Delivering the Message - Pictures paint a thousand words

Delivering the Message – Pictures paint a thousand words

As a part of my Consultancy and throughout my career as a Finance Executive, a fair chunk of it has involved delivering the economic information and commercial message for the directors, business owners and divisional operators. It generally starts with reams of data and multiple linked spreadsheets and culminates in a presentation on the outcomes showing the good, the bad and the ugly.

I recently came across a report done for a client by another consultant. The 32 page PowerPoint Deck contained 25 pages of spreadsheet data cut into the slides. Not only that, but the data was finely detailed and difficult to focus on – I got lost reading it myself. I am sure the consultant spent significant time pulling the information together and charged the client accordingly. The obvious failure here was that the message got lost early in the forest of figures.

A common mistake and we have all made this one in our careers, is to pump a lot of information onto slides with an unconscious justification of the amount of work we have done. We are proud of our work and well satisfied with the results. But unless the client or recipients understand the message, everyone’s time has been collectively wasted. I was reminded by a senior colleague some years ago – “this is not your presentation, it is the client’s (audience’s) presentation”.

Keep your Presentation slides short and simple – when presenting numbers, I only show high-level, salient results. You need to keep the attention on what is important. If the audience want to know the underlying detail, have it hand for discussion. Use illustrations to accentuate the points and message you want to convey. Pictorials resonate quickly with the audience and have the ability to leave an imprint on the mind. Graphs have the capacity to create an imprint of what is actually happening in the business. They indicate a level of clarity of economic activity and direction of the business and the path on which it has come from. The peaks and troughs of a graph can be dissected, explained and reflect the operational performance in relation to the relevant circumstances at the time.

Two things to consider when putting together a presentation for business:

  • Who is the audience
  • What is the message to be conveyed

Keep the number of slides to a minimum and use graphs and illustrations for clarity and impact.

And remember – Less is More!