Newsletter December 2012

Leadership & Communication
Insights from Lars Sudmann


Dear ,

Welcome to this edition of the ‘Leadership and Communication Insights.’

I have once heard that December is like the Friday of the months. In this time of reflection I wanted to share with you some thoughts and inspiration for your business work and this time especially on my experiences with business communication.

The featured article is about a key challenge for professionals: how to communicate a complex topic. I will share a simple two-step approach that can make a difference for your upcoming complex presentations.

In the links worth clicking
you will find on top of ideas of change and self-focus also a link to one of my articles from this year on ‘No more boring business presentations’ that is now free to read.

I wish you and your loved ones a great holiday season and a fantastic start into 2013!

All the best,

Lars Sudmann


Communicating complexity: Two steps to success

When presenting business professionals often face a dilemma: The topics are complex, yet they often have to be presented to a broader and non-expert audience.  The question is how to do that in an engaging way without compromising on content?

Many people show the full details: Tables in ‘Arial 8’, shape salads, detailed graphs and more. What are the reasons for this?

One is certainly that many presenters are not sure about the best way to present complex topics. They want to be on the safe side and show everything they have.

From my experience I know that there is also a second reason, a pressing business need: Many business presenters need to send ‘the presentation’ afterwards to others and the presentation often serves as the summary and documentation.

The result: very often presentations are not clear to the broader audience. I had to give hundreds of technical and complex presentation, and for me the following two-phase approach works best.

Step 1: Get in the helicopter

First, give your audience the ‘helicopter view’, as one business partner of mine once called it. Give a short overview before showing any detailed chart/table/…, something along the lines of:

“The results of our analysis show that the project is on track. Savings are at $2 million and the sensitivity analysis shows the robustness of the project”

If needed you can project this on one slide, e.g. in PowerPoint.

However, if you stopped here people might think: “Hm, everybody can say that… these are just words…” Therefore, you need to go to step 2.

Step 2: Show selected details

Many presenters who fear overwhelming their audiences put their details in the ‘back-up’ at the end of their presentation deck.

However, I don’t think that this is a good place. Your audience will not see it there. Mentioning that “details are in the back-up” also doesn’t help to instill confidence. And if you have to go to the back up you will loose a lot of time flipping back and forth.

The alternative? Put the detailed & complex slide right after the ‘helicopter’ slide. But don’t just go through it, introduce it with a sentence such as:

Here is an example for the detailed analysis – if it is ok for you I will not go into the details but will just highlight one or two specifics. And you will of course get the presentation afterwards.”

Then you look at the audience members and especially at the key decision makers in the room and wait for their ‘ok’ nod. Once you have that, you can move on.

This had typically the effect that the members of the audience get the key message and they also see that there are extensive details behind, which gives them confidence in your analysis/project.  

Some people say that this approach entails more work vs. just showing the complex slide. This is to some extent true.

However, I have found that creating the highlight slide was actually minimal effort and had a great effect – so I think it’s worth the investment.

Have fun presenting your complex topics – and please let me know your experiences.

Links worth clicking

If you want to spice up your business communication I encourage you to read my article in the TM magazine: “No more boring business presentations.” It is now online and you can read it for free here. Go to pages 14-17

Professor Morten Hansen shares ’10 ways to get people to change.’ A nice summary of different angels of change management. Read it here.

Founder & CEO Amber Rae shares ‘6 simple rituals to reach your potential every day.’ A quick reminder of simple strategies that help us to be at our best. Read it here.