Sunday, November 17, 2013

4 Ways to "Streamline" a PowerPoint Page or Deck at McKinsey

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Your McKinsey boss might give you feedback that your work needs to be "streamlined".  In this post I'll explain what that means and provide four common ways to accomplish it...

What does it mean to "Streamline" a document?

Feedback that your work needs "streamlining" usually means that your PowerPoint page or document (aka "deck") is too busy or complicated.  In consulting, it is often true that less is more, so your McKinsey boss is asking you to make your document more effective by making it leaner and/or clearer.

How do I streamline my document?

The overall approach should be to make sure that the focus or point of your document "pops".  Here are four common ways to accomplish that:

1.  Edit down

Make sure your work is focused on the critical or vital few.  Apply the 80/20 rule to make sure you're highlighting the most important things and not wasting PowerPoint real estate on lower priority topics.  Extra information doesn't always add to your presentation - often, it will distract from the key takeaways.

2.  De-word

Even if the "so what?" of your document is clear and the storyline is effective, your point can get lost if it's buried under too many words.  This is especially true of the page titles and headlines - they should be concise yet informative. The body of your page can also be streamlined, especially if verbal clutter is causing you to drop the font size to 10 or lower.

Make sure every word you're using is critical to conveying the key takaway(s) and/or advancing the storyline.  Find ways to say the same things with half as many words - adjectives, adverbs, and articles are often unnecessary and can be cut without consequence.  Consider using punchy, bullet point lists instead of lengthy explanations

3.  Simplify

Consider your storyline and frameworks.  Are all of the complexity and details necessary?  If your storyline has 10 parts, can you get your audience from Point A to Point B with fewer steps or chapters?  If you've applied a complicated, multi-dimensional framework, can you still make the point with a simpler, more elegant approach?

4.  Get visual

The adage that a picture is worth a thousand words also applies to PowerPoint decks.  Graphs, maps, and other exhibits can replace words while making the same point - often more clearly - than a page full of text or dense, complex data tables.  They also add visual interest to pages, helping you keep your audience engaged.

One caveat - although a good graph will allow the data to speak for itself, remember that you might need some text to put the information into context and/or highlight the key takeaway(s) from that data.


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