Don’t Present a Large Block of Numbers
When I first started working at a particular company ages ago, I encountered a situation where I had to step in and make a presentation to management. The girl who normally presented the review had been unexpectedly called out. Her presentation was a spreadsheet with lots of numbers, with columns extending out to column AT and rows down to row 150. I got the impression that this was typical in this business unit.
Needless to say, I had great difficulty presenting this file.
It appears that a lot of financial types tend to present data in tables with lots of numbers or even in a raw format with no explanation of the meaning. Maybe they even have pages and pages of tables with nothing to relieve the eye.
In order to grab a hold of your audience, you need to think about your visuals. Rearrange the data and add visuals, if you can, so that your audience can better absorb the information. Think about adding charts if they will provide insight. Also, be selective about what you display. Don’t display every single number in a presentation. More than likely, your audience is not enamored with numbers.
About a month later, the girl left for another part of the organization and I inherited her project work, including giving presentations on project financial status. Because we had 150+ projects and could not possibly cover all of the projects in an hour, I narrowed down the selection to the top 10 problematic projects. Then I rearranged the data to show project information, contract data, financial data and invoicing data.
It was scary the first time I presented this because it was so different from everyone else, but it was a HIT! Management loved it and it also helped me drive the focus on improving the most problematic projects.
It seems kind of obvious in retrospect to present data in a visually appealing way but we finance folks often get caught up in the busyness of everyday work. If we just step back and think about what we are doing, we can make a lot of simple improvements.