Many of you may know that in my former life, aka “pre-Lulu,” I was a CNN correspondent and anchor.
And since that time, when I’m not sipping espresso or prosecco surrounded by 500-year-old buildings and chain-smoking locals here in Italy, I work as a communications consultant.
I have written on the subject of effective communications for other companies, but never here. Until now.
Without further ado, I present my new occasional series. “Gina’s Better Communications.” Today’s lesson is drawn straight from a real-life example from a meeting I had yesterday about what NOT to do when you have a lot of detailed information to present to an audience.
My client is an executive with a large multi-national. He has advanced degrees. He speaks three languages. In short, he is smart and accomplished.
But that doesn’t make him a good presenter.
I cannot tell you exactly what he needed to tell his group of regional managers, without tipping who he is or for whom he works, but let’s say it was a quarterly report with tons of data.
I also cannot show you his actual PowerPoint presentation, of course, by way of example – because it would be too hard to redact all the confidential information.
So, here’s my quick rendition.
It was NINE COLUMNS and TWENTY-TWO ROWS of DATA on a SINGLE SLIDE!! With all the numbers, percentages, color-codes, etc on the original slide, it looked like the cockpit of a 777.
Needless to say nearly every hand in the room shot up with people confused and frustrated about what they were seeing. The presenter lost control of the audience, lost control of the presentation and, of course, lost an opportunity to deliver whatever message this slide was supposed to communicate.
This slide is a perfect example of a fundamentally flawed approach to effective communication.
Simpler, allows your audience to follow where YOU want to lead them.
No matter what level of baseline understanding of the concepts an audience member has – dense slides are dense slides.
Break down information first.
Remember, you are not trying to merely provide information whenever you present something like this, you are trying to motivate or persuade your audience to some action, or some consensus or some point of view.
When you put up a very busy slide, you are inviting your audience to stop listening to you. You may be planning to explain your busy slide – but you will never get the chance. Because you are no longer controlling the presentation. Your audience has stopped listening to you and is now squinting their eyes and looking all over the screen. They are not being led by you.
Break your information down first!
It is better, therefore, to break up the slides into digestible and more memorable chunks.
That way, you, as the presenter, will LEAD the audience – simple slide, by simple slide – one at a time – down the path of understanding and toward the ultimate action or position that YOU want them to arrive at.
Once the audience has been led to where you need them to be, then if you need to, present the full-dense slide.
But why not just provide such an involved matrix as a take-away handout after the presentation?
Okay, folks, class dismissed!
Baci from Italy and Now Communications Consulting Land, too.
P.S. Tell me your favorite information over-load or death by Powerpoint story! Would love to hear. By the way, my client loves the new approach – he took hours making that poor Matrix and now it will be so much easier for him – AND his audience!