One of my favorite challenges is to help a client take a seemingly boring topic and turn it into a riveting presentation.
I recently faced such a challenge when one of our clients was tasked with speaking about her organization’s new expense processing system. Her job was to lead her colleagues through the new software program and show them how to enter their expenses.
Like most people tasked with such a presentation, she planned to give a talk that flowed something like this: “First, you click this button and enter that number here. Then, you click this button and enter that number here. Next, you click this button and enter that number here.”
That approach wasn’t likely to grab her audience—but by brainstorming together, we discovered a much better way to present that information.
First, it’s important to note that this woman’s colleagues weren’t exactly thrilled to be attending this training session about expense reports. So this speaker already had a challenging task in front of her.
To try to find something more interesting in her presentation, I asked her how much time it took employees to enter expenses in the old system. “About one day each month,” she replied. How about now, I asked? “About two hours per month.” And how many employees are using this system? “About 500,” she replied.
With some quick math, we determined that the new program saved the organization about 3,000 hours per month—a staggering 36,000 hours per year. That’s the equivalent of 18 full-time jobs. Assuming each person filing expenses earned $65,000 in salary and benefits, that represented an annual savings of almost $1.2 million.
An annual savings of 36,000 hours per year and $1.2 million is a huge headline!
Suddenly, she had a much more compelling open with a clear audience benefit: This will not only save you time, but you will be helping our nonprofit organization spend its resources on the people we serve, not on burdensome paperwork.
With that headline serving as her framing statement, the detail she proceeded to offer suddenly fit within a larger context that mattered to the audience. Even better, she further streamlined her presentation by killing some of the less important slides and creating a well-designed takeaway document that allowed her to eliminate several details from her talk.
Finally, and to her enormous credit, she added her own spin and delivered her revised opening brilliantly, proving that even “boring” topics can usually be made more interesting with enough creative thought.
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