Many of us want to be up to date on what’s going on in the world, or at least appear to be up to date in what’s going on in the world when we go into work every morning. Every year one of my resolutions is “stay up to date on current events” or “read the newspaper more”. But much like a soap opera or a novel, if you don’t pick up from the beginning there are a lot of things that just don’t seem to make sense to you.

Starting to keep up is tough, because for topics that are frequently covered in the news the author feels they don’t need to re-state something they’ve covered last week, or even just yesterday. But of course, these articles aren’t catered for the new comers, and quite frankly if you were a regular subscriber you have to admit that it would be quite irritating and a waste of space to constantly be reading recaps of yesterday’s news in order to get to today’s.

Cue: TheSkimm

This year my new year’s resolutions (well at least one of them) are working out much better thanks to a handy little website my friend pointed out to me: TheSkimm. TheSkimm is a news service that strides to make current events more accessible and understandable. TheSkimm writers read through a variety of news sources and provide you with a “skimmed” version, compiling the important information that you need to have a basic understanding on a given topic, all sent to you via email each morning. In just one day my Skimm sourced The Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC news, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the Guardian, ESPN, Fox Sports, ABC News, and Fortune.

Why this works

A little while back my colleague Hannah wrote an article about accelerated learning and the 80/20 concept. Refresher: The 80/20 concept posits that learning 20% of a given skill will get you by 80% of the time. For most people and situations that is sufficient because the other 80% of the skill is more advanced knowledge that you will probably only need 20% of the time. It’s unreasonable to think that you are going to become an expert on every conflict, crisis, and culture in the world. Most of us just want to feel informed, and be able to form educated opinions in social conversations. But then, we come across things that are particularly interesting or relevant to us, we take a deeper interest, and look to increase our knowledge.

Apply this to presentations

The 80/20 concept, and successful applications of it, such as TheSkimm, are something you should keep in mind when creating presentation materials. Showcasing your expertise can be very important when meeting with clients, or trying to teach coworkers about a topic. However, very often we are so comfortable with our own areas of expertise that we don’t realize how overwhelming the topic can be.

Consider what they already know

You can certainly go into specific detail with your audience, but pouring data on them right away may not be the best tactic. Consider what your audience knows. Are they a regular subscriber who’s already up to date? Or are they just doing some reading while they’re waiting to be seen at the doctor? Chances are that you’re going to end up presenting to audiences that are all over this spectrum, so you’re going to have to prepare for both. The way TheSkimm writers manage their audience is by providing little one sentence refresher notes, which are helpful to even the daily news reader, and a link to an older article which will provide you with sufficient background information.

At BrightCarbon we often make presentations that can be presented in a non-linear fashion, or in a multitude of ways. We divide the decks into sections so that the presenter can tailor each presentation to the needs and interest of each specific audience. If you lived in New York City would you want to sit through a ten-minute news story about a municipal hearing in Dallas? Maybe, but probably not. So if you know a certain part of your offering isn’t relevant to a client, skip it. They’ll appreciate your consideration for their time.

Determine what they want to know

It’s unlikely that you’ll have time to cover 100% of everything you’d like to talk about, but if planned effectively you’ll have time to cover enough to get your audience comfortable with both you and your topic. We usually remember to ask for questions at the end, but very rarely to presenters think to solicit information from their audience members at the beginning. I don’t mean a simple “do you have any questions?”, because that can be vague. You need to ask leading questions that will let you know the specific concerns of your audience.

Recently I’ve worked on a few presentations that included very nice slides in the intro section, designed to determine specific pain points of the audience. This slide can be as simple as a bunch of text boxes. The main thing is that it gives the presenter an opportunity to discuss with the audience which challenges are particularly burdensome to them. At this point it’s probably too late to alter your presentation, but at least you’ll know what to highlight, and what to skip over.

Determining what to include in a presentation can be very challenging, especially when a lot of information, or a wide variety of audiences are concerned. BrightCarbon offers messaging consultation services to help you determine what your story is, and how best to structure it. If you could use a hand with messaging, or creating beautiful slides, please get in touch with us. We’d be happy to help!

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