Thanks to evolving Internet and mobile technology, most of us now prefer our information presented in tapas-sized quantities, preferably in a visually appealing way. This preference is having an impact on our business communication. Before our eyes, bullet points on PowerPoint slides are gradually giving away to engaging visuals. Infographics are replacing text-dense brochures and executive summaries.
Nancy Duarte, who is motivating the world to clean up its PowerPoint presentations, is venturing into a new frontier: Written reports. She suggests creating reports using presentation software like PowerPoint, which is more amenable to manipulating layouts. The idea is to present one idea per slide, incorporating visuals, text and much-appreciated white space.
Duarte calls this type of report a SlideDoc and offers a free tutorial on how to create one (presented in, you guessed it, a PowerPoint document). The site includes downloadable templates to help you create your own SlideDoc report. You also can find Duarte’s Diagrammer here, which I wrote about in a previous post. I believe, at this point, that I should state explicitly that I do not own stock in her company. I just love her approach to presenting ideas and I think evaluation reports would be read and heard by more people if we all started using her guidelines.
As someone who wants to stop producing coma-inducing reports, I have tried my hand at creating more engaging layouts using Microsoft Word. What I learned is this: Take your anticipated timeline for report-writing and double it. Word does not lend itself to interesting layouts, so inserting pictures, graphs, and call-out quotes is like putting shoes on a toddler. You can do it, but it’s probably going to make you late.
Consequently, my results have been underwhelming.
So I‘m excited to try SlideDocs. I already can see how much more flexible PowerPoint will be for arranging text, images, and graphs. I won’t be wasting time adjusting margins and re-positioning graphs that always seem to wander around in Word documents. I also like that I don’t have to learn a new software application, nor do I have to get my audience to download a special reader to view my reports.
Just remember: Shorter isn’t easier when it comes to reports. These “to-the-point” SlideDocs require that you know both your findings and your audience extremely well so you can communicate the most important information in the most succinct way. SlideDocs will help with the layout, but you still have to do the thinking.