How to create visual documents that influence senior leaders
By Nicole Lowenbraun
A few years ago, in an all-hands meeting at my former company, my CEO asked the entire team to suggest ideas on how to get us to our Q1 goal. My hand shot up. I was excited to share my ideas with him, and after I did, he responded enthusiastically: “Great! Write up the details and send them to me.” I was a little disappointed that we weren’t going to collaborate in person, but understanding that he was a busy executive, I did what he asked. I presented my ideas in an email in hopes that they would influence senior leaders.
The strategy involved a complex and detailed step-by-step plan on how to improve an existing process. I outlined what was working and what wasn’t, how to change it, who would be responsible for overseeing the changes, and how the changes would benefit our company and our customers. It was well thought out, if I do say so myself. And I knew my colleagues agreed with my ideas. So, when I didn’t receive an immediate response from my CEO, I was surprised and disappointed.
I made several attempts to engage with him and follow up. I emailed his administrative assistant. I G-chatted him. I asked for meetings, asked him if he had seen my emailed proposal, asked if he had any questions. All to no avail. He was busy, after all. And in the end, my idea wasn’t implemented.
Business communication is tricky business
For weeks, I thought about how I could have presented my ideas in a way that would have grabbed my CEO’s attention and made him want to act. The problem wasn’t the content–the substance was there. I believe what was missing was visual impact.
When you look at a newspaper article or magazine spread, what stands out? Those pages are strategically designed to make things pop. My complex ideas lacked that visual “wow” factor. NOTHING popped on my page. And therefore, nothing resonated. The email likely sat in my CEO’s inbox with countless others, waiting to maybe be read.
Much later, when I started my current job, I was introduced to Slidedocs™ an incredible tool that has solved my “flat on the page” problem because they help me convey complex ideas visually. Developed in presentation software, Slidedocs are intended to be read and referenced, because they’re skimmable and searchable. They ensure your points are seen and remembered because they break up complex ideas and pair them with visuals.
How do you know when a Slidedoc is appropriate? Obviously, if people need to hear directly from you, a presentation is best. But when you can’t be in person, or in my case, when the CEO doesn’t have time to see you in person, a Slidedoc can be hugely helpful. Especially if the audience will need time to sift through a lot of details.
Consider a Slidedoc for the following types of external communication:
- Research Finding
- Earnings Report
- Client Strategy
- Sales Sheet
- Case Study
- White Paper
Or for these types of internal communication:
- Research Findings
- Corporate Strategy
- Execution Plan
- Staff Meeting
- Status Update
Have you ever read one of the above mentioned communications and had difficulty maintaining attention? I can’t count how many times I wished I had a graphic or visual to enhance the content I was reading and help me understand. Slidedocs do just that. The fact is, Slidedocs are better for your audience because they:
Give the creator space limitations
Slidedoc authors are forced to boil down the material to its essence making the material more clear and concise for the reader.
Present ideas visually
Slidedocs help the audience “see” what you’re saying. When critical business decisions need to be made quickly, visually articulated concepts reduce the time to reach consensus.
With Slidedocs, the audience has time to read the material instead of listening to it be presented. Give them more time to digest your ideas and they may be more likely to adapt them.
After reading a Slidedoc, people can gather to have conversations about it and create movement toward objectives.
Decrease time to understanding
Slidedocs help your audience understand your ideas more quickly because the material has been parsed, structured, and visualized.
In using Slidedocs I’ve come to realize the major advantages it brings to my ideas compared to emails and other documents. Here’s the gist: text-only deliverables trap your ideas. There’s a time and a place for complex reports, proposals, and collateral. Sometimes, businesses need dense documents for contracts, full research reports, and transcripts. However, important information (like my unique idea), gets lost if it’s embedded in blocks of prose.
The next time you’re tasked with delivering complex ideas, especially ones designed to influence senior leaders, think about the best way to convey them. Will words suffice? Or will words, coupled with visuals in a tight, concise, skimmable, and searchable Slidedoc make your reader take action?
Illustrated by Sofia Gonzalez.
Business, Delivery, Presenting, Public speaking, Visual thinking