Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Power of Information

You're all set to give that presentation to the big wigs today.  Your latte is steaming in its cup and the mist of freshly teflon-treated carpet creates a tingling sensation in your hands and feet.  As you step up to the front of the room, laptop flipped open and ready to project your power-point extravaganza, you realize that, even after all your preparation, you forgot one thing: INFORMATION!

If you're like millions of other corporate workers, you've found yourself in this scary scenario.  You've done so much preparation to pull off the great presentation, but you forgot to include one important thing: ...the information needed to substantiate your argument.  But don't worry, here's a few good tips to remember before making that embarrassing discovery in front of the people who are responsible for making or breaking your future.

1.  Do the math.  It doesn't really matter what kind of math you do, just do some math and write it out on your power point display and watch your audience's eyes grow wide with awe.  Whether or not your "math" has anything to do with the topic of your talk makes no difference.  Just throw up a few equations and mention how "surprised" you were when you saw this.  If you can, find an old college calculus book and just pick a few equations out of it.  If someone calls you out on your math - someone who might know about math or calculous - just dismiss your equation and say that it's nonsense.  Even showing dout in your math will help you to win over adherents.

2.  Plot a historic timeline.  No matter what anyone tells you, timelines work wonders in making broader points and instilling a sense in others that you understand the dynamics of your field of work.  What topic are you discussing today?  Make a timeline of the development of other like-minded topics.  Heck, if it comes down to it, just plot a timeline of your company's history.  When you're done going over it, ask your audience if there's anything you left out?  It can't hurt!

3.  Talk about emergent technologies.  Whatever company you work for, chances are it's already behind in the technology curve.  This is inevitable.  As soon as a company incorporates itself, it already has formed its paradigms of operation and will quickly fall behind the future demands of a changing technological landscape.  Anticipating future technologies will elevate your presentation from the static and historical to the futuristic and implausible.  Be creative in anticipating where you company will be 2000 years from now!

4.  Collect data and present it.  Data, no matter where it's collected or in what manifestation, will form the core of your presentation.  To pull off an expert presentation, you need data (information) and lots of it!  So pull in whatever data you can find and display it in whatever way you can.  Do you have an old graph you've been meaning to use?  Throw it out there and see if it sticks!  Do you have a flowchart your friend gave you a few years back?  Remove all the content and then screen it - then see what your audience comes up with when filling it out on their own!  Data is critical to forming a good presentation, so whatever you do, when the chips are down, throw some data out there and hit 'em where it counts!

Good luck!

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