One of the most common, and most tactical, comments we get from workshop participants is this: I understand why you want me to simplify my materials/slides. But I need to be ready for questions that may come up, and I need to be ready to support the person who wasn’t there. And I don’t want to look unprepared.
This comment comes up all the time. In fact, it came up yesterday, June 7, 2023 in a follow-up conference call we ran with some workshop participants. At the heart of yesterday’s comment, and every time this comes up, is the fear that really simple slides will make us look like a lightweight, and we fear looking like we over-simplified the issue. So what do many people do? They compensate and cover for that fear by loading up their document. Look how prepared I am. Look how much work I did.
But while trying to compensate for this concern, we end up creating an entirely different problem… we create documents that may look “thorough,” but also are look (and are) overwhelming, and create cognitive overload for our audience. We try to solve one problem and in the process create an entirely different (and worse) one.
We see it all the time. It comes up in literally every workshop.
So what to do about it? Well, that’s easy.
When creating your main slide deck, remember to create it for the benefit of your audience. The main deck is for those in the meeting, and your primary goal is to get your ideas across without overwhelming them or creating cognitive overload.
And then put together an appendix, which you can create for your own benefit and for the people who may have missed the meeting. This is where you can show your work, offer up the deep dive into detail that may come up, and prepare for any eventuality. This is where you can cover your own ass, so to speak.
In other words, the main deck is for your audience. And the appendix is for you.
One for the audience. One for you.
Have a great day.
(P.S. Mandy, Jim and Jimmy… promise kept!)
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