Nov 22, 2011

Free E-book: Myth of the Garage

My favourite authors Chip & Dan Heath and come up with a free E-book. It's called Myth of the Garage. Ignore the confusing name, the e-book is a collection of 15-20 small articles. Each one is interesting in its own way. Some of the articles are relevent for presenters. Let us look at one article 'The Gripping Statistic'. I have captured the essence of the article below (and also used my own example):

'The Gripping Statistic'
If we are communicating large numbers (billions and millions) we need to make them understandable to the audience. The authors say, "A number people can grasp is a number that can make a difference."

What do you mean by the statement 'Indians consume 15 million tonnes of cooking oil every year'? The number is too big to be comprehensible. Communicators need to bring these large numbers closer to people's day to day experience so that it can be understood. How do we bring the 15 million tonnes closer to earth? One possible attempt:

India's population is 1210 million and we consume 15 million tonnes of oil every year. Hence, on an average every Indian consumes 12.4 kilograms of cooking oil per year. Which means almost 1 kg every month. This is a more down to earth number which our audience can understand.

Talking of large numbers, we have all come across 7 billion. The world population is now 7 billion. What does 7 billion mean? National Geographic has tried to answer this through a nice video. Here are some of their statements:

It would take 200 years just to count 7 billion out loud.
7 billion steps will take us 133 times around the Earth.
Standing shoulder to shoulder 7 billion people will fill the city of Los Angeles

Watch the Nat Geo video here:

Of the three statements, the second one is not comprehensible. It is only impressive but makes no sense. Does anyone have any idea what going around the Earth mean? The last one makes us feel 7 billion is smaller than we think. The first one seems most understandable. If I had to count all the people on Earth I will take 200 years. The reason we understand this because we know how long an year is.

When we simplify a large number, we need to convert it into a smaller number which our audience comes across in their day to day life.

Download the free e-book by clicking here. It's highly recommended.

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