Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You

Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You


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Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You by Randall Bolten

Learn how to communicate better with numbers

Whether you are distributing a report or giving a presentation,you have a lot of numbers to present and only a few minutes to getyour point across. Your audience is busy and has a short attentionspan. Don't let an amateur presentation bog you down, confuse youraudience, and damage your credibility. Instead, learn how topresent numerical information effectively—in the same way youlearned how to speak or write. With Painting with Numbers,you'll discover how to present numbers clearly and effectively soyour ideas and your presentation shine.

  • Use the Arabic numeral system to your advantage master the useof layout and visual effects to communicate powerfully
  • Understand how audiences process your information and how thataffects your "personal brand image"
  • Learn how to be perceived as a professional who trulyunderstands the business concepts and issues underlying yournumbers
  • Use software tools, including Excel, PowerPoint, and graphs,efficiently and to drive home your point

Author Randall Bolten shares his decades of experience as asenior finance executive distilling complicated information intoclear presentations, to help you make your numerical informationmore comprehensible, meaningful, and accessible. Painting withNumbers is brimming with hands-on advice, techniques, tools,rules, and guidelines for producing clear, attractive, andeffective quantation (the word the author has coined for the skillof presenting numbers).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781118172575
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 04/03/2012
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 1,291,314
Product dimensions: 7.30(w) x 10.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

RANDALL BOLTEN operates a consulting practice focused on financial management and information presentation. He is a seasoned and accomplished finance executive, with thirty years of experience in high-growth and high-potential Silicon Valley companies. His professional passion is presenting information that can enable managers, investors, and the general public to make real sense of complicated situations. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Princeton University and an MBA from Stanford University.

Table of Contents

Foreword xiii

Preface xv

Acknowledgments xvii

introdUCtion This book Is Not AboutNumbers—Honest! 1

Being “Literate” 2

It’s What They Think That Matters 2

What You Were Never Taught 3

The Ultimate Goal 5

Some Notes about Reading This Book 5

Part I the rules 11

Chapter 1 Numerals Matter 13

Lining Up the Numbers 14

The Units of Measure 16

Precision 17

Negative Numbers: What Do They Mean? 20

Chapter 2 Looks Matter 25

The Tabula Rasa Decision 26

The “Where’s Waldo?” Effect 27

White Space Is Your Friend 29

But White Space Is Not Always Your Friend 30

Time and Other Dimensions: Across or Down? 33

Borders, Shading, and Other Visual Effects 35

Comments and Artwork 41

The “Ransom Note” Effect 43

Two Truly Helpful Hints 44

Chapter 3 Words Matter 47

Mean What You Say and Say What You Mean 48

Choosing between Precision and Presentability 52

Treating Words Like Numbers  55

Remember the Title. Please 57

Chapter 4 Your Audience Matters   61

The Right Amount of Data   62

Appropriate Emphasis on Critical Information 64

Consistency  67

Meaningful and Relevant Numbers  69

Respect for Your Audience’s Time  73

Wrap-Up for Part I: The Rules  77

Part II The Tools 81

Chapter 5 You Can Pay Me Now   83

The Instant Payoff Tips  85

Instant Payoff Tip #1: Set Up Templates andStyles  85

Instant Payoff Tip #2: Customize Your Toolbar  86

Instant Payoff Tip #3: Learn Some ShortcutKeys  87

Instant Payoff Tip #4: Use Consistent Formats  89

Instant Payoff Tip #5: Learn to Use Excel as aDatabase  90

Instant Payoff Tip #6: Learn to Use the Lookup & ReferenceFunctions  94

Instant Payoff Tip #7: Organize Data for Easy Computation 95

Instant Payoff Tip #8: Learn to Use Automated Help  98

Instant Payoff Tip #9: Don’t Learn Too Many Ways to Do theSame Thing  99

Chapter 6 . . . Or Pay Me Later 103

The Long-Term Payoff Tips  104

Long-Term Payoff Tip #1: Use Sensible, Intelligent Filenames andFolder Organization  104

Long-Term Payoff Tip #2: Use Consistent Formats 106

Long-Term Payoff Tip #3: Design Intelligent, IntelligibleFormulas  106

Long-Term Payoff Tip #4: Use Named Ranges  110

Long-Term Payoff Tip #5: Use Named Formulas or Macros 112

Long-Term Payoff Tip #6: Links: A Force That Can Be Used forGood or Evil  117

Long-Term Payoff Tip #7: Make Different Types of Cells VisuallyDistinguishable and Physically Separate  118

Long-Term Payoff Tip #8: Document Your Work!  120

Long-Term Payoff Tip #9: Check Your Work!  121

Long-Term Payoff Tip #10: Avoid Cool NewFeatures  122

Chapter 7 Graphs: The “Cartoons” ofNumbers   125

Why Do People Use Graphs?  126

Help Your Audience 127

First, Do No Harm 138

Chapter 8 The Pitfalls of Presentations andPowerPoint

 153Why Do People Make Fun of Business Presentations? 154

Real Estate Is a Scarce and PreciousCommodity  154

Help Your Audience  156

First, Do No Harm  161

Some Basic Truths That Go Double forQuantation  162

Wrap-Up for Part II: The Tools  166

Part III Real Mastery   169

Chapter 9 It’s Clear, but Is It Meaningful?  171

The War of the Adjectives  171

A Quantation Professional  173

Relating to Your Audience in a ConstructiveWay  174

Chapter 10 53 . . . Uh, Is That a Lot?  179

What Is a Key Indicator?  180

What Makes a Good Key Indicator?   183

A Simple Example  185

How Do You Present Key IndicatorsEffectively?  185

A Note on Precision  190

A Note on Dashboards  191

Chapter 11 The One Report Every OrganizationNeeds   197

A Sample Natural P&L, and What Makes It a Good One 199

1. One Page!  200

2. Decision-Focused Line Items  200

3. Appropriate Dollar Amounts, neither Too Big nor TooSmall  204

4. Intuitive Organization of the Line Items 205

5. Understandable Categories, Meaningful to All Users 208

6. Plain-English Terminology  208

7. Consistent Look-and-Feel  209

8. Key Results Equal to the Corresponding Numbers in theAccounting System (or an Explanation Why Not)  209

Mapping the Chart of Accounts  211

Generate a Natural P&L from a Spreadsheet, or from theAccounting System? 212

Now Let’s Talk about the Columns  213

Appendix 11A a Sermon to the Accounting Purists  219

Chapter 12 The Gaps in GAAP   225

Rules-Based versus Principles-Based  226

Where Is All This Headed?  227

“Expensing” Stock Options  228

Software Revenue Recognition  230

Tying GAAP to Internal Management Reports 232

Appendix 12A Some Notes on GAAP   235

What Is GAAP?  235

Stock Options  236

Revenue Recognition  237

Chapter 13 Quantation: It’s Not Just for BusinessAnymore   239

One Taxpayer at a Time  240

All the Taxpayers at Once  243

What’s Really Going on Here?   249

Chapter 14 Quantation in Ordinary Life  255

Models  255

The Meaning of Words  260

That Quiz I Promised  263

Part IV Wrap-Up   269

Chapter 15 Speaking Truth to Power   271

My “Tell the Truth” Syllogism  272

Reason #1 for Telling the Truth: It’s the Right Thing toDo  272

Reason #2: It’s in Your Employer’sInterest  272

Reason #3: It’s in Your Interest  273

Reason #4: You Will Get Caught  273

Reason #5: It’s the “Gotcha” of ThisBook  275

Don’t Be So Smug, You Civil Servants and ElectedOfficials!  276

Your Audience Has a Role, Too  276

Chapter 16 Now, What’s the First Thing YouDo?   281

My Last, Best Tip  282

It’s Just a Skill  282

Where We Have Been  283

Appendix Jazz Meets Theology   287

Revisitation  288

The Sins of Presentation  289

The Sins of Behavior 297

The Deadliest Sin of All 301

About the Author 305

Index   307

What People are Saying About This

Duncan Niederauer

In today's information age, the challenge facing public company executives to ensure their messages are heard by customers and investors has never been more poignant. Painting with Numbers lays out a practical guide to helping business leaders cut through all the noise and communicate crisply and clearly with the audiences that matter.

—Duncan Niederauer, CEO, NYSE Euronext

Eric Keller

Randall's book teaches what I have long believed—a key objective of finance is to provide timely, accurate, and understandable information that leads to better decisions. This is a challenge for organizations of all sizes—from very early-stage ventures to large public companies."
—Eric Keller, Chief Operating Officer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers

Joshua Bolten

Government policymakers need to do a much better job of communicating clearly with data, especially when it comes to our increasingly alarming federal fiscal situation. Painting with Numbers can help them do just that. Not only do I wish this book had been around when I was Budget Director, but I'm now prepared to drop my claim that my brother was adopted.
—Joshua Bolten, former White House Chief of Staff and Director, Office of Management and Budget

Dr. Tom Campbell

I feel strongly that clearly and honestly presented data is essential to an informed electorate, and Randall made it possible for me to put that belief into practice. I'm delighted that a book like Painting with Numbers is available. I am confident that the lessons Randall Bolten sets forth in this book, a first of its kind, will have a hugely positive effect on the level of public debate and, thus, the quality of the choices we make in our public and private lives.
—From the Foreword by Dr. Tom Campbell, Dean, Chapman University School of Law; former Dean, U.C. Berkeley Haas School of Business; five-term U.S. Congressman; Professor of Law, Stanford University; and PhD in economics (University of Chicago)

Harry Kellogg

This is a book that badly needed to be written, so it's about time! I hope that it's read by not just financial people, but by entrepreneurs and C-suite executives as well. The book is both intellectually challenging and downright practical, and will shape the thinking of entrepreneurs and seasoned veterans who need to communicate numbers for business success.
—Harry Kellogg, Vice Chairman, Silicon Valley Bank

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