In this post I wanted to share a very important tip that, I am sure from the title, many may be thinking “I already know this”. That statement is true. However, it never ceases to surprise me the number of poor presentations, many with data errors that still are given and used with senior management.
Why is this a problem?
Very simply, if you are presenting an update to senior management and the presentation is not very good, this will make it more difficult for senior management to understand. This will lead to more and more questions from senior management and, if they are not answered effectively, doubts will come into their mind and this will normally result in more work to present even more data.
The other big issue is data errors. I have seen so many presentations where the data in table does not add up or contradicts a number on the previous page of a report. Some senior managers pick these items up very quickly and will start to drill down on the numbers. The error will automatically raise concerns on the whole presentation and may result in senior management worrying if you have control. Not a good place to be in.
I remember a particular instance where a project team had been working most of the night to prepare a presentation for a board member who was going to use it to update the rest of the board. They sat down to review the pack and there were 2 data errors on the first page. I still remember the very firm statement “I have already found 2 errors on the first page. I am leaving for the meeting in 20 minutes and I expect a revised copy with no mistakes”. Not a good place to be in.
How to avoid this?
Think about presentation. Don’t think just because the content is good that you do not need to worry about presentation. Take care to think about the design and layout of the report or presentation. This includes making sure the formatting is consistent i.e. same font, size, colours, position on page, etc. All minor but makes the difference of making a report look professional.
Make sure that the headings link back to the contents or agenda and use the same names and numbers.
Think about the design of graphics, tables, etc and take care where copying and pasting from different applications. You even need to watch when copying and pasting from different presentations in Powerpoint as sometimes it does not paste correctly.
Make sure that text, images are not cut off, off page, overlapping other page elements such as page numbers.
Always make sure to print your report and presentation before e-mailing or publishing to make sure there is no formatting issues. The same applies if your are converting a report or presentation to a PDF. Always review before sending.
Learn what works for the audience. Some people like picture, others tables of numbers / text or hearing. If you tune to your audience it will help them to understand i.e. having a page to show benefits with a graph and a table of the numbers underneath.
If you do not have the time or design is not one of your skills, consider buying project templates to improve presentation.
Always print a copy of the report and review each page for errors.
Check every table of numbers and ensure that they add up.
Check that the same numbers are being used throughout the presentation so as to avoid differences.
When reporting projects, programmes, etc, always check the status against the original submissions. Having the wrong status will upset both senior management and the project manager.
Where possible get someone else to check the report. It is very easy to miss an error when you have been working on a document.
Taking care on the accuracy and presentation of your work can make a big difference. It is worth the effort.