An Afternoon with Hans Rosling – Part 1

Hans Rosling

Today, I had the good fortune to meet and speak with Dr. Hans Rosling, the international rock star of statistics. I then had the pleasure of watching him give a fascinating 90-minute presentation on some key global health trends.

A physician and Professor of Public Health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, Rosling is also the co-founder of Gapminder, a non-profit foundation based in Stockholm. The goal of Gapminder is “to replace devastating myths with a fact-based worldview. Our method is to make data easy to understand. We are dedicated to innovate and spread new methods to make global development understandable, free of charge, without advertising.”

Foreign Policy magazine named Rosling one of the “top 100 leading global thinkers”. Time Magazine named him one of the “100 most influential people”. His online presentations have been viewed by millions of people. If you are not familiar with Rosling, I encourage you to watch some of his online presentations; they are wonderful. See also this post that I wrote about him last year.

Hans Rosling was in Geneva this week for a two-day meeting at the World Health Organization on global health data. He stayed an extra day to give a presentation to the staff members of the WHO and UNAIDS. When I heard, earlier this week, that Hans Rosling was going to speak, I immediately blocked off my calendar. This was one presentation I was not going to miss. Hans Rosling did not disappoint. He was engaging, provocative, humorous, serious and humble.

There are several lessons that I noted from Rosling’s talk. However, in the interests of keeping my blog posts to a reasonable length, I will list those lessons in follow-up posts. For now, I will briefly recount my discussion with Rosling prior to his talk, and share the bit of presentation wisdom that he offered.

I knew that seating for the event would be at a premium. Indeed, by the start of the presentation, several hundred people had filled the auditorium to overflowing. So I took some work to read and walked over 45 minutes early. When I arrived, the room was almost empty, but there was Rosling, already fitted with a microphone and fine-tuning his slide presentation.

I grabbed a choice front row seat and read my document while Rosling worked. When he took a break from his slides, I took the opportunity to introduce myself. Rosling was very friendly and relaxed. Within seconds we were discussing the need for better data on the salaries of health care professionals around the world.

The discussion then turned to his presentation. (OK, I might have had a hand in steering the conversation in that direction.) Among other things, we talked about PowerPoint and Keynote, and the integration of video, Flash Player and other software into each.

Before leaving Hans Rosling to his final preparations, I asked him what one piece of advice he would give to people who have to present data. Without hesitating, he said that once you have created your slides, put them up on the screen, go to the back of the room and make sure you can read them.

If you can’t do that beforehand, display the slides on your computer screen. Then, take five or six paces backwardsand Rosling demonstrated by taking five or six paces backwards from his laptop!and make sure you can read them. Then, he said, once you can read the slides from a distance, cut out whatever you can!

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    1. Thanks for sharing, Jon. Same idea coming at it from a different angle; and of course, the cutting is a universal piece of wisdom. It goes to show that the great presentation tips are the ones that have stood the test of time.

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John delivered a keynote address about the importance of public speaking to 80 senior members of Gore’s Medical Device Europe team at an important sales event. He was informative, engaging and inspirational. Everyone was motivated to improve their public speaking skills. Following his keynote, John has led public speaking workshops for Gore in Barcelona and Munich. He is an outstanding speaker who thinks carefully about the needs of his audience well before he steps on stage.

Karsta Goetze

TA Leader, Gore and Associates

I first got in touch with John while preparing to speak at TED Global about my work on ProtonMail. John helped me to sharpen the presentation and get on point faster, making the talk more focused and impactful. My speech was very well received, has since reached almost 1.8 million people and was successful in explaining a complex subject (email encryption) to a general audience.

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CEO, Proton Technologies

John gave the opening keynote on the second day of our unit’s recent offsite in Geneva, addressing an audience of 100+ attendees with a wealth of tips and techniques to deliver powerful, memorable presentations. I applied some of these techniques the very next week in an internal presentation, and I’ve been asked to give that presentation again to senior management, which has NEVER happened before. John is one of the greatest speakers I know and I can recommend his services without reservation.

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Senior Data Scientist, Expedia Group

After a morning of team building activities using improvisation as the conduit, John came on stage to close the staff event which was organised in Chamonix, France. His energy and presence were immediately felt by all the members of staff. The work put into the preparation of his speech was evident and by sharing some his own stories, he was able to conduct a closing inspirational speech which was relevant, powerful and impactful for all at IRU. The whole team left feeling engaged and motivated to tackle the 2019 objectives ahead. Thank you, John.

Umberto de Pretto

Secretary General, World Road Transport Organization

I was expecting a few speaking tips and tricks and a few fun exercises, but you went above and beyond – and sideways. You taught me to stand tall. You taught me to anchor myself. You taught me to breathe. You taught me to open up. You taught me to look people in the eye. You taught me to tell the truth. You taught me to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. I got more than I bargained for in the best possible way.

Thuy Khoc-Bilon

World Cancer Day Campaign Manager, Union for International Cancer Control

John gave a brilliant presentation on public speaking during the UN EMERGE programme in Geneva (a two days workshop on leadership development for a group of female staff members working in the UN organizations in Geneva). His talk was inspirational and practical, thanks to the many techniques and tips he shared with the audience. His teaching can dramatically change our public speaking performance and enable us as presenters to have a real and powerful impact. Thank you, John, for your great contribution!

Sara Canna

HR Specialist, World Health Organization

John is a genuine communication innovator. His seminars on gamification of public speaking learning and his interactive Rhetoric game at our conference set the tone for change and improvement in our organisation. The quality of his input, the impact he made with his audience and his effortlessly engaging style made it easy to get on board with his core messages and won over some delegates who were extremely skeptical as to the efficacy of games for learning. I simply cannot recommend him highly enough.

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National Education Director, Association of Speakers Clubs UK

John joined our Global Sales Meeting in Segovia, Spain and we all participated in his "Improv(e) your Work!" session. I say “all” because it really was all interactive, participatory, learning and enjoyable. The session surprised everybody and was a fresh-air activity that brought a lot of self-reflection and insights to improve trust and confidence in each other inside our team. It´s all about communication and a good manner of speaking!"

Jon Lopez

General Manager Europe, Hayward Industries

Thank you very much for the excellent presentation skills session. The feedback I received was very positive. Everyone enjoyed the good mix of listening to your speech, co-developing a concrete take-away and the personal learning experience. We all feel more devoted to the task ahead, more able to succeed and an elevated team spirit. Delivering this in a short time, both in session and in preparation, is outstanding!

Henning Dehler

CFO European Dairy Supply Chain & Operations, Danone

Thanks to John’s excellent workshop, I have learned many important tips and techniques to become an effective public speaker. John is a fantastic speaker and teacher, with extensive knowledge of the field. His workshop was a great experience and has proven extremely useful for me in my professional and personal life.

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Senior Sales Manager, Sunrise Communications

John’s presentation skills training was a terrific investment of my time. I increased my skills in this important area and feel more comfortable when speaking to an audience. John provided the right mix between theory and practice.

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Director of the Jura Region, BKW Energie AG

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Senior Director and Talent Partner, ADP International