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The Rockstar Statistician And Your Sales Storytelling

data presentation masterclass from Davos Jan 2015


Gustavus Adolphus, Ikea, Abba.

You gotta love the Swedes.

Yet who from Sweden has made the biggest global impact?

The founder of Spotify (and newly crowned most influential music industry bod) feels it’s Hans Rosling. He’s not alone.

Although the man himself, a new breed of “edutainer” and self-styled “possibilist”, thinks differently. ‘Fame is easy, impact is not’. And in the world, there’s ‘too much Word, not enough Excel’.

This week he sadly died, aged 68.

I’ve blogged inspired by him a few times over the years (such as on misleading averages and chimps throwing at a dartboard).

Hans was a stats man. But no ordinary number cruncher.

He brought figures to life. “Made data dance”. His animated graphs on population, with their bulging, rising and deflating balloons, if not quite inventing the genre, then certainly launched dataviz to the grateful masses. Surely a big reason TED took off.

Obits glowed forth. ‘The Jedi master of data’. ‘Statistics and development champion’. ‘Data wizard’.

In his hands, data did indeed ‘sing’. Selling graphs cannot hope to emulate his panache. Yet even restricted by a few minutes for our latest powerpoint or keynote (or newer alt marvel), we can still take an awful lot from his magic.

Chief among them are; the crispness of his style, how he contrasts two differing sets, and the way you can show up a common yet flawed conventionally held ‘truth’.

With this last one, he strove for factfulness. In this era of “alternative facts”, being able to see data from a different, more revealing angle can be priceless.

Storytelling. Perhaps his greatest lesson for us sellers.

He was a master at it. How can we tell a story through the numbers?
Also, how he teed up his performances merits plaudits too. Here’s his intro to one of his most viewed pieces, 60min opus The Truth About Population;

Tonight, I’m going to show you how things really are.

My name is Hans Rosling.

I’m a statistician – No No No No! Don’t Switch Off!

Because with the latest data … I’m going to show you the world in a new way.

I’m going to tell you how world population is changing and what today’s data tell us about the future of the world will be.

We undeniably face huge challenges.

But the good news is that the future may not be quite as gloomy and that mankind is already doing better than many of you think.

Superb. Can you make your selling sing the Hans Rosling way?

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