speaking for about 5 years, and last month reached ½ a million all-time page views. So keep up the good work!

    1. Hi Craig, apologies for not replying earlier. Until now I didn’t know how comments worked on WordPress until today. I just thought I wasn’t getting any. Checked out a few of your posts and mentioned on the posts that I really found the dot points alternative really helpful and relevant to me.
      The Toastmasters’ handling Nerves video critique was quite in depth and analytical. I guess for people who present, especially on video would lap it up.

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