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The War on Detail


Details matter in business, and in some industries, the details are everything. But the amount of detail we discuss in meetings and presentations, and the way in which we communicate it, is a daily source of frustration in most companies.

Ask yourself this question: “What percentage of meetings that you sit in take your time giving you more detail than you needed or wanted?” If you are like most of our clients, the answer to that question is some version of “way too many.”

Now ask yourself this question: “How often do people feel that way about MY meetings?Be honest.

Twenty years ago, adding more detail in was an accepted method for being seen as more prepared. It was a way to cover your bases and make sure you had enough information to facilitate a discussion. More detail was a way to make yourself look more thorough. It was generally a good thing.

Now, it has the opposite effect. Too much detail no longer makes you look like you did more preparation. Now it makes you look like you did less, like you just threw some things together, to try to cover your own you-know-what. It makes you look like you couldn’t make a choice, and that you tried to cover your lack of preparation by throwing a more-is-better quick fix at the problem.

In the lean business world of 2014, preparation for your meetings, presentations, and conference calls is mission critical. No one like having their time wasted. You need to walk into the room ready to get to the point in a valuable way. And you need to include enough detail to satisfy the expectations and facilitate discussion, but not so much that everyone is looking at their watches.

The trick is to be ready to go deep into detail via the audience’s questions, but not assume they want it all in your main message. In other words, your main slide decks should be getting shorter, and your backup slides for Q&A should be getting longer. You have to be ready to go deep, but allow the audience to take you there.

Details matter, but more is not always better. Think about, and know your audience, and start realizing that the implications of our 21st century fast-paced, information-intensive business world are significant. We must change accordingly.

Have a great day.

At The Latimer Group, our individual Coaching services are highly customized and designed to help you achieve your specific goals. Typical engagements focus on developing skill sets in Leadership Communications, Public Speaking, and Executive-Level Business Presentations. To learn more, e-mail us at