Making your case: A hierarchy of supporting data

The job of each slide in a presentation is simple: 1) the headline should fit neatly in the logic flow of the presentation storyline 2) the data on the slide should provide the best possible analytical underpinning for the headline. I have worked out a simple hierarchy of supporting data. As you are building your slide, challenge yourself to move as far up this hierarchy as possible.


  • Irrefutable data: trended, statistically-significant, robust data. Even a hostile audience has to admit your data closely reflects reality.
  • Substantial data: point-in-time data or directionally accurate data. Small surveys are likely to point you in the right direction, even if their precision is questionable.
  • Expert commentary: quotes from industry experts can be considered a synthesis of a lot of information
  • Anecdotal data: one or two data points or examples that support your case.
  • Quotes: Comments from customers, suppliers, employees, etc. can be powerful evidence to make your case. However, a clever audience recognizes that it isn’t too hard to pick out a few quotes that make your case.
  • Your opinion: From the perspective of the audience, your opinion is too biased to be considered supporting evidence.