Details matter

Details Matter. But Use Them Sparingly

“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.” – Blaise Pascal

How much detail we use in our communication is a topic I touched on briefly in an earlier post here at Switch & Shift. Since then, it’s become an extremely important topic in our work with clients and colleagues. So we thought it important enough to revisit in greater – ahem – detail.

Details matter in business, and in some industries, the details are everything. But the amount of detail we discuss in meetings and presentations, and the way in which we communicate it, is a daily source of frustration in many work cultures.

Ask yourself this question: “What percent of meetings you sit in give you more detail than you needed or wanted?” If you’re like most people we work with, the answer is some version of “way too many.”

Now, ask yourself: “How often do people feel that way about MY meetings?” Be honest.

Twenty years ago, adding more detail to a presentation was an accepted method to be seen as well prepared. It was a way to cover your bases and ensure you had enough information to facilitate a discussion. More detail was a way to be perceived as more thorough.

Times have Changed

Now, providing too much detail has the opposite effect; it no longer connotes more preparation. Now it makes you look like you did less; like you just threw everything together to cover your own you-know-what. You look like you couldn’t make a choice, and that you tried to cover your lack of preparation by throwing a more-is-better quick fix at the problem.

In the lean business world of 2016, preparation for your meetings, presentations and conference calls is mission critical. No one wants their time wasted. You must walk into the room ready to get to the point. You should include enough detail to satisfy the expectations and facilitate discussion, but not so much that everyone is looking at their watches.

Deeper Details are Key

Next time it’s your turn to speak at the meeting, prepare by having those deeper details ready, and provide them via the audience’s questions. But don’t assume they want it all in your main message. In other words, your main slide decks should be shorter, and your backup slides for Q&A should be longer. Be ready to go deep, but allow the audience to take you there.

Details matter, but more is not always better. Think about your audience. Consider what’s most important to them, and realize the implications of our 21st century fast-paced, information-intensive business world are significant. We must change accordingly.


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Dean is a recognized expert in persuasive communication. He is the founder and president of The Latimer Group, an executive coaching and training firm that that specializes in creating powerful communication skills for its clients. He is the author of two books: Move the World: Persuade Your Audience, Change Minds and Achieve Your Goals and Sharing the Sandbox: Building and Leading World-Class Teams in the 21st Century. Dean served as Chairman for the US Olympic Sailing Program from 2005 through 2012, and as Olympic Team Leader at the 2008 Games in Beijing and the 2012 Games in London. He trained for the 2000 US Olympic Team and finished second at the US Trials. He has won seven national championships and five international championships. Dean lives in Connecticut with his family.

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  • Jason Johnson

    I have been living and teaching this myself for years. Thank you for expressing it so wonderfully.

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