Your Presentation Should Come Last, Part 1

Most people feel most of their workplace meetings are ineffective. If you think you have too many meetings, you are probably right. But keep in mind that “too many meetings” really means “too many ineffective meetings.” When you come out of a meeting feeling something substantial was accomplished, you probably don’t think of it as “one meeting too many.”

Here’s another fun fact: most meetings are accompanied by a presentation. Scratch that. Most meetings revolve entirely around the presentation. Going into a meeting without a slide deck feels like not being well-prepared. 

I argue there’s a connection between the two. Many meetings are ineffective because too much focus is given to the presentation. No matter how much time you’ve invested in preparing your slides, chances are the discussion will not be effective if that’s all you’ve done.

Your presentation is just a view — a very narrow view — of the data, information, and insights you wish to share. It is not an effective platform for arranging that content and certainly not an optimal means to drill into it. When we clutter it with too much information, the presentation becomes unusable. But to decide what should be included in the deck, we must start with a boarder view. We must know what we wish to achieve and see all the potential bits of data and ideas we can play with. 

Your presentation should come last. It should be the final step of preparing the discussion, and it is an optional step. Not all meetings require a presentation; the most effective ones are likely slide-less. 

So, how should we prepare for a meeting? It’s all about defining the purpose of the meeting and designing its content. And by content, I don’t mean the slideware. 

To be continued tomorrow.

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