Humanizing Your Presentation

The Plastic Cup Experiment:

Noticing how people behave in unconscious ways that manifest into undesired consequences, Chris Jordan decided to use a similar method in his photographic work. From a distance, one of his images looks like a “new-gothic cartoon image of a factory spewing out pollution,” as he describes it, but the closer you get to it the more layers you notice. Under closer inspection it looks like a series of twisting pipes. Another step closer and you see that each “pipe” is made up of individual plastic cups. One million, to  be exact. The same number of plastic cups used on American flights every six hours.

Jordan could have simply presented a statistic critically analyzing the data of plastic cup usage on flights in the US. But unless plastic cup statistics happen to be your niche there’s nothing exciting about numbers and cups alone. No, the reason people care about that statistic is in the way Jordan presents it, which begins as raw data, gets processed into information, and is then framed to add the weight the stat needs to be effective.

Data doesn’t have to be boring…

Let’s be honest, people react to statistics the way they react to bullet points — with boredom. How could they not, when the human element is completely removed in favor of context-less information? If we want people to care about boring statistics, we have to give them some humanity by embellishing it with a visual narrative.

Humanizing a statistic not only makes it more accessible to the people viewing your presentation, but it makes an effective call to action. Consider a research agency making a case for the amount of toxic chemicals incidentally ingested by populations near chemical plants. A bar graph, histogram, or white paper on the statistic is detached from the human element, meaning it doesn’t inspire the action the statistic requires. If that same statistic was presented not as a graph or chart, but in a way similar to Jordan’s plastic cups, then we would see not a number, but an individual, society, or culture.

Be an Entertainer

How we make associations matter. If you want to reach people with your presentations, you have to start thinking in terms of people, and not just about crunching the numbers. While the statistics and data that you present may be the final takeaway, the first goal is to ensure they are read and retained. Stats and graphs hardly accomplish this effectively. That’s where a designer can help you accomplish your mission.

Source: Bridged Design