The US Navy in 1960 noted that most systems work best when you “Keep It Simple, Stupid” When making presentation, the KISS principle is not a reflection on the audience but an admonishment to the presenter. Your goal is to encapsulate the essence of your idea in a clear and simple message. Simple is all about intent. Don’t sacrifice your core message, just loose the extraneous details.
Why is simple so important? Retired Brigadier General Tom Kolditz, founding Director of the Doerr Institute at Rice University explains: “No plan survives contact with the enemy.” Commander’s Intent is the embodiment of simple. CI = core + compact. To succeed in battle, you must know the intent of the mission, not fixate on the details. The more detailed and rigid the plan, the less likely it is to succeed. If you understand the intent, you can make course corrections along the way. Presentations should be no different. Focus on your core message and keep it compact.
The market is saturated with IT solutions. Decision makers are barraged by sales people telling them how their product is the best invention since sliced bread. If you really have a compelling story, then Be Bold, Be Brief and Be gone! If your story resonates, you will be called back!
Quad Charts, developed by NASA are a great presentation tool. You can reduce an entire slide deck to one slide. The Army uses Quad Chart’s extensively and finds them one of the most useful briefing tools.
Ten minutes should be adequate to brief your audience, leaving 5 minutes for questions. This is all you need for a first meeting. For initial briefings to CIO’s I typically use only one quad chart. And when I have an existing relationship I can use up to five different quad charts in a one-hour briefing.
As an enterprise architect, I am always tempted to impress my audience with a complex future state architecture. These complex drawings show how everything is connected along with a road map of how to get there. But this strategy can backfire. You must first earn the business before making such a presentation.
In an initial meeting, there are only two questions on an IT leader’s mind: 1) How does the solution solve my problem? 2) Who do I know is using it?
This is why your first meeting is all about the three B’s. A General, Colonel or CIO’s time is precious. They will be polite, but don’t waste their time. Show respect for their busy schedule, and end your presentation in 15 minutes. Success is an invitation to come back. If you can’t answer their two most important questions in 15 minutes or less, YOU have failed the mission. Be Bold, Be Brief…and Be Gone!