How negatively impactful is $506 million to the American taxpayer? Given that we hear numbers such as $1.2 trillion bandied about as Congress looks for an approach to trim the deficit, $506 million is clearly a drop in the bucket.
Is this a lot of money that will have a negative impact on our country? Maybe not: $506 million is 1/100th of 1 percent of the federal budget. It averages out to $1.35 per U.S. citizen per year. You can barely buy a cup of coffee or a fountain drink for $1.35.
My point is that big and huge numbers are hard for your audiences to fathom. They can be scary or seem preposterous -- anything except real. So people tune them out.
As a business speaker you may have to make some points about very large numbers, however you must make those numbers understandable to your listeners. So instead of saying that $506 million is the barest fraction of the federal budget, the writer took it to the individual level--$1.35 per U.S. Citizen. That puts the expenditure into a context that's meaningful for the audience.
A recent client wanted to talk about 53,000,000 surface operations at airports annually. He wanted to make the point that every pilot needs to be more safety conscious than ever. A better way to make that point is to break the total number down to something meaningful to each individual pilot at the time he or she is taking off or landing. What does that mean to each specific pilot? It turns out that there are 100 surface operations every minute. Now each pilot has a context into which to put his or her actions during take off and landing.
When you speak about numbers be sure that every audience member will be able to understand them. Big numbers may make people's head swivel, but will they stick? Go ahead and say the big number, then break it down to a size and context everyone can take to heart for the long term.