Yesterday a marketing manager sent me her latest business update. The presentation was packed with information. One page showed the latest email campaign, the next few pages showed the social media results: followers, likes, shares. The problem was that the presentation had no message. There was no point. It was just a collection of dense charts. All too many presentations are like this. They don't work well and they don't enhance your personal brand and boost your career.
The problem in business in today is that we are swamped with information. Every second, there is more data to look at and consider -- another day of web traffic to analyze and sales data to study.
Presentations that just show data simply don't work well. All too the presentation is information with no message, data without a point.
There is a simple way to make your presentations more powerful: always use a headline.
Consistently using headlines will improve your delivery and help your audience follow your logic.
Headlines transform a presentation -- simply putting one on each page changes a presentation dramatically. The document goes from being a collection of facts and figures to an actionable recommendation.
A headline simply states the point of the page. Instead of just showing information, you highlight the significance of the information.
As you write headlines, your recommendation will become stronger. It will naturally force you to question and tighten your argument. Does this conclusion really hold up? Is this really the key point?
It is important to remember several things when writing headlines:
A headline should be a sentence.
Every headline should have a subject and a verb. There is a difference between a chart title and a headline. A chart title states what the data is, perhaps "Sales by Region." The headline explains what it means, "The South is our most important region."
One headline should flow to the next one.
If page four says, "Sales declined dramatically in Q1" then page five should probably talk about why the sales declined, perhaps "The decline was largely due to a shift in the sales force incentive plan."
Transition words can help connect the story. When you use "however," "in addition," and "nonetheless" you are linking the thoughts and telling a story.
Headlines should be brief.
If you can't fit a headline onto two lines, it is too long. If you find yourself adjusting the font size to get to two lines, you need to rework the headline.
If you are stuck with a long headline, the problem might be that you have two different points, and should add a second page. A long headline such as "To accelerate sales we added customer promotions in Q3 and this resulted in a sales boost in Q4" would easily turn into two pages, "To accelerate sales we added customer promotions in Q3" and "This resulted in a sales boost in Q4."
Always using a headline is one of the simplest ways to transform a presentation. Consistently doing this will help your delivery, your audience and your career.