The best way to build consensus during a meeting is to distribute the information beforehand to give people time to review and absorb it. But what is the best way to distribute that information?
If you use a document format, you can add more detail while still allowing people to consume information at their own pace. However, the dense nature of documents can raise some issues. Very few people look at a page full of business prose and think, “This looks like great reading. I can’t wait to dive in!”
Also, documents can be difficult to reference during a discussion. Has anyone ever asked you to find the third sentence in the second to last paragraph in section four? If so, how long did it take to find it?
When you refer to a document, you lose valuable time just trying to get everyone to the same place—never mind your actual point.
Finally, many people process information faster and understand it better if it’s presented visually. By handing out pages full of paragraphs, you’re putting up barriers on the road to understanding—not the best way to start a meeting.
Spectrum of Use
Every department has long and dense, but necessary, documentation in the form of memos, reports, manuals, and briefs. These artifacts are useful for holding a lot of information in a single container.
Every department also has presentations it uses when people need to combine the power of the spoken word and compelling images to persuade an audience.
Characteristics of a Document
Characteristics of a Presentation
|Topical structure||Dramatic structure|
|Analytical process||Creative process|
|Visually dense||Visually sparse|
|Intended to be read||Intended to be heard|
Slidedocs Fill the Gap
Neither dense documents nor sparse slides contain the right balance of detail and scanability to be used as a pre-read or handout. Slidedocs combine the strengths of documents and presentations while minimizing their weaknesses.
Characteristics of a Slidedoc
|Visual thinking process|
|Tight visual-to-prose ratio|