By J Wilberg
How much is too much?
This morning I was asked to talk to a governing board about scores on a federal funding application. I’d prepared a briefing memo because I NEVER speak to a group without paper. I was also ready to speak at much greater length and provide more detail than what I’d included in the memo. I really know the topic so I was, as per usual, ready to rock.
The chairperson of the group started off the day’s agenda with this caution: “When people have reports or presentations to make, let’s keep those brief, just the major points. Especially when we have a written document,” he said, looking over at me. “We can all read.”
He repeated this a couple of times and it occurred to me that the caution might have been the direct result of my presentation at last month’s meeting of the same governing board. I’d presented the results of a program evaluation. Members seemed very attentive and interested and that was all the encouragement I needed to delve into the topic chapter and verse. I thought they had appreciated the level of detail and the discussion but maybe it had been too much.
I pride myself on being able to speak without constantly referring to notes and to highlight the things that need special attention rather than hiding those things in a long list. But I have to say the chairperson’s caution to me this morning hit home.
What are three most important things this group needs to know, I asked myself. Just talk about those. And do it clearly and forcefully. It will keep the time short and convey a needed sense of urgency.
This was a good reminder for me. Decide what’s really important and zero in on that.
Even if you are in love with the topic and know a huge amount about it, prioritize. More can always be added later when people have had a chance to see what’s most important.
It occurred to me this morning that people aren’t paying me as a consultant to walk them through a long report like they were first-graders. They wanted me to tell them where to focus their resources and energy, recognizing that both are in limited supply.
Are you a practitioner of the detailed report? Maybe it’s time to rethink your approach.