Influence through Presentations
My clients in the technology industry believe that they need to be very influential while making presentations.
They like to make their work visible through these presentations to stakeholders across the organisation.
However it is surprising sometimes to note, that after having already done the hard work, creating the presentation and reviewing it multiple times, they are still far from acing it.
Couple of challenges that they have is:
Having the right amount of content :
Most of them have loads of content in 50 slides for a 10 mins presentation. The “key message” hence, is buried in a bundle of slides and there is no story to capture the audience’s attention. Deciding what to present to create impact is daunting.
Presenting to suit the audience:
The presentation slides are filled with technical “jargon” that people not familiar with it will find it hard to assimilate. So while technocrats are influencing 'up' or while presenting to a new audience, the message does not get through. Hence their work becomes lost to the larger world .
Out of these challenges emerge “nervousness” due to a lack of confidence and conviction. This makes them less resourceful while making the presentation.
Dan Roam wrote a wonderful book titled , “The back of the napkin” which talks about visual story telling. I will recommend reading this book to anyone who wants to present better especially with visuals. There is a key process in his book called the “SQVID” that could help us work the right granularity for presentations.
SQVID stands for
Simple ( high level) Vs Elaborate (details)
Quality (qualitative) Vs Quantity(quantitative)
Vision ( Big picture/ Ideas) Vs Execution (how to go about them)
Individual ( data relevant only to self) Vs Comparison (data in comparison with others)
Delta (Change) Vs Status Quo ( as-is)
Fig 1: SQVID slider. Courtesy: The back of the napkin, Dan Roam
Dan argues that deciding the granularity and the kind of content based on the audience will simplify the whole daunting process of what to present to whom. It will also lead to better visuals.
SQVID provides a good framework that one could use to address the challenges that techies face while making presentations. If they were to draw a slider before preparing for the presentation (as showing in Fig 1), it will not only help them de-clutter but also focus on the key message better.
Let’s look at where probably the slider should be for various contexts with examples.
Presenting to the team, the plan for the next feature (Elaborate, Quantity, Execution, Individual, as-is): A plan has a list of things to be completed, with dates and people responsible. So it needs to be elaborate, should have dates (quantity), should talk about execution details ( who, what, whom). It also needs to report only the team’s plan (not others) and it needs to talk about as-is at any given point in time.
Presenting to the top boss on overall program ( Simple, Quantity & Quality, Vision& Execution, Individual & Compare, Change & As-is): If you are presenting to the top of the organisation, your messaging needs to be brief and have the right amount of content that would appeal to the stakeholders you are presenting. They key point here is that the overall story needs to be “Simple”, “non-technical” and brief. Depending on the time available, you could move the slider away from half way mark on Q,V,I & D. Catering to low attention spans, the start of the presentation needs to have a summary.
Presenting the first cut of an idea (Simple, Quality, Vision, Compare, Change): If you are having an idea that no one has tried before, you need to build a simple story line around what is the idea, what is the problem it is solving, what are the qualitative feelers looking like, what’s the high level vision you have, how does it stand in comparison with other ideas and what change does it bring to the organisation?
Getting buy-in when you have disparate un-familiar stakeholders ( Simple, Quality & Quantity, Vision & Execution, Compare, As-Is & Change with back up slides for Elaborate content): If you are un-familiar with the the stakeholders, its better to be prepared with a clean presentation and back up slides that you could bring up on demand.
So next time you have to make an influential presentation, decide first, where would the slider be on SQVID?
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