"The Power of Data Presentation: Understanding the World's Population"

Have you ever stumbled upon a report or a video that completely grabbed your attention, making you pause and ponder over the presented numbers?


I recently did while searching for data on the world’s population. I came across a report by the United Nations that was both informative and visually appealing, but what really caught my eye was a table that brought back memories of a video I had watched on the same topic.

I found the report very educating, well presented. Obviously – the graphs caught my eyes.

Here are some examples:

Each chart is clear, represents the topic very well, in my opinion – and is interesting, but it was more on the intellectual level.

Then I reached the following table:

I suddenly remembered a video I saw a while back – on the same topic – and how much I was struck by the numbers there.

After a short search, I found the video, uploaded by Hyperfine Media:

What I learned from this experience is that data presentation is a crucial aspect of understanding large numbers. In this post, I want to share with you three key insights that I often discuss in my work as a CEO consultant and teacher of data presentation.


Large numbers can numb our senses:

We often hear numbers like 8 billion, 12 billion, or 125 billion and are intimidated by their magnitude, but it’s essential to understand that these numbers are just nominal units and don’t give us a true representation of their size. A billion is a large number, but how much is a billion? Understanding the context of these numbers is crucial in comprehending their significance.


Context is key:

Giving numbers context and “downgrading” them makes it easier for us to understand their true value. For example, a 1.2 million dollar profit might seem like a good number, but it’s only positive if our projections were finishing 2022 with a profit of 1.8 million dollars. Similarly, five new clients might seem like a positive development, but it’s essential to understand the size of these clients to get a clearer picture.


The power of storytelling:

A good story can engage an audience and make complex data more digestible. Take, for instance, the concept of a 100-person village. This analogy helps us understand large numbers in a way that is relatable and easy to grasp.

In conclusion, data presentation plays a crucial role in helping us understand and make sense of large numbers. By giving numbers context, “downgrading” them, and using storytelling techniques, we can make complex data more accessible and engaging.

If you are interested in this topic, please read this post I wrote on this subject a while back.

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