Friday, May 20, 2011

Obvious and Not So

I've written before about the importance of using generalizations and examples in presentations. Generalizations help to bring order to the universe of detail while examples bring the lesson into the real world.

There is also a balance between the obvious and the subtle. Any presenter who assumes that certain points are obvious may soon face a bunch of blank stares. There is, of course, the fear that audience members may be insulted if the basics are emphasized and yet a brief review of the basics may be secretly welcomed by those who feign a sophisticated grasp of the subject.

Some points, however, require a careful delineation between the interesting but trivia and the subtle and important. We are after the latter. Look for them in these areas:

  • What is not being done if energy is devoted to a particular task;

  • What was not said in a report;

  • How a seeming defeat may be a hidden victory and vice-versa;

  • How commonly accepted terms or metaphors may create misleading visualizations of the situation;

  • Whether a halo or horns effect is distorting our assessment of a decision;

  • Whether PowerPoint bullets are glossing over the significance of certain issues;

  • Whether different definitions are used for the same term depending upon the context;

  • What was the intent of the rule-makers;

  • What is the position of the wisest opponents; and

  • Where the loopholes and vulnerabilities are to be found.

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