The following content is by Steve Miller for Forecast5 Analytics, an ACSA Partner4Purpose.
When shopping for a diamond, you’re coached to look at the “Four Cs” – carat, cut, color and clarity. In producing your presentations, you can use these “Four Cs” by replacing the first two – color, clarity, consumption and consistency.
Although he was discussing architecture, Mies van der Rohe’s famous quote of “less is more” certainly can apply to color and other key elements of visualizations too. The University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Communication provides a number of tips for using visual aids, including: “do not allow the visual aid to overwhelm the speech itself.”
Keep your charts, graphs and other visualizations simple. Charts and graphs are intended to simply tell a complex story rather than trying to tell that entire story in a visual way. “Visual aids are not crutches to lean on, but rather lampposts to illuminate.”
Most of you who regularly present to your school board, or in similar situations, are familiar with the public speaking tip to “know your audience.” This is certainly important, especially when you are dealing with diverse school boards and communities with vastly different levels of experience with whichever education subject you may be presenting. When it comes to using visualizations to assist in communicating your story, it is equally important to know your room. What is the lighting and AV setup in your boardroom? Does that answer change depending on the location (if your meetings rotate to different facilities throughout the year)?
Be sure to allow yourself the time to test a new setup before a meeting as a lack of visual clarity will leave you with a frustrated audience if the AV setup isn’t conducive to viewing your materials. Don’t just look at the setup from the board table or your presentation podium - how does it look for the citizen in the back row?
In considering the third “C”, consumption, are you providing handouts? Will the presentation be posted on the district’s website? Something that works well during the meeting with a high-definition projector, a large screen and an effective speaker may be much less effective to a different audience consuming it on a computer monitor without your commentary. It may be helpful to have a second version for publication with different font sizes and/or with your speaker notes.
Lastly, while you live with your district’s budget, teacher contract or ESSA implementation strategies on a daily basis, your board and community do not. Having consistency in your own presentations as well as in those of other administrative team members can aid your audience. Building a budget presentation from scratch every year can be time consuming as well as confusing for the audience. If you can use similar formats from month to month or year to year for recurring presentations you can lessen the learning curve.
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