Six strategies to help your audience remember data

Heather Heefner, Dart Design Studio




Business analysis and data - facts - is often what drives business thinking. This strength lies in its objectivity. Analysis and data, although factual, does not drive people to change or adapt an idea. When you are communicating data with the desire to move people, you must speak to their emotion. Why is this? Aristotle coined the reason when he realized that we need a balance of ethos, pathos, and logos in our speeches to captivate an audience.

 So how do we add pathos - emotion into our data to captive our audience attention?


Here are six strategies to help your audience remember data:


1- Site a statistic precisely (this adds to your credibility) and frame it (this creates long-term memory)

 Example: We had 123,111 new customers last year. This means that we have doubled our sales in one year. (1)


2.Paint a Picture. (This helps people feel the emotion behind the number)

 Example: The One-billion-dollar deficit.

When Eisenhower was President of the United States, the country had a 1 billion dollar debt for the first time. Eisenhower knew that stating "one billion dollars" would mean very little to the public. So he painted a picture. He asked the Americans to picture several dollar bills and then to lay them side by side vertically- with the smaller ends touching each other. He asked them to make a chain of these in their minds. He then stated that chain like this going to the moon and back equals one billion dollars. (1)

 If you add a picture of this, the picture will help people remember. By up to 75% more.


 3.Base your number on 10. (This helps with memory)

Say 1 out of 5 instead of 21.2%


 4.Round your statistics

Instead of 62%, say 6 out of 10.

“By the end of the year, 6 out of 10 college students will have $20,00 student loan debt each.”


 5.Compare to the familiar

5,500 square miles

Compare this to the state of Connecticut.


6.Make it Personal

A law school had a 32% attrition rate.

A professor of a first-year class asked the students to look at the person their left and on their right. He then said, “next year one of the three of you will not be sitting here.”  This made the 32% statistic very personal.

Remember, a statistic is a numerical abstraction that is most difficult to remember. These are tools to help you help your audience remember your essential data.

 At Dart Design Studio, our passion is helping professionals and change leaders turn their ideas and dreams into visually exciting stories their audiences can connect with. Connect with us if you want to discuss how to make your data come alive for your audience. 



1.     Humes, James: “Speak Like Churchill and Stand Like Lincoln: 21 powerful secrets of history’s greatest speakers.”  New York: Three Rivers Press, 2002, book.