Numbers That Sing
Making Quantitative Analysis Engaging
A UBS managing director was giving a high-profile speech to an international governing body in the securities world. Much was on the line—large capital flows and the Swiss financial giant’s reputation for financial expertise and insight. He would be judged by some of the most influential members of the global financial community.
Like many of my trainees, the young man was a rising star. He also had a brilliant financial mind—and a bad case of stage fright that had kept him from public speaking before.
The managing director had mastered reams of data, and he had the slides and charts and graphs to prove it. But he had little to offer beyond clicking through a series of information- packed slides.
Together, we worked to discover and bring to the fore the narrative behind the numbers. Anyone can recite sets of relevant data. To dramatize the insight behind the data, I probed my client to review each slide. We asked the questions as if from the audience’s point of view:
Why would this be important to me? Why should it excite me? What about it could make me concerned?”
The presentation we crafted was thoughtful and daring, a wake-up call that would challenge received ideas. We rehearsed for weeks an authoritative delivery for his edgy, new thesis. But as I listened, I realized his tone was too abrasive.
To convince this target audience, he would need to be pitch-perfect. And this audience included some of the most powerful and experienced financial leaders in the world, from whom my client had learned—and earned—a good deal. It was important to be gracious, to show humility. We worked on delivering the same audacious message in a courteous and respectful tone.
That was all it took to make the speech a huge success, a defining event that put the young man’s career into overdrive. My client was immediately asked to speak at several international events and meetings. He gained recognition for his powerful, challenging insights into financial markets. And he made a promise to himself that he would never refuse an invitation to speak again.
It doesn’t matter what your message is if you can’t deliver it to the right ears. Knowing your audience is essential to crafting a communications strategy that works.
Many of the most acute analysts, researchers, and strategists struggle to communicate their important ideas in expressive, compelling language.
Recognizing that presentations are an essential business skill, UBS invited me to teach workshops in many divisions across the company. I focused on crafting clear and rich narratives, streamlining PowerPoint presentations, and helping speakers across the company find their voices and persuade their target audiences.
Open workshops also helped break down silos between departments. As employees gained a better understanding of their colleagues’ roles, they found better ways to work together and share information. The workshops were extremely popular, with long waiting lists for each course.
[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]
I always think a great orator convinces us, not by force of reasoning, but because he is visibly enjoying the beliefs he wants us to accept.
— W. B. Yeats
Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut out a word, always cut it out. Never use the passive voice where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.
— George Orwell “Politics and the English Language”
Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
— Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Do not put your faith in what statistics say until you have carefully considered what they do not say.
— William W. Watt
Specific Tools used:
- Individual coaching
- Small group workshops
- Large group seminars
- Skype conferences and training
- Videotaping and feedback
- Individual coaching via telephone
- Online speech editing Interview
- Training Retreat workshops
- Q&A role-play and practice sessions
- Team brainstorming sessions to elicit key messages