Back in November 2020, Patrick Vallance and Chris Whitty were presenting the latest Coronavirus data on rising infection rates and potential consequences one Saturday night during primetime viewing in the UK. They were criticised for presenting 16 slides in 12 minutes. The charts were confusing and lost clarity, as there were too many, shared too quickly. One in particular, described by Vallance as “complicated”, was of national importance and the opportunity to convey the main message was lost.
It is not just government that struggles to convey technical information in an easily digestible way.
We have all endured a presentation on complex subject matter where the presenter makes no attempt to translate the complexity or engage the audience. They have taken a lot of time to do the research, prepare countless slides and they are going to show you everything, so you know how much time it has taken, what a great methodology they used and how good they are at their job.
“Analysis might excite the mind, but it hardly offers a route to the heart – and that’s where we must go to motivate people.” S Denning
We know storytelling works best to engage an audience at any level, something they can relate to that conveys the main message and makes it memorable, especially if it requires action. By all means use visuals, but only if they are simple and help to make the story more memorable.
“The more a speaker conveys information in story form, the closer the listener’s experience and understanding will be to what the speaker actually intended.” HBR – The Science Behind the Art of Storytelling
After all, wouldn’t you prefer the audience’s key takeaway from your presentation to be the main message, rather than the length of the presentation and the poor quality of your slides?