So you sold 650,000 units. Or you can guarantee ten million viewers. Or you want to build a 5000 square foot factory. These numbers might actually mean something to you, since you've been working and dealing with them for a while - and you know exactly what they stand for (i.e. how big 5000 square feet really is), since, perhaps, you've seen the building site!
But your audience does not. And that's important to remember. It's also the reason why great public speakers have learned to use perspective to give their audiences a better context within which to put their numbers.
One of the best ways to do this is to use analogies. An analogy is simply when you compare two things for the purposes of clarifying or explaining something. For example, using our data above, I might say that I've sold 650,000 units, but most people don't have a clue how BIG or how MUCH 650,000 of anything is...
So, if I'm smart I'll use an analogy and put it in perspective. I'll say that for the amount of units we sold, we could have given one to every person that lives in the state of North Dakota.
Speech Writing Help: Propelling Perspective
It's hard for people to wrap their heads around big numbers, and for the average person who works in ten's (for buying milk and peanut butter) or hundreds (for paying bills and insurance), anything with multiple zero's at the end, means virtually nothing.
But perspective is useful with more than just numbers, as the following two pictures will illustrate. In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill polluted the ocean for three months, and to show the extend of the damage someone compared the area size of the oil spill to a well known US location:
We could've said that it was spilling at 500 gallons a day, but for Joe in the audience, whose probably never even been on a oil rig or seen hundreds of gallons of oil, that means very little. Instead, placing a visual like this before your audience, within a framework they can understand, makes all the difference.
More Analogy Examples: Grass is to Green as Sky is to Blue
- How much is a Billion? Huge numbers like these are so hard to fathom since we have no framework for them. Well, think of it this way: A Billion Seconds ago it was 1959 and a billion minutes ago Jesus was alive on earth!
- How long is eternity? Kind of difficult to wrap your head around that word, so I once heard a preacher use the following analogy: Imagine a little bird chipping away with his beak at Mount Rushmore. Let's say he makes a single chip once a year - well by the time he's chipped away the entire mountain, one day will be finished in eternity.
- 60,000 People die of skin cancer each year. Sounds rough. But if you put it in perspective you see that it's only about 0.00092% of the world's population! That's less than one thousandth of one percent. In contrast, there are about 1.7 Million road fatalities each year, so you are 20 time more likely to die in a car crash, than of skin cancer.
- What is 12Gb in size? 12Gb means something to computer whizzes, but for the rest it might be easier to say that 12Gb is enough to store six hours of movies, or to store enough music to listen to while travelling to the moon and back!
- There's a one in ten million chance of the earth being hit by an asteroid. But what exactly is 1/10,000,000? Well, you have a better chance of flipping a coin and getting a thousand 'heads' on the first try, than the earth has of being destroyed by a rock from outer space.
As shown above, perspective is not limited to numbers, but especially useful with it. So don't be scared to dress up your numbers. Put them in perspective and give your audience a context to make it meaningful to them. It's a speech writing help that'll avoid you losing touch with your listeners.
The actual oil-spill, taken from satellite imagery.
An area the same size as the real oil-spill, put on location on the US East Coast.
A great piece of speech writing help, especially if you're going to be talking numbers and amounts, is the use of perspective. It's a great way to give your audience a real sense of what you're talking about, and not lose them in the pool of mind-numbing data.