Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Hans Rosling: health insights, presentation excellence

Insights - wisdom and knowledge - are precious.  Too often information is lacking context, or context is lacking information.  News media is particularly guilty of this; most reports give scant weighting to the why over the what, and the event becomes mere spectacle.

Hans Rosling is a Swedish professor of global health.  I stumbled across his presentations in the context of software tools, but found myself riveted by Rosling's ability to communicate on his subject matter - something he brings alive, even for those who may not have an immediate interest.

Those presentations, available on the website of the excellent organisation TED (devoted to "ideas worth spreading"), are every one of them worth watching: entertaining yet full of information and insight.

In the first presentation in the above series, Rosling's discussion revolves around four dimensions: time, health, wealth, and location (region/country).  He gives his audience a good understanding of how the other three factors affect health outcomes, yet argues cogently for a more complex perspective on factors that affect health.

His second presentation is briefer, but includes an impressive feat which might seem gratuitous, yet he does it with purpose: to illustrate his point on achieving better health outcomes that "the seemingly impossible is possible".  I won't divulge the climax: something that has to be seen for itself.

Rosling is, first and foremost, a Subject Matter Expert.  But crucially he is a very effective communicator.  He presents with knowledge and clarity, in a way that engages the audience.  Part of the 'wow' factor lies in the fluid use of  the presentation software he uses, which leaves the world's Powerpoints for dead.  And if you explore the links, you'll find out that that software was originally developed by Rosling's foundation, no doubt to achieve the sort of communication at which Rosling excels.

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