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

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Foreword

I first met Randall Bolten in early 2009, as I was beginning my run for California statewide office. He was my contact for a dinner speech I was giving, and I sent him some economic data to be turned into slides and a handout. What came back was not just a correct and accurate presentation of the data, but one that was clear, concise, and comprehensible. Based on that experience, I retained Randall to prepare the economic and fiscal policy handouts that I used throughout the campaign. My data and graphical presentations became a mainstay of how I presented my public policy suggestions. 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.

Looking back on my terms in the U.S. Congress, in the California State Senate, and as Director of Finance for California, I am struck by how often arguments are won on the basis of how the numbers are presented. I am also struck by how great the temptation is for shading numerical data. Some of that temptation comes simply from the presenter's lack of skill at presenting numbers. But some of that temptation also comes from the view—which, sadly, is all too often correct—that the audience will not speak up when they do not understand or are skeptical of the information put in front of them, and will, instead, be swayed simply by the amount, or exclamatory nature, of the data presented.

As Director of Finance for the State ...

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