Consulting is as much about visual communication as it is about the core management expertise. One cannot exist without the other. There are several tools available today that help consultants in communicating their next big business strategy to their clients. However, many consultants face a variety of challenges that hinder them from creating meaningful presentations that convey their recommendations in the most effective way. Some of these challenges are listed below:
- Lack of time
- Not an expert of the tool used
- Reduced utilization of core consulting skills
- Big part of the day is spent on analyzing and developing storyline
- Communicating to a non-technical audience
Thomas R. Hahn, a fellow a-connect IP and a long-term independent consultant has generously shared some of his wisdom to help all a-connect IPs learn (or refresh) and apply some of the best practices for slide design, and become even more effective with client presentations. Below are four key takeaways that you could immediately apply to your next project.
1. Minto’s Pyramid Principle of Top-Down Storytelling
1. Key Message
2. Key Line: Raises logical questions (How? Why? How do you know?)
3. Key Line Answers: Address questions in the Key Line
4. Supporting Answers: Address questions raised by key line answers
The pyramid principle is a top-down approach to storytelling, primarily used in business documents and presentations. The principle is a technique for writing clear and compelling documents that produce action. Some over-arching guidelines include; state major ideas before minor supporting details, group like ideas together, and order ideas to show relationship. In the pyramid, ideas relate horizontally either by GROUPING (often inductive argument) or ARGUMENT (often deductive). Grouping is best used when you present a list of “equivalent” items, list reasons or actions, and/or when you have a receptive audience. Argument is best used to provide detailed reasoning, explain need for action, and/or when you have a resistant audience.
2. Introducing Your Story
The pyramid can easily be transformed into linear structure which would be made of three sections: Introduction, Body of the Pyramid, and Wrap-Up. The goal is to structure your introduction to effectively captivate different audiences. Typically the introduction would include the situation, complication, and questions. However, there are other ways to structure the introduction as listed below:
- Answer: (Solution – Situation – Complication). Provide your audience with the answer or recommendation first, followed by the situation and the problem. This approach works with audience that likes to get straight to the point.
- Appeal: Call your audience’s attention to values, emotions, or visions that are important to them.
- Chronology: (Complication – Situation – Question). Start with the problem statement and situation, and end with a thought provoking question that is answered in your following slides. This approach is used to create a sense of urgency.
- Shock Tactics: (Situation – Question – Solution). Describe situation by using shocking facts or numbers that immediately grab the attention of resistant audiences.
- Story: Use a relevant, short, and clear storyline (personal, business, fictional, etc.) that will draw your audience into your subject. This allows to build rapport with the audience and gain their interest.
3. Insightful Data Visualization Tools
With the enormous amount of data generated every day by businesses around the world; capturing, analyzing, structuring, and presenting this data in a meaningful way has become more important than ever before. One of the most important benefits of visualization is that it allows us visual access to huge amounts of data in easily digestible visuals. Well designed data graphics are usually the simplest and at the same time, the most powerful. Storytelling with data visualization creates an impactful response from the user with numbers to back it up. Consider the below chart types to expand your current portfolio of data visualization tools.
4. Key Components of a Well Organized Slide
Often times when consultants are designing slides for a presentation, they are very close to the data and hence fall in the trap of packing too much information on a single slide. In the process, some of the key components that make the presentation visually appealing, are overlooked. Here are some of the basic guidelines for a well-designed slide that helps make it a stand-alone document.
- Good Composition: Use visual frameworks, view slide as an image, not only text, use appealing arrangements
- Clear Message: One key message per slide, message aligned with slide content, have a crisp action title
- Uniform Style: Stick to an overall style guide, similar visualizations should be formatted the same way.
- Recognizable Authorship (BRAND): Create a unique identification/brand for yourself and your team through unique slide design elements.
Do you have everything covered?
As you begin to wrap-up and finalize your presentation which may have 10, 50, or even 100 slides, it is critical to make sure you have covered everything. To help you get to that stage of complete satisfaction with the end-product, for which you worked hard and put in several hours, here is a comprehensive checklist to ensure your slides are in the best possible shape.
Remember, a great slide is
Beautiful: well-designed, aesthetically pleasing, state-of-the-craft
Enlightening: reduces complexity, easy to understand
Truthful: best data, not misleading
Insightful: enables audience to draw conclusions
Actionable: provides solid guidance on immediate actions and next steps
Thomas R. Hahn has been an IP with a-connect for the last 10 years and has completed 19 projects focused mainly on Life Sciences. An ex-McKinsey consultant, Thomas is currently an independent consultant and professor of applied physics at University of Miami. His expertise is with clients in pharmaceuticals, medical devices, healthcare providers and healthcare payers industries. He is also a trained pilot with several flying hours under his belt.
Through several years of experience as a consultant, Thomas has created best practices for preparing an effective client presentation. Here we share some of the key tips and tricks that will help you deliver your hard work in the best possible way.