Fact Check Your Presentations

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

In a world of fake news and alternative facts, good quality data matters. Good data at least allows the possibility of good decisions, and a culture of fact-checked presentations and reports can therefore be the difference between success and failure of a new product, process or entire business!

Let’s take a good news story and a less than ideal stat.

A story I heard on the Planet Money podcast a couple of years ago, always stuck with me. You can find it here: Planet Money - UPS Story. It’s the story of how technology allowed UPS to track every driver and every parcel down to the most miniscule detail and how they used that data to improve both micro and macro processes and behaviours to increase each driver’s deliveries from 90 to 120 parcels a day.

Equally of course, there are many, many stories of poor data causing poor decisions and indeed the downfall of a number of substantial institutions. According to IBM, the annual cost of poor quality data, in the US alone in 2016 was $3.1 trillion. I haven’t fact-checked that, but the story is here: IBM Estimate

Why is this relevant to a presentation and communication skills blog? Because we are all receiving and passing on facts and statistics all the time and while it can be easy to assume that the original source of that information is trustworthy, we could be doing our company and clients a terrible disservice in the process. 

Even the most basic stuff needs checking occasionally. Here are 3 myths from the training industry that are still in wide-spread circulation, are often quoted but have been dispelled some time ago. I'm sure you'd be familiar with them:

1. The Mehrabian Model or the 7:38:55 model - The meaning of your message is conveyed by way of 7% words, 38% voice, 55% body language. Debunked many years ago: Mehrabian Myth

2. Public speaking is people’s greatest fear – not according to this survey that appears to be more credible than most online, where it comes in 52nd America's Top Fears

3. People learn better according to their individual learning style eg Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic – google ‘learning styles debunked’ or for one quick summary go here Learning Styles

In short, urban myths in our community and our businesses abound. We owe ourselves, our teams, our companies and dare I suggest the world, the courtesy of fact-checking our content before including it in our presentations and conversations.

NB Go here for an excellent tool, by way of 3 questions to ask, to ascertain whether a number is credible or not: Mona Chalabi TED

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