Jazz: the ultimate in naked communication
Hans Rosling redux: Mixing analog with digital visualization

Hans Rosling: the zen master of presenting data

Hans_Rosling_3 I have linked to Hans Rosling many times before, but I think he is great and a wonderful role-model for a new generation of presenters in science and in business. Hans Rosling is a wonderful example too of someone who "presents naked" with data and with the aid of technology. Below he offers hints for using the Gapminder free software for displaying data.

The five hints for presenting bubbles
A summary of Hans's five hints:

  1. Use full screen to maximize the view
  2. Explain *first* the vertical and horizontal axes as well as the meaning of the size and color or bubbles
  3. Mouse over a few of the bubbles that you want people to pay special attention to
  4. Set the optimum speed and tell the audience when you're going to start the animation
  5. Explain the meaning of the movement as it is happening

Example: Ageing and fertility rates
Let's look at a simple example.The issue here is declining birth rates and longer life expectancies. We could show the information using images and narration and interviews. This can be very effective. Watch the clips below to get a little background concerning the challenges faced when a country (like Japan or Italy) has both a high percentage of people over 65 and a shrinking fertility rate.

Age   Baby_boom
Click on photos above for short TV news video presentation on each topic.

Now notice, too, how essentially the same point (at least concerning Japan) is made below vividly in Hans Rosling's presentation using nothing but data, that is, his visualization of data.
We see very clearly that Japan, for example, has both an ageing population but also a shrinking birth rate (which raises various concerns such as who will pay the pensions and health care costs for those retired?). Also note how professor Rosling first explains the chart, points out what to look for, and then explains the meaning. The relatively quick rise in the life expectancy over the last thirty years in Japan is dramatically represented in the animated chart.

Some of the best presentations will have a good mix of effective quantitative displays and discussions of the data balanced with narration, relevant images, interviews, and stories or examples.


Moritz Dressel

Thanks for bringing this up. Didn't know gapminder was available for the general public. Awesome news, though, and I will try it out soon.

Fred E. Miller


I was not aware of this tool, Garr.

It's amazing.

Thanks for posting!

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