Six strategies to help your audience remember data

Heather Heefner, Dart Design Studio



Business analysis and data - facts - are often what drives business thinking. Why? Because these tools are objective. However, analysis and data does not drive people to change or adopt an idea. When communicating data with the desire to move people, you must speak to their emotion. Why? Aristotle believed we need a balance of ethos, pathos, and logos in our speeches in order for audiences to connect with our message.

 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 (credibility) and frame it (long-term memory)

 We had 123,111 new customers last year….which means we doubled our sales from the previous year!


2. Paint a Picture. (Emotional connection to the number.)

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, people are 75% more likely to remember the point you were making. 

3. Base your number on 10. (Increases chances someone will remember it.)

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 students to look at the people on each side of them. Then he said, “next year one of you will be gone.”  This made the 32% statistic very personal.

A statistic of numerical abstraction is most difficult to remember. These are tools to help you help your audience remember your essential data.

My passion is helping professionals and change leaders turn their ideas and dreams into visually exciting stories audiences connect with. Call me to talk about 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.