Advanced Business Writing
Presentation and Graphics

Focus

Imagine the leaders at your software company are very concerned about employee turnover. They want reasoned recommendations for changes that will reduce turnover.

You researched the topic and wrote a detailed report. Then, at the request of your boss, you prepared a presentation by condensing the content of the report into eight charts:


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now your boss has directed you to rewrite the presentation for the CEO, and, while you're at it, cut it in half—four charts only.

To condense the information while making it helpful to the CEO, you should:

    1. Focus on questions.

    2. Be ready with data.

Focus on questions.

Most people don't recognize their natural habit of thinking mostly about their personal contribution when writing their report and preparing a presentation. They typically arrange topics like this:

Subject
Investigation
Results
Recommendations

That's not bad. It could provide a starting point for the titles of the four charts. However, it does not necessarily match the four topics a CEO would like to see. Imagine you are the CEO: you are a big-picture person, and your time is valuable. What four topics would you need to make a decision? Here is a reasonable starting point:

Problem
Findings
Options
Actions

Let's try using this sequence as a starting point for the headlines of our four charts. A more detailed version might be this:

Our Problem: Turnover
The Findings: Employees and Competitors
Some Options
Recommended Actions

Sit back. Ponder. Question. Will this be easy for the CEO to follow? A more appropriate question might be: Will this be really easy for the CEO to follow? To answer that question, a good place to start is to list the issues important to a CEO, which would be indicated by the questions they might ask:

What's our problem?
Employees: What are they saying?
Competitors: What are they doing?
What should we do?

Is a question too informal for the headline of a presentation chart? It depends on your audience. Keep in mind, though, that a question is one of the most engaging things you can present to people. Ignoring text that presents a brief question is not in our nature; we feel compelled to read it and consider it.

Note: Don't be complacent by accepting the first set of topics or headlines you come up with. Work through several iterations if you have the time. When you have a reasoned set of headlines, they will guide you in the next step: choosing and organizing content for the remainder of each chart.

Be ready with data.

Make a backup chart or two with extra information, in case the CEO wants to see the details of your investigation. When you condense the eight charts down to four charts, you remove a lot of information. But that information could still be of interest to the CEO, which is why you should have a backup chart. Don't worry if it looks overly busy; it demonstrates impressive work ethic in addition to your commitment to keeping the CEO informed. A starting point could be this chart:

But now, take a step back and ask yourself if that chart is also properly focused on what the CEO wants to know. Let's say your CEO is known to be concerned about costs, especially the cost effectiveness of an investment. With the chart below, the CEO can more easily see some evidence of how different practices might contribute to improved revenues per employee and could therefore justify investments. Obviously this is subjective. You do your best with the time you have.

Lesson: Focus
Module: Presentation and Graphics
Course: Advanced Business Writing