How to Present Data like Hans Rosling

Watch Hans Rosling’s TED talk below, after which we will analyze how he interacts with his visuals (and how you should too):

This post is part of my free 47 week public speaking mastery course and contains material from my bestselling Kindle book, “TED:ology: Presentation lessons from TED Talks

Please first watch the video below before you read the post

Seamless Engagement with Visuals

If you’ve watched the video above, you’ll notice that Rosling’s language speeds up as his story progresses, and he launches a series of rhetorical questions that get to the heart of the problem:

“Now what has happened since 1962? We want to see the change. Are the students right? It’s still two types of countries? Or have these developing countries got smaller families and they live here? Or have they got longer lives and live up there?”

 The cascading questions, posed with ever-increasing urgency, intensify the stakes.

As a speaker, you should vary your pace, volume and tone to create different moods in your audience.

Rosling then says: “Let’s see. We start the world.”

He returns to the podium, hits a key, and suddenly the screen comes to life, with the circles and dots moving across the screen to reflect the passage of time and the changing health and economic data.

 Then Rosling himself leaps into action. He turns completely around to face the screen, his back to the audience, his arms outstretched over his head, and he moves his arms along with the spheres as if he himself is physically orchestrating the movement of the data. Remember that you can make your presentation exciting by being excited about what you’re presenting.

On and on it goes, as the decades and data fly by and Rosling narrates the changes with mounting speed and urgency, as if he’s calling a horse race that’s neck and neck on the final stretch.

“Can you see there? It’s China there, moving against better health there, improving there. All the green Latin American countries they are moving towards smaller families. Your yellow ones here are the Arabic countries, and they get larger families, but they — no, longer life, but not larger families. The Africans are the green down here. They still remain here. This is India. Indonesia’s moving on pretty fast.”

By physically interacting with the screen, Rosling creates a seamless connection between himself and his visuals, which begin to seem almost like an extension of his body. As we watch the fast-moving data, there’s the sense that what we’re actually watching are this brilliant man’s thoughts in motion. The screen becomes a projection of the inner workings of this man’s highly complex brain.

Note that it’s the human being who is compelling, not just the data on the screen.

The Gapminder software is exciting, yes, but it’s Hans Rosling himself who invests his passion and enthusiasm into the unfolding data, and gives it life and meaning.

Always remember that it’s you, not the software, that’s the star.

No piece of software can make your presentation exciting unless you first are excited about the presentation.

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