Information overload: How to avoid it when presenting to leadership
You’re a detail-oriented person working in a highly technical position. You probably wonder how much detail you should go into when presenting to managers and leaders. You may even have been asked not to go into information overload again.
You’re not alone. This is a topic that comes up a lot in our presentation skills workshops.
First, let’s acknowledge that you’re in this position because your strengths lie in your attention to detail and technical nit-pickery. That’s great, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a natural at communicating higher-level information about what the details mean to the business or the decision that’s being made as a result of the details.
So, just how much detail should you go into? It depends on a lot of factors, but here are two concepts to keep in mind.
Focus on what the details mean to the business, not just the details themselves
When you’re presenting detail-heavy or technical information, keep the big picture in mind. Make the conversation be about what the details mean to the business, rather than what the details are. For example, imagine you’re a financial analyst. You’re presenting the quarterly review to leadership. Your focus should go to the quarter’s key metrics and how they compare to the previous quarter, not the raw numbers by themselves.
Help your audience make a decision
Technical people often present to managers and leaders when there’s a decision to be made. Ask yourself, “How much information will they need in order to make the decision?” Your answer to that question should guide the way. For example, if they’re trying to decide how much capital to hold in reserve for the coming month, you don’t need to go into what all of the upcoming expense are going to be, rather your focus should go to the bottom line figures. If they want detail, they’ll ask.
Don’t get me wrong, the details are important. Without analysis and attention to the details, business would grind to a halt. So always keep in mind that leadership pays you to do two things. The first is to work with the details so that they don’t have to. The second is to make sense of the details so that they can do their jobs.
Written by Greg Owen-Boger
Greg Owen-Boger has been with Turpin Communication since 1995, first as a cameraman, then instructor, account manager, and now vice president. Schooled in management and the performing arts, Greg brings a diverse set of skills and experiences to the organization. Greg is one of Turpin’s facilitators and coaches. When he’s not with clients, he manages the day-to-day operations of the company. Greg is an active member of the Association for Talent Development (ATD) and was the 2015 President of ATD, Chicagoland Chapter. He is a popular speaker, frequent blogger, and the co-author of the book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined. His latest book, also co-authored by Dale Ludwig, launched in 2017 and is entitled Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide for Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.