CFE Guest Contributor

Learning from Trump's weather map fiasco

This week President Donald Trump provided an important lesson for anyone gearing up for a business presentation: only present rock solid data.

The following blog post is from Tim Calkins’ website, STRONGBRANDS - “helping people use marketing strategy and branding to build strong and profitable businesses”

The Mysterious Line

During a press briefing on Hurricane Dorian, Trump held up a weather that featured what appeared to be a black line drawn by hand. You can see the chart here:

The Reaction

People quickly attacked, noting that the line appeared to be a hand-drawn addition, perhaps by Trump himself. Trump is a known fan of Sharpies. Comedians had a field day. Jimmy Kimmel observed, “He’s not even trying to hide the lies anymore. Not only do we have fake news, we now have fake weather, too.” Steven Colbert commented, “He gave the storm a boob job.” You can watch Colbert’s very entertaining clip here.

On Twitter, the hashtag #sharpiegate has been trending. People are lampooning the map and Trump.

There is an important lesson in this incident. When creating a presentation, it is critical to only include information that is rock solid.

The Learning

There is an important lesson in this incident. When doing a presentation, you should be very careful about the data you show. If you present debatable information, you will get questions, especially if you are presenting to a hostile audience. In Trump’s case, it was a weather map.Someone doing a business presentation might get questions about a revenue figure or a pricing estimate. When creating a presentation, it is critical to only include information that is rock solid. If you get a question, you should be able to explain exactly what a number means and where it came from. When you get a question on market share, you should be ready to go: “That share figure is an IRI number, YTD through August 26. It is a dollar share. The 18.2% is up +0.2 points vs. last year and up +0.1 vs. our latest forecast. The most recent four weeks were even better, with a share of 18.6%.” Remember, there is no rule that says you have to include a certain piece of information. If you aren’t sure about a figure, or if you find yourself modifying the data (or drawing lines), don’t show it at all.

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Tim Calkins

September 6, 2019

About the author

Tim is a clinical professor of marketing at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management where he teaches marketing strategy, biomedical marketing and strategic marketing decisions in the full-time, part-time and executive MBA programs. He is co-academic director of Kellogg's branding program.

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