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How to bring numbers to life

I am posting here a link to a brilliant bit of radio that brings to life the impact of the Syrian civil war by relating it to the UK.

The opening sentence gives you a chilling flavour of what is to come.

“Say you are one of the two and a half million people who live in the huge conurbation of Greater Manchester, and then you leave; all of you.”

The Syrian cause is close to our hearts here at The Media Coach. We have more than one client working in this now dangerous and desperate country. People we have trained in the last year, daily put their own lives at risks to provide a desperately needed lifeline to others.

syria children

Have of all Syrian children are no longer in school

But this is a blog about bringing numbers to life. Particularly large numbers. Getting an audience to really understand huge numbers of people can be done visually – by an arial shot of a vast refugee camp, for example, or most memorably in the past few weeks by the sea of ceramic red poppies around the Tower of London to represent the dead solders from the First World War. But to do it on radio, giving your audience something they can relate to is a surefire method and this is great example. Much later in this two and a half minute clip Michael Blastland of BBC Radio 4s More or Less programme, turns his attention to the millions of children in Syria who are no longer getting an education. He asks us to imagine this happening in the UK.


Michael Blastland, author and BBC Radio Presenter

“Go to every school in the land and throw out every other pupil, send them home, wherever home may be. About five million of them, to correspond with the fifty percent of children in Syria who have been forced out of formal education.”

The ability to make numbers mean something is a real skill and one that is often overlooked.

Thanks to Michael Blastland for bringing these particular numbers to life.

Lindsay Williams

About Lindsay Williams

Prior to founding her communications training agency, The Media Coach, Lindsay Williams worked as a journalist from 1983. She specialised in financial and business journalism since 1991. After thirteen years in the BBC with local radio, regional television, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, she moved to Reuters Financial Television as Deputy Programme Editor. Working freelance from 1998, she was contracted in a variety of roles including as an executive producer for Bloomberg television delivering half hour profiles of Chief Executives, as a producer with Sky Business Unit and at CNBC. She has had articles published in Sunday Business, The Business, The Times and in specialist magazines such as Companies & Finance and Impact. For the majority of her journalism career she specialised in reporting business and finance. Lindsay Williams hosts a range of bespoke communication skills courses for The Media Coach which include Media Training, Presentation Training, Crisis Media Training and Message Building.

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