Thursday, October 18, 2007

Proofread your slides - please!

At a recent presentation, the speaker showed a slide with a table of results from three questions of a survey that had been conducted. The first question asked how strongly the participants agreed that one method was better. The results showed strong agreement that this method was effective. The second question asked whether the participants thought an opposite method was better. Surprisingly, the results shown on the slide indicated strong support for this opposite method. I wondered how could this be. So I listened for how the speaker was going to explain this apparent contradiction. When the speaker got to that point, she simply commented that it was odd how the results had turned out and continued on. What??!! No explanation at all. I looked at the table that was in the handout as well and noticed that the results for the third question were identical to that for the second question. A-ha! I think someone simply copied the wrong results in to the row for the second question. When I raised this to the speaker at the end of the presentation, she was shocked and appeared pleasantly surprised that I had found the probable answer to the contradictory results. And I was left to think: Did anyone look at the data or rehearse this presentation at all? When you have data that makes no sense, do you not go back to the source and check it? Apparently in this case the answer was "no". Make sure that when you are presenting data, you have checked it and that you are comfortable with the conclusions it presents. If not, figure out where the problem is and correct it. Or leave that data out of the presentation until you are able to do further study and come to a point where you are comfortable with it.


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