I recently saw a speech by someone clearly accustomed to the public spotlight and comfortable on the stage.
She had an important message to deliver about a profound social injustice. She spoke with authority and confidence.
And she spent nearly all 20 minutes of her speech reciting statistics.
They were good, compelling statistics—stark, often startling, sometimes infuriating—but two hours after her speech, I’d have been hard pressed to tell you any of them.
Now, after the speech there was an interview-style Q&A when she was a lot more engaging, but by that point, she’d already lost a big chunk of the audience.
When it comes to statistics in speeches, less really is more. One or two telling statistics to buttress an argument or illustrate a point can be powerful. Once your trickle of stats swells to a flood, though, your audience can get overwhelmed and detach emotionally, and you risk swapping being a storyteller for being a stock ticker.