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Dear Tim... Don’t Just Show Me the Numbers. Tell Me a Story: tBR Columnist Tim Kilpin Comments

A few weeks ago, an analysis popped up in my Inbox — a detailed year-end shipping, sell-through, and inventory summary. It was stunning. Thirteen slides stuffed with data, eye-popping charts, colors, numbers, and facts — mounds of facts. I like facts. It was a masterpiece, a true work of sales analysis art. And it was useless to me.

First of all, I’m a charter member of Toy People with ADD (it’s a remarkably large group, you know). My attention span used to last 30 seconds, and now I can barely make it through a Tik-Tok post.

The data was without reproach; it was (as best as I could tell) accurate and complete. But it told me nothing. So I replied with the Zoom equivalent of an exasperated shoulder shrug. What I needed to say was ‘tell me a story.’ In a few words, sum it up. Tell me why I should care, why this matters. If you told your story reasonably well, you can bet I’ll be ready to dive into the details.

From cave paintings to Disney +, we are undeniably a species driven by stories — we love to hear them, we love to share them. And they usually bring some order to our chaos — whether it’s an episode of Bridgerton (come on, it’s awesome), or an inventory analysis.

Back at the Old Company, as I sat down for meetings with my team to review a presentation, I would occasionally declare, ‘OK, it’s No-Deck Friday. Just tell me a story.’ The responses to my joke were a fascinating study in human behavior. (And to my old team back then, it was a joke. But I sometimes forgot that, at my level, they took everything I said seriously). Some folks smiled, went with the flow, put the decks aside, and started talking. Invariably, it was a better, more productive discussion. And when it was time to refer to some specifics, we pulled out the info. Others, bless their hearts, glanced down, fumbled a bit, grimaced, and said, ‘…but, I have this deck?’

Next time you’re working up a presentation, and you’re deep into Slide 36, step back. Ask yourself what story you are trying to tell. At the end of all this work, what will we take away, remember, act on?

And consider if it’s time to call a ’No Deck Friday.’ I think we’re due for one here.


In additional to penning his thoughts here, Tim Kilpin is enjoying his role as President of PlayMonster. To read more about Tim's career in the toy industry, check out this interview with Tim last year! Tim Kilpin - I’m a very proud elf. Every Christmas morning...


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