Are Your “Key Takeaways” a Needle in a Haystack? header image

Are Your “Key Takeaways” a Needle in a Haystack?

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Imagine for a moment I hid a set of keys for a new Lexus in one of those personal storage lockers at Portland International Airport.  And all you had to do is find the specific door, put in the key and it’s all yours!

My job?  I just had to explain to you how to get you there through the busy and crazy distracting environment of an international airport.

It’s not that I want to make it hard for you to find – to the contrary – I really want you to find it. But we may have a challenge… I like to use words to explain things.. lots of them.

Show you a map…. you get it.  Give you turn-by-turn (bullet-by-bullet) set of instructions and… well your Lexus may be waiting for a while in the parking lot.

This metaphoric dilemma is what presentation audiences experience every day of the week. If they didn’t know better, they just might suspect you were working overtime to make sure there was no way they could possibly “get” the really important stuff you intended for them.

The problem?  You’ve been ruminating with that message and slide deck for weeks. They have mere seconds to figure it out.

Desiring to communicate so much… we often end up giving audiences nothing at all.

We’ve come a long way in being able to put together a presentation – yet in some ways have not progressed very far at all. Despite our enhanced ability pan-zoom, add video, present virtually and choose from a massive array of shape effects, we’ve lost track of our prime directive.

(Seek to ‘do no harm’ comes to mind but perhaps there’s something even more important.)

At the end of the time you’ve been given… after all the collective hours of invested effort and energy… and at the conclusion of precious time invested by your audience … they must remember.

This is where we too often let them down.  We think software features = recall.  They don’t.  We believe graphical embellishments create message clarity… they cannot. And it often appears the process itself has become more important than the outcome.


So consider this personal challenge…

What if your personal compensation for the entire month was dependent one single thing?

Here it is.  If those sitting in on your next presentation could remember and repeat back a simple few points they believed you wanted to get across, you got paid.  If they couldn’t agree – your check went into a drawer until they could.

Miss a single check and what might your next presentation look like?

I’m guessing if presentations were truly outcome-based, your visuals would get amazingly simple. And those dozens of points you previously wanted to communicate?  They would somehow refine themselves down to a few crisp ideas illustrated in simple ways. And the close?  A single word or two on screen, reinforced and related to their lives.

I will leave you with a few simple things that might help…

  • Set Clear Expectations on slide #1 and deliver on your promise.
    Where are you taking them and what’s the prize at the end of the journey?
  • Make the Path Simple & Straight
    Create a simple closing slide next which becomes the litmus test for all you will say. And be clear how the journey relates to the prize. 
  • Let Your Audience Know When They’ve Arrived
    Many presentations seem to end because they ran out of slides. In the simplest of terms and in the briefest amount of time, conclude your presentation by serving them up on a platter a few simple things you want them to remember and why.   Simple. Crisp.  Straight-forward.

Ok, so I don’t really have Lexus waiting for you at the Portland airport and there is no locker with a key. But the point is hopefully crystal clear. Don’t make it hard for your audience to walk away with something important.  Clear away the visual and messaging obstacles to absolute message clarity. And most of all…

Remember why you’re there in the first place.