So you have gone to this corporate cocktail event and you happen to be rubbing shoulders with the who is who in corporate society. This is maybe your first serious cocktail event and you are not too sure what exactly should be going on. You are looking around for somewhere to sit but the only seats available are at the back of the room while everyone is huddled around small cocktail tables. As it so happens, you hardly know anyone so you are drifting through the room, trying to find a good spot to quietly enjoy some refreshments. You finally find an open space and you go for it. As you aim for the tooth picks in the middle of the table, you notice that you are standing next to the CEO of one of the top blue chip companies. You freeze, trying to think of something smart to say.
“So…. crazy weather, huh?” Blurbs out of your mouth. She looks at you, smiles and walks quietly away. Don’t you wish you had read the newspaper at the reception earlier. At least you could have come up with something better than the stupid weather!
Quick question, whenever you have an awkward silence situation, do you almost always get yourself talking about the weather? Or traffic? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that the weather does not make for interesting conversation sometimes. Flash floods, freak rain (or the lack thereof) are a big hit on mainstream news outlets. The point is that sometimes, especially when we want to make an impression, we would like to portray the image that we know a little bit more than the average Joe. So lets take the above scenario and try say something different. Assume that this CEO is heading a large energy company. What if you said, “The last time we had this kind of rain, energy prices fell almost 10%. You think we would get that kind of price movement this year?”
Ok. Maybe this is a little too much info but you get the point. You are still talking about the weather but you sound a lot smarter now. What has changed? Statistics!
If you want to inspire confidence, give plenty of statistics. It does not matter that they should be accurate, or even intelligible, as long as there are enough of them.
Lewis Carroll, a.k.a Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–1898).
Lesson one: Quoting some statistic is a sure way to sound smart. Next time you are going to an important function, be sure to arm yourself with some useful statistics.