Watched a C-level keynote today where the presenter had clearly done some research.  Problem is, he then proceeded to quote random facts in differing units, making comparisons virtually impossible.  At one point he quoted some important length of time from days of yore as 1100 days.  His next sentence then compared that to the present day, “where it takes only 12-18 months“.  WOW!!  A reduction from 1100 to 12-18.  Oops.  1100 days is 3 years, or 36 months.  Yes, this is a reduction, but only about half or better, and you’d need to be real quick on the mental math to catch that.  I’m sure the listener (at least THIS listener) wondered why this conversion wasn’t done for them.Another slide compared data amounts.  On the SAME slide, different figures were given in:

  • Total number of items
  • Exabytes/yr
  • Petabytes/month
  • Emails/day
  • Terabytes/yr
  • New items per day

And that didn’t even include the four font types/sizes.  Just what are we comparing?  Quick: which is greater, 20 exabytes/yr or 6.7 petabytes/month?  I dare say only the most geeky could quote whether an exabyte is bigger than a petabyte (kilo/mega/giga/tera/peta/exa/zetta in powers of 1k, for those that care).  This is careless and lazy preparation, and the listener is both confused and offended by its use (or tempted to just sleep).Whenever quoting numbers or amounts that are big or comparing different things, put it in terms the listener can relate to.  Steve Jobs does this well — he quotes iTunes sales in terms of populations of states (something along the lines of “we’ve sold more iTunes than the population of every state except California.”)

Put figures in terms your audience can understand, and use like units when comparing.

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