TED Talks: 2 Kickass Ways To Present Data Suman February 20, 2016

TED Talks: 2 Kickass Ways To Present Data

Presenting data during presentations can be quite a challenging task. It is often considered boring and meaningless to run slide after slide of quarterly figures or various pie, bar and others graphs. Despite its tedious nature, we continue to do that in our presentations. But is there a way to make data and statistics fun, interesting and more appealing? Well! If you have ever watched TED videos of Hans Rosling, you can guess where I am going with this. Even though I am neither an expert nor highly interested in the topics of world population growth and child mortality, I love to watch Rosling’s talks just for the innovative way in which he brings the data alive as dancing balls on the graph!

I am going to share 2 videos with you today and I highly recommend that you watch both for the different ways in which data is presented.

This one from TED 2006, called The best stats you’ve ever seen, uses digital mode of data presentation. Rosling is talking about decades of data across parameters. But not for one moment do you feel lost. He vividly brings all of it to life and takes you along with his dramatic narration of the changes over centuries.


As Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well”. And the manner in which Rosling presents the data is a touchstone of his mastery and depth of the knowledge he presents.

In the next TED talk from June 2010 – Global population growth, box by box – he dumps digital graphs and switches to being an ‘analogue data person’ as he calls himself. He uses boxes from Ikea to represent world population – 1 million for each box. He uses some colour coding to depict developed countries from the emerging ones. And then he keeps pulling props out of the boxes to depict different economic aspirations of populations at different points in time. Footwear for the economically weakest, cycle for the slightly better ones, cars for the wealthier middle class and airplane for the already-there population that can afford air travel.

And as he moves boxes across these props of economic symbols, you can effortlessly see the story emerging. My aha moment in the presentation is when he moves a couple of boxes and magically makes all stacks of boxes equal! And that stands for when the economic level of all the countries of the world will be equal. And all this movement coincides beautifully with the story he is telling us all along. I don’t think there is a more interesting way to present statistics on world economy and growth over decades!

What are some of your ideas on making data interesting? Are there tips you discovered along your presentations which you thought made statistics appealing to your audience? I’d love it if you could share them with the readers here.