Leave A Document, Not Just Slides

This part of a recent post by Seth Godin got me thinking:

Third, create a written document. A leave-behind. Put in as many footnotes or details as you like. Then, when you start your presentation, tell the audience that you’re going to give them all the details of your presentation after it’s over, and they don’t have to write down everything you say. Remember, the presentation is to make an emotional sale. The document is the proof that helps the intellectuals in your audience accept the idea that you’ve sold them on emotionally.

So I decided to review the past few presentations I’ve attended to see how I reacted to them, especially their lasting rather than their immediate impact. Here you’ve just got your memory to go on plus any notes or slides you might have plus links to web sites/blogs (which you often don’t have the time or inclination to follow up).

Three options can crop up:

  • Listen and don’t take notes (rely on the slides given afterwards as a memory jerker)
  • Half-listen and take partial notes (helpful if the talk motivates additional ideas or insights)
  • Listen as-and-when and take good notes (relevant when the slides or speaker are poor)

Typically, after each presentation, I ended up with a general impression, a (large) set of bullet-point oriented slides and some incomplete scribbled notes (the middle option). That may be good enough for many purposes. However, especially as time goes by and the memory quickly fades, I realised I would really appreciate a well-thought-out overview (which is not the same as mindless advertising blurb).

I also came to this conclusion after doing a review of my own business. I certainly had lots of notes, lists and slides. Then, somewhat accidentally, I came across a summary document I’d written that put this all together (at one point in time) and which crystallised everything rather neatly. I know why I rarely do this – it takes time and effort – however I hadn’t appreciated the time it would later save which easily repaid the initial investment.

So, the next time you’re giving a key presentation, think about also producing a 2-3 page overview that will have meaning and potency in six months time, it could be invaluable to your customers as well as you!


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