Present ideas, insights and imagination, not just information

Maurice DeCastro
5 min readJun 4, 2023

In a business world challenged with cognitive overload, it’s time to present ideas, insight and imagination; not just information.

Data and information are extremely important. In fact, they are vital components of leading a successful business. That said, we have evolved in a business world where much of the information we need or choose to share is done so through a presentation.

Does everything need to be presented?

We are of course still called upon to present ideas but have you noticed the trend over the last 4 decades?

We are presenting documents

Once upon a time, not so long ago, information and data was mindfully crafted and structured in simple briefing documents. They weren’t filled with ‘umms and errs,’ corporate jargon and rambling sentences.

Or is that a fairytale?

In many ways, yes.

In fact, that is where the problem started.

Before the arrival of PowerPoint, the quality of the written word in project updates, briefing documents and reports was quite poor. Many were too longwinded and bombastic.

They weren’t easy to write, were very time consuming and often just as lengthy and difficult to read.

What changed?

Today, we can simply put the same documents up on a screen.

It’s now perceived as quicker and easier for us to read the document out loud to our audience, as they read it too. This surely reduces the likelihood of any misunderstanding and ensures everyone is ‘on the same page’.

What could possibly go wrong?

If it’s up there on a big screen and we read it, surely the message must be clear and more easily understood.

The problem is:

– Documents were (or at least should be) designed to be read in the comfort and quiet of our own minds.

Would you prefer to read a well-crafted, self-explanatory document for yourself or have a colleague talk you through all 19 pages of it, as it appears on a screen?

– Some information doesn’t need to be presented

Do we really need to present to 2nd quarter results?

– Most people prefer to either read or listen, not do both at the same time

It’s a challenge to do both effectively at the same time. Some can do so better than others but what about you?

– Documents are often so full of information that they take time to read and have to be read several times.

Time is often limited in a presentation and your audience only have one chance to ‘get it’.

– For many people, much of the information in the document is superfluous to them and so they will scan it.

Imagine one slide containing 12 bullet points, do you really think that all of these will be relevant to your audience and that they will remember most of them?

Most people can read faster than a presenter speaks

Try it for yourself and ask yourself which you prefer.

– If it takes you 20 minutes to read and say what your audience can easily read and understand for themselves in half the time, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

Have you ever sat through a business presentation and left the room thinking that took far too long?

– Whilst the spoken word often elicits a far greater effect that the written, that isn’t the case when you are reading what your audience can read for themselves.

When text goes up on a screen and we read it, we often speak in a very different tone, manner and pace; have you noticed?

– If a document is too lengthy or boring, the reader can put it to one side, take a break and revert back to it. They can’t just pop in and out of your presentation.

Try doing that in a business presentation.

– Most people write very differently to the way they speak which presents a challenge in the way the information is received.

Presenting a written document can compromise the way we really want our audience to feel as we get lost in the formality.

– If data is shared through a screen it should create a visual impact.

Many of us learn, think and absorb information more effectively when we see pictures.

What would you prefer to see, a compelling image or a long list of bullet points?

The big question

Does this information really need to be presented?

Data is a critical part of a good presentation but presenting it on its own, in the form of a document that your audience can read for themselves doesn’t give you or your presentation power. You lose power!

The opportunity

Presenting the 2nd quarter sales results is arguably easy. The question is, is it necessary?

Wouldn’t your audience prefer to hear the insights, ideas and opportunity the results present? They can read the detailed results in the comfort of their own space.

At Mindful Presenter we believe that every presentation offers an opportunity to not simply share data but to:

– Expand minds

– Share ideas

– Challenge thinking

– Inspire action

– Lead change

– Tell a meaningful story behind the data

– Share insight, learning points, possibilities and opportunities

Challenge the status quo — for good reason

– Influence minds

– Dispel myths

– Clarify doubt or confusion

– Spark imagination

– Make a decision

– Connect people

– Persuade others

– Make people feel something (emotionally)

Please don’t misunderstand me, presenting information is critical. In fact, if you repeatedly fail to present the necessary and appropriate information, you will probably be fired at some point.

Data on it’s own is not enough

Your audience absolutely want the information but not at the expense of their mental and emotional well-being.

They are very happy to hear you speak but not if you’re just going to read to them or they could easily read the information themselves.

In closing, I’d like to leave you with one final question.

Please ask yourself this each time you are called on to present.

Does this really need to be presented?

If you’d like to learn how to present ideas, insight and imagination, not just information

– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.

– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.

– Get yourself some excellent presentation training

In the meantime, you may find the following articles helpful:

The challenge of presenting data

Do you need help presenting data? — These 4 tips will help

Image courtesy of Canva.com

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Maurice DeCastro

Author, speaker, trainer, presenter - former corporate executive passionate about personal leadership, people and results.