Have you ever sat through a business presentation and, after it was over, were not sure what the point of it was?
This has become a more common problem in business generally, according to business consultant Ron Ashkenas.
The amount of information people have to deal with has exploded, while the amount of time available to analyze it and make decisions has dwindled. Because of this, it has become more important than ever to be able to get to the core of an issue quickly, to be able to boil down all of the information into a bottom-line type of statement, the takeaway.
Why has this become such a problem? Ashkenas points to several reasons.
One is the fact that managers often deal with problems that have no one right or correct answer, so in an effort to gain more certainty, or a clearer understanding, they compile more and more information, without ever attempting to reach a conclusion.
Another reason for this type of problem is that even if a manager reaches a conclusion, he or she may not have the self-confidence to state it directly, wary that it might anger a more senior person, so the manager couches the findings in a flurry of qualifications or even ambiguities.
How can you overcome this problem? Ashkenas provides some tips.
He recommends that when planning a presentation, you start at the end. Begin with the key point you want to make, your conclusion, and then work back from that. Pretend that you are sending your presentation on Twitter, and you have to boil it down to 140 or fewer characters. Once you have determined what the key point is that you want to make, you can then figure out what other information you will need to support it.
Another way to boil things down is to give your presentation without any PowerPoint slides or other visual aids. Practice giving your talk in less than six minutes. This will help you get clearer about what you want to say. In fact, you should begin with that very question, – what is it that I want to say about this issue, or this policy, or whatever you are talking about. Then say it.
Another helpful thing to do is to put yourself in the place of your audience when preparing your presentation. Think about what they know and don’t know, what they want to find out, and what kinds of questions they will have. This can help guide you as well.
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