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Presenting Numbers: Learn to Avoid the ‘Deadly Sins’
As learning blends with other business functions, CLOs must be able to present financials and other metrics to senior leaders. Here are some tips to help avoid mistakes.
The need to show learning’s business value means presenting financials and other learning-related metrics has become an everyday part of the CLO job. Presenting numbers, like other business communication, is a craft that must be mastered. While some basic presentation skills apply, there are still some details to the process worth knowing.Chief Learning Officer spoke with Randall Bolten, CEO of management consulting firm Lucidity and author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You. Bolten describes the common mistakes people make when presenting numbers as the “deadly sins.”The following are edited excerpts from the interview.How is presenting numbers different from other forms of business communication?Other than the fact that numbers are involved instead of words, there is no difference. All of the characteristics of an important communication skill — how clearly you do it; how effectively you do it; how much skill you demonstrate when you do it; how you demonstrate; your respect for your audience or lack thereof — all of these things are critical elements of any communication skill. And that’s just as true for presenting numbers as it is for how clearly and effectively you write or speak.In the book, you use the term “quantation” as a style guide to presenting numbers. What does that mean?I came up with it because the whole book is about a specific skill, presenting numbers, and I wanted to have a one-word description of this particular skill — just like there’s a one-word description for writing and for speaking. Quantation is what is called a portmanteau word, which means it’s created from two other words (i.e. brunch, Spanglish). Quantation comes from quantitative communication. Quantation is the skill of presenting numbers to inform an audience. And if you’re going to write a book about it — and I used that term several hundred times in the book — it’s useful to have a single word to describe that skill.What are some examples of the “deadly sins,” or common mistakes, business leaders make when presenting numbers?
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