Change / transformation Communication Leadership

Podcast: Taking the ‘numb’ out of numbers: A better way to communicate financial information

“Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.” – Dr. Howard Gardner, professor, Harvard University


This week's "Future-Proof" guest is Peter Margaritis, a fellow podcaster, a CPA, an author, and a thought leader with the Business Learning Institute.

Peter's message is this: One of the most important roles that accounting and finance professionals will play going forward is that of storyteller – of competently communicating financial information, of telling the stories behind the numbers in a way that creates shared understanding, communicates value, and entertains.

And he’s written a new book with tips on how to do that: Taking out Numb Out of Numbers: Explaining and Presenting Financial Information with Confidence and Clarity.

Plus, he's a standup comic and a student of improv (is there anything this guy doesn't do?), and there’s a good bit of comedy embedded in his book. It turns out good financial communicators learn to do all of the things good comedians do – like controlling their anxieties, crafting their stories, and connecting with their audiences.

And because we’re living in a time when machines are doing more and more of our transactional work, our value lies in our ability to add insights to the data – to tell the stories behind the numbers and help our clients make sense of it all.

In this conversation, we cover:

  • The parallels between comedy and finance, and how those similarities can bring the numbers to life.
  • How to use stories to illustrate how we solve problems.
  • How you can stop using PowerPoint as a crutch.
  • How to develop a future-ready mindset.

How “hearables” will change our jobs Our guest on Episode 17 was Rick Richardson, a tech futurist of sorts, and we talked about the technology trends that CPAs really need to watch – the ones with the most traction, so to speak.

Rick says one of the big trends to watch is voice-enabled technology, the stuff that makes it possible for us to search online or otherwise get stuff done just by using our voices. And thanks to devices like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, this technology has been gaining traction. Just .03 percent of the population had one of these devices in 2014, but last year, that number had grown to 16 percent. By 2023, experts predict that 63 percent of U.S. homes will have a device that like.

Voice will quickly take a place at the center of everything we do, so it’s no surprise that the big tech players – i.e. Amazon, Apple, and Google – are working on some high-priority projects that Fast Company reporter Peter Burrows is calling “hearables”– wearable technology that centers on speech and speech recognition.

In “The future is ear: Why “hearables” are finally tech’s next big thing,” Burrows writes, “All three  – Amazon, Apple and Google – are working on products that combine the utility of the hearing aid with the entertainment value of a pair of high-end headphones, and potentially much more. Since all three have announced plans to get into health care, they could easily add fitness and health monitoring sensors for everything from counting steps to measuring oxygen saturation.

“And while it may take years to happen, none want to be left behind should it become possible to create a general purpose, in-ear computer that allows consumers to leave their phone in the desk drawer.”

That type of interaction with our devices will be way less conspicuous than looking down at a screen all time – and it will be way safer to use when, say, driving.

But that’s only the start. Experts say these devices will be able to detect more than just voices. They could potentially tell which direction you’re facing – what you’re looking at, in other words – and deliver ads to you based on what you’re seeing.

Burrows points out that “a Cambridge, UK-based startup called Audio Analytic is already licensing the ability for a device to recognize the sound of a window breaking or a baby crying. At this rate, it won’t be long before Amazon can send ads for Robitussin when it hears you cough.”

Creepy? Yeah, maybe.

But there’s no denying we’re taking steps down this path, and it’s going to be interesting to see how the way we interact with our devices evolves over time.

Richardson says he believes typing on a keyword will eventually go the way of DOS. Remember disk operating systems? Yeah, I barely remember them myself.

So what does that have to do with this episode?

Well, pretty much every major shift in technology is going to impact how we collect and communicate financial information. We need to understand these trends and stay ahead of them if we’re going to successfully work with machines to do our jobs more effectively.

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William D. Sheridan