I often hear about leaders asking staff members to put a spreadsheet on a slide. I see this in the work I do reviewing slides from participants before my customized corporate workshops. These huge tables of numbers are overwhelming. In my workshops I prepare makeovers of slides and show the participants how the key message of the spreadsheet could be communicated as a visual instead. It is not uncommon that the participant who prepared the slide says that the visual is clearer, but they have to put the whole spreadsheet on the slide because the boss requires it.
The first question you should ask when your boss requests the full spreadsheet on the slide is why they want to see the full spreadsheet. They are clearly looking for something, and it will save you a lot of time if you knew what they were looking for. If they really only need to see the bottom line, just show them a clean visual or small table with the key figures. This is almost never the case unfortunately, so why else might they want to see so many numbers.
There are two reasons I often hear from workshop participants as to why the boss asks for the whole spreadsheet on the slide. The first common reason is that the boss says that the presentation is being used as part of the project documentation, so all the details need to be there. The second reason is that the boss wants all the details to be there in case someone asks a question.
By putting the whole spreadsheet on the slide, you actually invite the audience to derail your presentation. Here's what happens. Audience members stop listening to you and start examining all the numbers. They aren't hearing your explanation and context, so they may not interpret the numbers correctly. The bigger issue is that they start hunting for questions to ask. Often the questions are totally unrelated to the point you are trying to make. And now you are getting into discussions that take your presentation away from the key points you wanted to make.
How do you deal with these two reasons for putting a spreadsheet on a slide? By using hidden slides. A hidden slide is a slide that is in your PowerPoint file, but does not appear in Slide Show mode. Make the spreadsheet slide a hidden slide and create a visual that communicates the key point contained in all those numbers. Since the spreadsheet is in the same file, the file still contains the detail if that is needed for documentation or contract purposes. If the boss wants to be able to access the details in case a question gets asked, add a hyperlink to the visual slide that jumps to the hidden spreadsheet slide. See this article for more information and a tutorial on hidden slides.
When I sit down with senior executives, it becomes clear that the reason they want the whole spreadsheet on the slide is because they aren't getting what they really need in most presentations. As I explain in my latest book, Select Effective Visuals, leaders need actionable insights on what needs to be done next. Insights that consider the context of the results, the relationships between the data and other factors. They are almost always only getting measurement results that answer what happened or performance results that answer how the results compare to a previous period or goal. They ask for the spreadsheet so they can figure out the insights themselves.
They won't ask for the spreadsheet if you provide them the insights they need. This means you will have to look at the analysis you have done and take a step back. Consider the context of the results. How do these results compare to industry or other benchmarks? How are these results related to other factors? What is the bigger picture of what is going on in this area? Consider all of the different perspectives and then come up with a few actions that should be taken to move forward. That is what the boss wants you to do instead of having to do that work themselves by looking at the whole spreadsheet.
By understanding why leaders ask for spreadsheets on slides, you can address their concerns and replace spreadsheets with focused visuals that clearly communicate the key messages.
April 2003 | May 2003 | December 2003 | January 2004 | February 2004 | March 2004 | April 2004 | May 2004 | June 2004 | July 2004 | August 2004 | September 2004 | October 2004 | November 2004 | December 2004 | January 2005 | February 2005 | March 2005 | April 2005 | May 2005 | June 2005 | July 2005 | August 2005 | September 2005 | October 2005 | November 2005 | December 2005 | January 2006 | February 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | January 2007 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | July 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | January 2011 | February 2011 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | April 2012 | May 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | November 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | May 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | July 2015 | August 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | November 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | April 2016 | May 2016 | June 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | February 2017 |
Microsoft and the Office logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.