Too much information - not enough time

How to deliver your management report clearly by saying less

You have been asked to present a report to management. You have two hours worth of information but only 20 minutes to speak. What a dilemma! How do you get your message across? How will you decide what to leave out? And will management punish you for leaving something out?

5 to 10 Times Rule
What should you do? If you only have two hours of information then you should only speak for about 12 to 24 minutes. Why? Because if you have two hours of material - then most of it will be irrelevant or boring or both. Follow this rule - you should always have at least 5 to 10 times more information than you present.

If you worked on the project and researched the information, you might easily fall into the trap that everything is important and interesting. After all, you sweated over all the details. And more important to you - you want management to see you as doing a thorough job. You don't want to leave something out because that might make you look as if you don't know everything - or that you didn't do your homework.

Show Your Stuff Without Telling All
How do you appear to know all your 'stuff' without telling all your 'stuff'? How do you make the right impression on management? You might feel that the only way to appear open and honest is to tell everything you know. The reality is that if you tell everything you know - you are wasting their time and you are demonstrating that you can't judge what is important and what isn't. The message that you will convey is that you can't be trusted to think.

Like it or not you must leave some information out. You must decide on what is most relevant to management for this presentation. Learn to do that effectively and you will have more success with your management reports. You will get more support from management and you will be better perceived as management material.

Let's look at the "5 to 10 times" rule. If you know 5 to 10 times what you actually deliver - you will feel more confident while presenting because you will clearly know your stuff. You will give the group your best stuff. And when you get questions - especially the obscure ones - you will handle them skillfully and confidently. Management will see that there is real substance behind the presentation. That will make them feel more confident about your report and you. It does not matter how much information you present - if they don't believe you or feel confident about you. Senior management must believe in you. That is your real bottom line.

So how do you cut? First, decide on your most important message. What is it that you want your listeners to feel, say or do after your presentation? For example, are you asking management for approval, budget, or other resources? Do you want them to feel confident that you are handling things well - and they can leave you alone? Or are you warning them about a problem that they might need to act upon? Be clear about your key message?

Focus On Key Message
Before you start to prepare your presentation - write your key message on a piece of paper and keep that in front of you while preparing your presentation. If you can't do this, then you really don't understand the purpose of your presentation. And people who do things without understanding their true purpose are doomed to fail. Check every exhibit, phrase, and fact against that purpose. If something doesn't help you get your key message across, delete it.

If you sculpt your presentation well enough you might deliver that 20-minute presentation in 17 minutes. And guess what? No one will be unhappy that you did it in less time. In fact, take note of the approving nods and smiles around the room when you finish early.

Several Versions
Take this method one step further. Because you will deliver similar messages over your career, develop different time versions of each message. Be ready to deliver your key messages in a 20-minute, 5-minute and 90-second format. When you can do that you will deliver the right presentation at the right time and be more successful in getting what you want.

What can you do if you really want management to have all the information? Give them the detailed report. But keep your presentation short. The best thing you can do for your business presentations is to make them shorter. Management will reward you.

SC© George Torok is the Speech Coach for Executives. Register for your free presentation skills tips at Arrange for presentation skills training for your sales team by calling 905-335-1997 Find more free presentation skills tips at Receive regular presentation tips at

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