Title: The simple genius of a good graphic

Presenter: Tommy McCall



  • You began by telling us that you love infographics and that you're an information designer with 25 years of data analysis experience. That was the whole introduction, and I would have liked more. Ideally, I look for an introduction to explain why should I care about this presentation, what authority do you have to present this topic, and perhaps forecast the rest of the presentation. In this case, it would have been especially helpful if you had explained the purpose of the presentation.
  • I liked the slides. They were good examples; I especially liked that you chose Napoleon's march to Moscow as one of the examples. I saw that you went through the first ones quickly, which led me to expect that this part was setting the stage for your  main points.
  • As you continued, you spent very little time on any slide. I would have liked more time spent explaining what made each graph good instead of just telling us its message. For example, the slide on federal subsidies is a very unusual graph; it's not a format that is commonly used. That means that I can't rely on my long-term memory of having seen lots of similar graphs to be able to quickly read this one and figure out its message. Given a minute or two, I would be able to read the numbers and text and figure out its message. And because it's an unusual graph with lots of text and numbers, I have to stop listening to you in order to read the graph. In presentations, I recommend using slides that don't steal the spotlight from you. If you want to use this slide, I think that you either have to walk us through the various parts, using callouts to highlight each element as you describe it, in order to keep the focus on you. Or, if you want to emphasize the format of the graph and the content really isn't important to this presentation, then I'd recommend blurring all of the numbers and text to make the point to us that you want us to notice the graph itself and that the message isn't what you're really talking about today. You spent maybe thirty seconds on this slide, and I was left behind when you moved to the next slide.
  • The next slides were also pretty to look at, but you whipped through them without giving me any insight about how they are valuable in presentations or in what situations one type is better to be used than another type. By the time you showed me the rotating globe, I figured out the purpose of this presentation; you're a data artist showing us graphs that you admire and what you consider your best work. It would have helped me if I'd had that information when you began.
  • I felt that your first conclusion was wonderful. You tied everything together and summarized the whole presentation neatly: that the key to understanding lots of data is a good data visualization. And that's the thing I'll remember from this presentation. But then it seemed like you had a second conclusion, and you introduced a bunch of new information about the areas of the brain. That small part felt like a speed bump in the presentation. It wasn't needed, and I rarely think it's good to add new information in the conclusion. If you felt that the comment about the brain was really essential, then I'd look for a place to insert it before you reach the conclusion.


  • You looked nervous to me. Part of it was from your shifting your weight back and forth. Also contributing to this feeling is that you had to keep looking at your notecards instead of at me. That prevented you from using eye contact to develop a strong bond with me and your audience.
  • My overall impression is that you weren't taking this presentation very seriously. You dressed quite casually. That made it seem to me that you've approached this as strictly an entertaining presentation, perhaps focusing on the art of graphics. On the other hand, you began by talking about the history of communication and business graphs, so it also seemed that maybe this is meant to be a serious survey about how to improve the graphs in my presentations. You relied extensively on note cards; I coach my speakers to not use note cards if it's a very meaningful or important presentation. Your use of notes reinforced my impression that you weren't taking this seriously because you didn't give it enough preparation or have enough time to learn it in advance and don't know the topic well enough to just talk about it. At worst, using notes also generates the question of whether you wrote this presentation yourself or are you just filling in for someone else who wrote it and then ended up sick on the day of the presentation. Do you see why the conflicting messages you've sent to me were distracting and confusing?
  • You referenced a coxcomb chart and a Sankey diagram twice. I've been a data visualization specialist for over twenty years without hearing the second term (though I'm familiar with both types of charts). I suspect it and maybe both of these terms may have been new to others in your audience. When introducing a new term, I recommend slowing down to give people time to file a new word in their brain and spending at least a few seconds explaining it. The way you use the words made me think they're important, so I'd also suggest placing those terms on the slide so we can see how they're spelled. That'll help us remember them in case we want to go back and learn more about them later.
  • I really liked how you handled the stock slides. You did a wonderful job of using boxes and zoom to guide me to see exactly what part of the slide you were talking about and where my attention should be. 
  • To me, you spoke rapidly through the entire presentation and left me working to keep up. I saw this as another indicator that you didn't practice this enough and get feedback to know where to slow down or pause. It was another data point that made me feel that you were nervous and reading through the script fast so you could get it over with.

Chuck Hinkle has been formally evaluating and coaching speakers worldwide for over thirty years.

“Chuck took my story I was giving at a TEDx conference and turned it into a powerful presentation. Then he coached me so that I could deliver it confidently and effectively. It was the most impactful presentation of all the speakers.” Sr. Business Analyst & TEDx Presenter

“Even more than being terrified of public speaking I am more terrified of sharing my personal past with others. That was until I encountered Chuck Hinkle. Chuck listened to my ideas for my first TEDx talk and gently coaxed me to share part of me that was not a part of my work persona. He helped me develop the skills I needed to convey a message that would reach the hearts and minds of folks literally around the globe. My New Years resolution was to overcome my fear of speaking in public by possibly talking to a group of school children or at a senior center as part of a group. By working with Chuck, I gained the confidence and skills to stand on the stage alone and reach out to over 17 different countries and Dare them to make a difference. And what is even more amazing is they took the challenge and told how they did. Chuck used a combination of presentation techniques on how to use PowerPoint and pictures, to what stories to tell and how to paint a visual picture. I grew personally and was able to land an amazing new role professionally thanks to Chuck.” Commercial Contract Manager & TEDx Presenter


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