I used to work with a senior executive who began every presentation with “I have 1 hour and 60 slides so let’s get started”. Two hours later and after many yawns and much frustration he was still talking.

People are busy and there is little benefit in wasting their time or presenting information that they really don’t need to know.  When attempting to influence others, consider:

  • Make sure you can give your entire pitch in 3-5 minutes. This we call an “elevator pitch” assuming that the time it takes to ride an elevator is all you have. If you have supporting information that needs to follow that’s fine, as long as your key message can be conveyed quickly.
  • Consider your audience. For example, your staff will probably appreciate details, but your executive team may not. Change your pitch depending on what they would like to see and avoid giving details that people really don’t need to know.
  • Use graphs and pictures wherever possible. Most people are visual and the more you write, the more confused (and less interested) they can become. I believe it is for this reason that strategic plans that read like a book are seldom implemented. Keep things concise and get creative in using pictures and graphs to illustrate your key messages.
  • Good synthesis can take a surprising amount of time to achieve. It is far easier to go in with 60 overly detailed slides than 5 good ones that convey exactly what you need to. However, if the stakes are sufficiently high you simply need to carve out the time to do this.

How can you synthesize what you wish to convey?

Russel Horwitz, Principal