tell your audience what you want them to know

It sounds simple. It sounds obvious. But how often do people give a presentation or send out a report or email without ever making it clear what they want you to know? 

Have you ever looked at a graph and thought, I'm not sure what I'm meant to get out of this? Or sat through a presentation or meeting only to realize once it's over that you're not really sure what you just witnessed?

I listened to a presentation last week where the person speaking put up a busy-looking, data-heavy slide. It wasn't a good slide, but the speaker was clearly comfortable on stage and knowledgable about his topic, so I was motivated to understand what he was trying to communicate. Then he said a few magic words: "what this is meant to show is..." followed by a clearly articulated statement. It is amazing how those simple words can make the intimidating accessible.

The effect these words had on me was to generate more patience on my part (and even a little curiosity) to understand what the slide was showing. The speaker knew what he wanted the audience to get out of it and walked us through the visual in a way that made sense. It still wasn't a fantastic visual - there are changes that could have made it more effective - but his words overcame this shortcoming.

Tell your audience what you want them to know.

It's simple advice, but the impact can be profound!
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