You’ll not be able to read this at the back

I love when things are explained with pictures. I used to think it was just me: school lessons, university lectures and business presentations all seemed pictorially light. Even a course on ‘Presentation Skills’ contented itself with delivering the old chestnut ‘a picture’s worth a thousand words’ – in words.

But it’s not just me. Everyone I know in the business world grumbles about poor slides in presentations. You know you’ve signed up to a yawn-fest when the presenter starts by apologising for his busy slide (‘You’ll not be able to read this at the back’, delivered with a we’ve-all-been-there-smile).

Why does this happen? Why would anyone present a slide that that simply isn’t fit for purpose? Stuck for time? Lazy? Perhaps. Just as likely is the idea that many people don’t think about the best way to get the message across.

Pictures can be powerful, especially when the relevance of the image isn’t always obvious, thereby providing an opportunity to engage the audience on another level: why is that aardvark on the screen? Where is she going with this? Maybe I should pay attention because a) I’m intrigued, and b) I might miss something.

For the Risk practitioner working directly with business teams, the challenge in embedding risk practices & culture is in translating high concepts into useable working expressions without diluting the value. That’s quite a trick when you’re trying to sell them on a mundane tool (Risk Register, Control Self Assessment, insert risk tool of your choice here). The solution, however, is not to give them information they can’t read.

Just to finish this one off, I thought I’d include one of my favourite slides. This one aims to make the point that a psychological dissonance tends to arise as a consequence of progression through the organisational hierarchy, such that the individual’s perception of their role and accountability are misaligned with the practical realities of business life.

Or, to put it another way:

Image

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