It’s the day of your big meeting, and you’ve done all the work: research, data, insights, strategies. You’ve got it all in your PowerPoint presentation, along with sophisticated, applicable recommendations. And as you go through your slides, hitting your points perfectly, you know all the time and resources your company invested in this presentation were well worth it. You’re nailing it.
But when you look across the room, your audience is…Static. Still. Maybe even bored. They’re not asking many questions, and don’t seem to be moved by your information, even though you know it can really help them.
It’s something I’ve seen happen to so many smart, dedicated people who worked their butts off to deliver gold to their clients or stakeholders, only to watch absolutely nothing happen.
So what gives?
Shrinking attention spans, for a start. Recent studies show that the average person’s attention span has dropped to 8.25 seconds. Meaning your average goldfish can pay attention nearly a full second longer than some of the people in your conference room.
But these are smart, professional people, right? They need this information. So why is it so hard to keep them engaged?
Spend a minute in their shoes
Your stakeholders are smart and dedicated; otherwise, they wouldn’t be there. But the truth is that most of them sit through six to eight meetings every day. Each one in a dim conference room, each an endless parade of bullets and charts, narrated by a faceless voice from the other side of the room, over and over again, all day long.
Wouldn’t the information start to blur if that was you? Wouldn’t your mind drift? Wouldn’t you get that eye-glazing trance I call the “Same What?”
99% of charts have the same colors, styles, fonts, and left-to-right reads spit out from either PowerPoint or Excel. Thus, there’s nothing that grabs the eye or tells the brain, “Wake up, here’s something new!” So seeing that steady progression hour after hour, who wouldn’t be numb?
And because charts are just brightly colored shapes and lines, they don’t mean anything to our eyes or brains until someone brings in text or narration. But even that usually isn’t enough for the ears or eyes to grab ahold of, especially when your stakeholders have to squint to read the text.
Which brings me to bullets. They should be easier because you can understand words when you read them, but how often is the text also squint-sized? And most presenters read their bullets out loud, but never as fast as their stakeholders can read them onscreen. That puts their eyes and ears out of sync, which means their brains have to do even more work to keep it straight. After a few hours, it’s exhausting.
And that, my friend, is why so much key information goes unheard, and ultimately forgotten.
The title from Paul Magnone and Christopher Frank’s book on the subject sums it up perfectly: “Drinking from the Firehose.” Because that’s how the execs said they felt at these presentations. They’re thirsty for information, but with more and more data hitting them every day, they can’t keep up with all the “same whats” appearing in slide after slide. Execs need something they can grab on to, make sense of, retain, and relay to their teams.
Which is why so many of them are asking for something…and we’ll tackle that in our next blog episode.