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/How to embrace the boundless?

How to embrace the boundless?

How to reconcile laconism with the desire to say and demonstrate a lot? We present a method of combining formats — based on an example of a presentation of a fictional business plan.

...For several hours on end the Author was writhing in creative travails. He tried to squeeze all the available information into his presentation. The Author was aware of the fact that very few people in the audience will make heads or tails of overflowing figures, graphs and texts, but he was even more scared of simplifying the contents - it won't look "serious" enough.

The Author was right. The audience must have an access to all information. However, the Author is also right thinking that abundance of information will complicate its understanding. What is to be done?

To begin with we must identify the functions of a presentation.

Here they are:

  • attract attention, kindle interest;
  • demonstrate serious attitude to business, professionalism and commitment of the team;
  • provide the most important answers;
  • provoke the required questions;
  • provide comments to comprehensive information sources;
  • make a project more emotive.

As you can see, a presentation refers to some comprehensive information sources.

It refers to them, but it does not show them. These sources need to be provided in complementary formats.

I want to tell you about the approach that we have started using relatively recently. Let us have a look at our example - a business plan presentation.
A business plan is based on a table of indicators planned for five years ahead. The table is our data base, that is, it contains all key information on the project.

Now we need to present this information in an interesting and graphic way. We need a presentation to do this. However, the table (containing all the figures) must always be at hand, in front of our eyes, and presentation slides must act as comments to table lines.

This is our main secret! We design a presentation as commentary to the baseline table with figures. And we use three information carriers in doing so.

THE FIRST, and the foremost, is an A3 format sheet of paper the table is printed on.
On the lefthand side fine lines refer to the presentation slides, also printed out (or screens in DVD presentations). Thus a visual and logical link is created between what a speaker has to say and show and figures in the table. Format combination enhances trust and interest in the project.
The presentation stops looking superficial, as it is based on calculation and this can be seen. The pictures and table are visually interrelated and complement each other.
On the righthand side the table can include textual comments.
Paper version of the business plan is the SECOND and key document, as well as the source of all information.

Finally, the presentation itself is the THIRD carrier. It can be done in Power Point, or in DVD format- using all advantages of animation graphics.

The table may be something like this:


The table was drawn in a laborious and accurate manner.

The lines 1, 4, 7, 8,12,14 have "inbuilt" graphs that visually demonstrate the dynamics of indicators. Certainly this is a very simple table, and a real-life business plan contains many more lines. But the underlying principle remains the same.

On the left-hand side there are presentation slides. The size of presentation slides (800 x 600 pixels) makes it possible to print them as small boxes, and they will remain perfectly readable.

The format combination method turns out to be extremely useful and effective. Because:

  1. The viewer develops a feeling of involvement and interest;
  2. The presentation does not exist by itself, it is a commentary to something more solid, and viewers are holding this solid stuff in their hands;
  3. Questions arising while reading the business plan are commented upon at once - by means of presentation slides and textual blocks.

Now the presentation can serve as a truly efficient tool, we can use all powerful techniques at our disposal - and no one will suspect us of a desire to sugar-coat reality. Because the presentation does what it was designed to do - attracts attention, provokes emotions, and clarifies details. We can afford it as we have provided all the information we have - in other formats. And we have visually bound together the presentation and printed materials.

Thus, a multi-format presentation enables to solve the following tasks:

  • remove the conflict between an "unreadable", overloaded presentation and a desire to say and show a lot;
  • make the presentation profound, interesting, memorable and comprehensible;
  • demonstrate respect towards the audience, professionalism and serious intentions of the team;
  • single out this project from a hundred other ones - that were presented unskillfully and improperly.

Andrey Skvortsov
CEO, Mercator group

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