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…to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” – Albert Einstein

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This week’s quote comes courtesy of German-born American abstract expressionist painter Hans Hofmann. And boy have I gotten a crash course in the wisdom behind it over the past few weeks.

…So in my current role I find myself putting together a lot of presentations for C-Level execs. This is a departure from work that I’ve done in the past… but not in the way you might think. The sorts of analyses I’ve been doing isn’t materially different than what I’ve done in prior roles. The scope of the topics has changed, but it turns out that data analysis is data analysis regardless of the subject.

…With that said, what has been much more challenging is changing how I present data. Decks that would have been 10 slides if I were presenting to peers (or even Managers 1-2 levels up) now need to be 3-4 slides. Sentences that were eight words become four. Three footnotes become one.

The actual process of cutting is actually more difficult than anything surrounding the analysis itself. This is not due to matters of grammar and/or semantics; it is not especially difficult to cut down a sentence whilst conveying the same meaning. Rather, cutting down information to its leanest form is difficult because it requires one to make assumptions about what an audience knows. Cut too much and your deck loses its meaning. Leave too much and you both indirectly insult your audience by inundating them with table stakes information and distract from the speaker’s message due to information overload.

…But when we get it right – when we eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak – we create an opportunity for truly meaningful learning and a subsequently rigorous discussion on the urgent topic of the day.

As we get started this week, I would encourage you to think about the audiences you present to on a daily basis. These can be your manager, your peers, your customers, vendors, or even your family. Think about what is important to these people, and how you can present that information in such a way that both captures their attention whilst conveying your intended meaning. And remember; less is not always more, but when sharing any information it is good to always make sure to include only what is necessary.

As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Happy Monday,

Rory

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