Here’s a quick guide to the rules that top-tier strategy consultants adopt in drafting presentations.
Visual Presentation: A Brief Glance
Have you ever wondered how management consultants can figure out a problem and articulate a solution before they present their findings? Management consultants are natural lecturers and storytellers, especially with their main tool: visual presentations.
The basic concept and steps outlined in this article are the same ones I use on a daily basis. I’ve been following them for over a decade in my line of work, where I’ve been exposed to all kinds of situations that are not specific to an industry or role. I have been fortunate enough to present and pitch to kings, heads of state, venture capitalists, CEOs, board members, executive committees, etc.
The main idea here is to give you the basics to help you connect the dots in otherwise unstructured data, content, and research that you may have invested time and effort into collecting and analyzing. By adopting this approach, you can structure your research and analysis into a presentation that’s made up of charts with clear and concise messages, which, when put together, flow flawlessly as a compelling story.
Though the most common visual presentation tool is PowerPoint, there are other tools, such as Google Slides, Prezi, and Keynote. These presentation tools provide visual support for ideas with clear data and findings. Consultants can use these findings to bring a new perspective to the world.
Creating an effective presentation requires practice. And sometimes, making a presentation can go horribly wrong. For example, poor visuals, disorganized text, and everything the speaker says is read directly from the presentation.
While I’ll touch briefly on design, this guide is not meant to be a reference for how to design a presentation or to provide PowerPoint tips; instead, it is a crash course on the logic and structure of presentations.
After you read this guide and practice the strategies below, you’ll discover how to improve your ability to organize and provide relevant information to support your points. Making your presentations focused and concise will allow you to weave a narrative into your main objective and keep your audience engaged.
This part will cover Vertical and Horizontal Logic, the DIKW and issue diagram, and the importance of the “So What?”
1. Importance of Objective
To make the presentation an effective tool, let’s first discuss the objective. The objective is important in drafting presentations because it helps you determine the particular problem you want to solve and how you’ll propose a solution.
In effect, everything in your presentation should lead to an objective and the goal of the presentation.
With that in mind, your job is to break down the problem, address all the subparts, and put it all back together.
Of course, your audience can compare your problem to similar ones they have seen in the past before you can solve the specific problem. Most of the time, though, the audience can resolve this industry-specific problem based on their expertise.
With an entirely new problem, you’ll need to rely on specific tricks to assist with your drafting.
Once you have your objective figured out, the next thing you’ll want to do is develop an outline (more on that in the next chapter).
For now, we’ll focus on the difference between outline and story. I’m referring to horizontal logic, also known as your outline, and vertical logic, the individual messages that support and create your story.
These logics help organize your points, support your argument, keep readers engaged, and avoid info-dumping. With any presentation, you want to convince your audience of your idea rather than just educating them on the subject.
2. Vertical and Horizontal Logic
Vertical logic is the content in your slide that supports the headlines in your slides. This includes:
The Header — This is the key message you want your audience to take away. To create an effective header, make the header a single sentence, punchy and straight to the point. State a single message in this header, so the audience knows what you’re going to discuss.
The Body — The body of your presentation contains the proof for your header; it supports the key message you’re trying to articulate. This part underlines the message and does not invite the audience to challenge you.
With this in mind, there are two kinds of vertical logic:
- Qualitative — This comprises visuals typically used for illustrative purposes. Using artwork to illustrate concepts, frameworks, organizational charts, and processes can make the entire process more engaging.
- Quantitative — This uses numbers, data, and facts to back up your points. Anything that can be represented in a graph falls under quantitative vertical logic.
Remember, it is easy to info-dump content into vertical logic. You may be interested in showing how much research you’ve done and report all your findings. Avoid this tendency by keeping your content focused on supporting the points.
Let’s discuss the harder concept of the two: horizontal logic.
The idea behind horizontal logic is to communicate your analysis through headlines. This tactic embeds structure and has readers following along with each passing slide. This means simplifying the information down to its crucial points and making sure the different elements fit together (Paul). Then, from reading the slides, the readers will know what your message is.
Because of horizontal logic’s precise structure, it can take junior consultants years to master.
3. DIKW and Issue Diagram
The DIKW (Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom) is a representation of how knowledge is collected. The following graph is most helpful in forming and joining content in a meaningful way.
There are a few rules to the DIKW diagram:
- Brainstorm as many questions that address the issues as you can. Narrow down the questions only to those that address the “So What?” question.
- Make a comprehensive list of issues.
- Eliminate all repetitive questions/hypotheses and combine overlapping ones.
- Develop your hypothesis, and use it as a base for conducting the analysis. If you find conflicting data, you can always revise the hypothesis as you work.
Meanwhile, the issue diagram provides a framework for brainstorming and documenting issues that drive the objective. The hypothesis shapes data requirements and uses only relevant information. Forming the hypothesis is a dynamic process, as it can be revised when you make discoveries from the data you collect.
In your presentation, every slide should support the points you’re making in the vertical logic parts of your argument.
What’s even more crucial is not the takeaway but the “So What?” question. Does your message lead to your established objective? Are you showing your readers why they should care about your overarching message?
For your review, here are the key points:
- Make sure statements are supported by the points in the slide (vertical logic)
- Build your story as a series of messages (horizontal logic)
- Let your story flow as if you were telling it.
The benefits of visual presentations are to show your argument, structure your thoughts, and engage the audience. Your presentation should be easy to follow along and well-organized.
After all, visual presentations are meant to show the audience your points and not just connect with them.
If you like what you’ve learned here, check out my other articles to learn more tips and tricks: