As long as you’re putting a financial presentation together, you might as well save some headache and consider in advance a few things that affect financial presentations more than most.
Purpose: Inform or influence ?
Advice about presentations abounds, and most remind you to know your audience. What often is not considered is whether or not you are just sharing information or if your intent is to help the audience draw a conclusion (“yes, we should approve the proposed whatever”). Presenting to inform and to influence are different beasts. Keep reading and you’ll see how this affects subsequent choices.
Design: Onsite, online, or both?
The medium of communication affects how messages are delivered and received. Onsite, for instance, you should ask, “Can this be seen clearly by the person with poor eyesight sitting in the back of the room in these lighting conditions?” Online you should ask the same question, but the nature of making sure that the design works is different. Will you have mobile participants on smaller screens? Does your webinar/webcast platform do anything funky to fonts or colors? Better yet, are you trying to plan for both at the same time?
Design: Data or story, and where do the eyes go?
If you need to inform, you likely include a breadth of information in which the audience will wrestle through to draw their own conclusions (on their own as individuals, as groups, and/or with you). So when you want to include more information, how do you design it to answer the ‘on site, online, or both’ question above?
Conversely, when telling a story, any extraneous information only muddies your point and decreases your chance at effectiveness. (I don’t have to tell you that, cognitively speaking, story always wins, right?) Telling a story means considering flow and sequence differently.
Either way, always ask, “Where do the eyes go?” – yet another something that will be affected by environment (on site, online, or both).
Design and delivery: Publication or conversation?
Leaving behind a slide deck that’s readable is common practice, but that doesn’t make it good practice. Documents are documents, and there are probably better software tools for publishing.
Conversely, the power of “live” isn’t in information delivery – it’s in dialogue (see this for a few thoughts on engagement). True enough, depending on a number of factors, you may do most of the talking. But just because most webinars are talk-AT-you experiences doesn’t mean they should be (see this for a few best practices that aren’t so great).
I bring this up here because financial presentations are worse-than-average at infobarfing on people, e.g. more data is better (true in some contexts, but not most presentations). And online attention spans are shorter.
Effectiveness: Acceptable tradeoffs or take a different path?
Imagine that you’re teaching something in an onsite context and you do a breakout exercises (where you have people turn to discuss something at their table for a few minutes before discussing in a larger group).
Have you ever seen that done in a “webinar?” (<<-- rhetorical question)
In communication, optimization drives valuation (realized value of the experience). This isn’t true JUST for communication, right?
Every medium has a tradeoff, and often we don’t stop to think that when we move online we also gain something.
So let’s say that you’re wanting to mimic your onsite breakout group exercise in an online environment. Can it be done? Dang straight it can! But does every webinar/virtual class platform do it? Nope.
Does the organization you’re going to deliver a financial presentation in use the kind of webinar software that would let you do it? Nope. (In fact, probably not.)
Now that you’re conscious of the fact that there are tradeoffs (even if you don’t know what they all are), you can ask smarter questions.
- What if we did separate sessions onsite and online so I can optimize my effectiveness for each audience?
- If I wouldn't make someone who raised their hand in an onsite audience wait to get their question answered, why would I do it online? And now how do we do that?
- If I want audience members to interact with each other (even if it's not a breakout group), what can we do? (Maybe like this)
- If we have audience members both onsite and online, how will we handle questions and interactions?
- For our online audience, would I ever want them to go to a website and interact with it as part of their experience of my presentation?
- What if we planned the webinar more like a blended learning experience and gave them a handout?
- Oh, now that we’re doing that digitally, what form should I provide it in?
- And when (if we want them to print it so they have worksheets to write on)?
The bottom line
Purpose, design, delivery, and interaction all have tradeoffs – tradeoffs that aren’t hard and don’t take a Ph.D. in psych to get you ready for. But it’s useful to be able to ask better questions. And it might be useful to “hang out” with people who are willing to rock the status quo a little, too. :)