Countless presentations are given in businesses across the world each day and while the reasons for them seem just as endless it doesn’t feel too difficult to categorize most of them into one of the following:

To inform or instruct

To Inspire or motivate

To persuade or influence

To drive action

To entertain

The most common and by far the most dreaded is the presentation update which is largely designed to keep you informed. You know that day each month that everyone sits in the same seat around the same table telling each other the same thing they say every month.

‘Good morning, I’m here to update you on:

– Our department’s performance against KPI’s

– Project X

– Product Y

– Progress on Z

People need to know what’s going on, but if you craft your presentation purely as an update and open it as such you can be pretty confident you will see a few yawns stifled before you hit the next slide.


Because we have all been there and sadly we know that:

– Much of it will be irrelevant to us

– Some of it we will already know and some of it we don’t care about

– Much of it is designed to make you look good rather than help me

– Probably all of it could be sent in an email

Having spent a huge part of my working life in the corporate world on the receiving end of ‘updates’ I’ve seen it for myself.

I still see it in some of the biggest and most successful brands every day.

The moment you make the mistake of telling your audience at the outset that your presentation is ‘for information purposes’ you run a huge risk of them discreetly checking their email while you speak.

The cure

It’s simple but it takes courage and discipline to focus purely on the information your audience wants and needs. Structurally there are 3 key elements required for any ‘update’ to have an impact which respects and values the time of your audience.

1. What has changed – how does it affect them and the business?

– Far too many updates are fraught with spreadsheets and slides drowning in numbers. Numbers are good but only where they are relevant and have impact. Less is always more; give them the written report or appendix afterwards that includes all of the numbers but for now just share the headlines.

– What circumstances or conditions have changed since you last met that requires curative action, a different way of thinking or approach that would affect your audience?

– Where do you need their help and support and why should they help you?

2. What information do they need – to help them to think, feel, and act differently?

– What do you want them to think, feel and do about the information you have to share and why?

– If they didn’t turn up to your update presentation or receive the information you regard as important to them what would be the impact?

– How will their thoughts and behaviour change after your update?

3. What do they want and need to know – that they can’t easily find out for themselves?

– Everyone is busy and under pressure so only tell them what they want and need to know. The only way you can know the answer to that is by asking them before you craft your update.

– If you said it last month don’t say it again unless it’s critical.

– What is so important that you couldn’t share in an email?

Whether it’s a monthly, quarterly or board update, a project or status update, most of them are far too long and superfluous. Keep it simple, keep it totally relevant and focused on your audience and watch the difference in their reaction.

If it really is purely for information in the context of you not needing them to think, feel or do anything then you owe it to them, yourself and indeed the business to challenge the status quo and ask why you are doing it.

That may even mean suggesting to your boss that despite the fact that the business ‘has always done it this way’, it may be time for a radical review and overhaul.

“I have so much that I want to do. I hate wasting time.”
Stephen Hawking