Making it look pretty isn’t fixing the problem. The problem is the thing itself…
If you have bad cake, it isn’t going to taste any better by layering it with frosting. It’s still bad cake.
If you’re presentation isn’t communicating your ideas clearly, changing fonts and colors isn’t going to make it any better. The key is to understand what you’re trying to communicate… not only the idea itself but how it’s presented; not as an extra layer, but integral to the medium. A couple things that I find important when I’m working on communicating ideas in a presentation:
Know the parameters
How will you be presenting your ideas — face-to-face, screen share, video conference, or as a stand-alone document? If you’re meeting, do you have 30 minutes or two hours? And what’s the venue like? Is it a small conference room with a tiny monitor or an auditorium with wall-to-wall projection? All of these things play a factor in how you present.
Provide some context
I make sure the audience knows why we’re meeting and what we’re pitching. Give them an agenda to set up expectations from the start, a short summary of project history to bring them up to speed, and goals for the meeting, so they know what the outcome will be.
Build a story
When presenting ideas for the first time, you can’t start at the climax. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Give your message greater importance by setting it up with an intriguing introduction, engaging narrative, and a convincing conclusion.
Frame the discussion
So you’ve presented your best ideas… now what? If I’m presenting multiple ideas for discussion, I create space in a presentation for dialogue to happen. If your ideas aren’t fully baked yet, then get specific about the feedback and input you need.
So, can you make it look pretty? I guess … but it’s not doing anyone any favors. Can you put your ideas into a message with intent, purpose, and clarity? Yes, absolutely.
Don’t just add frosting. Make better cake.