How to make a presentation with data that moves people

Nancy Duarte

Written by

Nancy Duarte

If you’re not analytical by nature but have to give a presentation to a particularly analytical audience, it’s important to toe the line between knowledgeable expert and impassioned storyteller.

Professionals in data-dense industries (like Pharma, Tech, Engineering, or Finance) value concrete information. And they often need statistical evidence to believe what you tell them.

Granted, they’ll respond to narrative-driven presentations like most audiences do. But, they value evidence too.

Marketing presentations are often packed with compelling stories and emotional anecdotes. These can be moving for a wide range of audiences.

However, too much emotion, story, and slick graphics feel like marketing fluff that could impact your credibility.

Keep the following things in mind when preparing presentations for an analytical audience. Using these tips you’ll build credibility with peers and ultimately incite action in listeners.

Don’t get rid of the emotion — temper it

Aristotle claimed that in order to persuade, you need to rely on 3 complementary argument types: Appeal to ethics (ethos); appeal to emotion (pathos), and appeal to logic (logos).

The best presentations incorporate all 3 of these — but they don’t necessarily do it evenly spread across them.

Creating a presentation that hits home for a data-reliant audience, you want to lean more heavily on an appeal to logic. This is where you include all of your facts, numbers, and data.

Yet, to spur people to act effectively, you should not forgo emotional content entirely.


Remember, nearly all humans are moved by emotion, which means emotional content can help push an audience from one place (or mindset) to a new one.

Emotions have been scientifically proven to be powerful tools for presentations.

They help to create more accurate and vivid memories for listeners, and they also sharpen attention, pull focus, and keep people from getting distracted during your talk.

To incorporate the right amount of emotional content for an analytical audience, think of it as only a thin layer. Similar to the sugar coating on an important pill — it makes the medicine easier to swallow.

The bulk of what you deliver is going to be factual and packed with numbers and heavily researched facts. But try to also weave in something that will make people feel. This can be a …

  • Shocking statistic
  • Gripping anecdote
  • Narrative that makes them laugh
  • Powerful description of what the future could look like if they adopt your idea

Know your audience

You have to get to know your listeners beyond simply being people that are good with numbers.

Once you know more about who they really are, you can look for common ground. This will help you shape how to add the right amount of emotional content.

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A quick analysis of your audience helps.

Grab a pen and paper and think about who your audience members really are, beyond their job. For example, what …

  • are their ultimate goals?
  • scares them?
  • do they do in their free time?
  • ways might they be at odds with you or your idea?
  • might be on their mind that’s unique?

Write the answers on a list, then see what stories you have in your arsenal that may appeal to them. Or alternatively, understand their goals and hopes more clearly.

Consider a pre-read or leave-behind

If there are convincing numbers that your audience members just have to see, but numbers seem to be dominating the presentation and stunting the content, consider delivering them before or after your presentation.


Get important information to attendees by utilizing pre-reads and leave-behinds.

Pre-reads are visual documents (like Slidedocs®) you can send to audience members before your talk that include all of the key statistics, reports, studies, etc. you want them to understand while you present.

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After your presentation, you can give out a handout that serves as an appendix with supporting data in it. Attendees can reference supporting insights that help them decide what to do with the new ideas you introduced.

By extricating some of the dense info from your talk and delivering it through a Slidedoc, you can verbally convey the information in a way that will persuade.

There’s no doubt about it. When it comes to presentations for analytical audiences, numbers are persuasive, yet people also are human, so they feel, too.

Don’t shy away from using a thin layer of emotional appeal — emotion is a reliable tool, proven to be effective at convincing people to adopt new ideas.


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