One Heck of a Mortgage

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 2 comments

where-will-axe-fallWhy is it that there is a mindset for presentations on financial data to inevitably be dry and boring? This is a huge misconception, and one I come across frequently. The first step to changing this mindset is not to create a presentation that is presenter-focused, but one that is audience-focused. Especially so when the financial data is going to be painful news. In the UK, we are still reeling from the impact of governmental department spending cuts. The best recent example of presenting the proposed cuts was given on Sky News by Martin Stanford; ‘Where will the axe fall?’

This 3 minutes overview of the expected cuts demonstrates the need for data to be communicated visually. You will notice how powerful and memorable it is when you see how the total government budget deficit, and individual departments’ budgets, change in size on the screen. You will also see Martin Stanford showing mastery of the technique dual encoding, and 4D presenting. He does this by synchronising the graphical changes with his narrative. He helps the viewer to easily understand the impact of the cuts (and we’re talking about billions here) by using some great analogies, such as, ‘And that’s one heck of a mortgage!’ (the UK interest payment of £40bn) to make the story relevant to the viewer. The other presentation technique which he seamlessly uses is directed attention.

These are techniques and skills that I coach executives in, in order to deliver presentations that are irrefutably more engaging, memorable and effective. And they apply to PowerPoint, as well as television. So what advice can I recommend for your next financially data rich presentation? Well, similar to how Chancellor Osbourne has been wielding the axe, take an axe to the series of tables, and lists of numbers and words, and replace them with graphics and visuals that your audience needs to see to easily understand your message. And make the message one that they can associate with and believe in. After all, seeing is believing. The axe man cometh…

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2 Comments to One Heck of a Mortgage

  1. #1

    Chris Atherton

    4:55 pm, November 2nd, 2010

    I agree that this is nicely done, but there is way too much random background stuff flying around on screen while he is trying to make his points. Massive visual distraction. Also, I’d have liked to see more reliance on the size of each icon as a representation of the proportion of the budget it commands.

    But, you know, everyone’s a critic ;)

  2. #2

    Joby Blume

    12:43 pm, November 3rd, 2010

    The ‘that’s one heck of a mortgage’ metaphor is a great example of effective political communication. Creating a metaphor that gets used helps to shape the way that people think about things.

    A country’s budget deficit isn’t like a mortgage, because of Keynsian economics – government spending (instead of paying off the deficit) creates jobs and revenue in the form of taxes. Most economists think this makes sense, and that prioritising paying off deficits led to the Great Depression.

    By thinking about the deficit as a mortgage – by getting people to understand government spending as if it was household spending – the value of government spending is missed. People think of government spending as if it was reckless consumer shopping at Primark or something.

    For anybody interesting in persuasive communication, I think the issue of creating and spreading metaphors is fascinating. Until the left can think of a decent alternative metaphor – and get it adopted – it will be hamstrung in its political communication. Unless voters all go and read Keynes, which they wont.

    On the actual visual – it would be nice to just see it all at once. Reminds me of the weather on the BBC now. What do they actually gain by flying around the country while ‘zoomed-in’? It was better before, when they just showed the whole UK at once.