Get to the point

February 14, 2010
125 Views

I’m not particularly a fan of Tennis but I’m originally from Scotland so took a keen interest in the recent Australian Open and cheered for fellow Scot, Andy Murray.

I’ve come to realise in recent years how in Australia we have an increasing tendency to drag out awards ceremonies for major sporting events. I really felt for Andy Murray in particular as he stood (im)patiently waiting to receive his runners up award and was then asked to make a speech when clearly all he wanted was to get out of there.

It made me think of how time poor everyone seems nowadays, particularly at work and how I imagine people sitting in business presentations, particularly the presentation of analytic findings, just wanting the presenter to get on with it.

I’m currently attending a course on dashboard design and information presentation principals, “Show me the numbers” by Stephen Few and one of the key principals we keep coming back to is how information should be easy to comprehend…

I’m not particularly a fan of Tennis but I’m originally from Scotland so took a keen interest in the recent Australian Open and cheered for fellow Scot, Andy Murray.

I’ve come to realise in recent years how in Australia we have an increasing tendency to drag out awards ceremonies for major sporting events. I really felt for Andy Murray in particular as he stood (im)patiently waiting to receive his runners up award and was then asked to make a speech when clearly all he wanted was to get out of there.

It made me think of how time poor everyone seems nowadays, particularly at work and how I imagine people sitting in business presentations, particularly the presentation of analytic findings, just wanting the presenter to get on with it.

I’m currently attending a course on dashboard design and information presentation principals, “Show me the numbers” by Stephen Few and one of the key principals we keep coming back to is how information should be easy to comprehend, the presentation of it should be intuitive and easy to understand ‘at a glance’. Stephen referred to Paul Grice and the Gricean Maxims of which I particularly liked the Maxim of manner, point 3: Be brief.

Stephen showed a video of Hans Rosling presenting at TED in 2006 (the 2010 show is on now where he enthusiastically presents what is essentially an animated bubble scatterplot chart (pretty complex) to debunk the view of the developed world as long life, small family and the developing world as short life, large family. Watch the presentation from approx 3.30 for 1.5 mins and at that point you’ll hear him claim “we have a completely new world”. Quite a claim, but after 1.5 mins you are convinced. That’s getting on with it! It’s how he tells the story.

When presenting or demonstrating I’m also a fan of Peter Cohans mantra to “do the last thing first”. Not only are we time poor, but we are programmed to forget, as Peter pointed out in a recent blog. Quite simply people remember the first and last things they are shown.

When presenting game changing or contentious hypotheses, as many of our customers do, its very easy to feel the need to show all the intricate details of the model they developed along the way (weren’t we always told “show your work” in maths class?). By the time they get to the punch line, if they get there at all, the audience has been lost or the meeting has been hijacked and no action will come out of it.

Make the point and make it easy. It’s an extension of the “tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them” idea but gets straight to the point.

“Show me the numbers” does not trivialize extensive research. Analysts should resist the need to justify themselves and their skills with a pre-punch line thesis. Getting straight to the point will invite engaged conversation and a stronger buy in of a hypothesis or at the very least a robust discussion and testing of the model.

The very fact that the analyst has created a robust and well researched model will come out in the ensuing discussion giving ample time to “show the working’ but this time to an engaged and interested audience. Of course you probably needed and used good data, great sophisticated processing and modeling engines and that’s where Teradata comes in!

I would love to hear or see examples of complex information being presented quickly, succinctly and the impact or result it had.

 

Alec Gardner
Area Presales Manager
www.linkedin.com/in/alecgardner