Presenting to Managers

From Edward Tufte's one-day class "Presenting Data and Information," my key epiphany is this:
Your audience is not dumb; they are busy.

There's a common "wisdom" that we need to dumb-down presentations to managers, but this is a hindrance to your message.

No, instead, imagine you are really busy, and you have a lot of demands on your time and, more importantly, your attention. In that mindset, what information do you need, and presented in what order, so that you can make a decision?

As technical people, we like puzzles. We like climbing over multiple steps to discover an answer. We are at times prone to structuring our presentations this way, too: Here's a neat problem, and here are all of the things I tried before finding an answer.

This is a waste of time.

Professor Tufte's argument architecture is this:
  • Problem
  • Relevance (why it is relevant)
  • Solution
Note that there is no time spent on how we came to the solution. Note also that there is no step for dumbing down the problem or the solution.

Your audience is smart, but busy.

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