Podcast Ep 121 | How to Structure Presentations to Ensure Effective Decision Making

Leaders often waste a lot of time on decisions because meeting delegates are not well prepared with the information needed or aren’t well-disciplined with a process that can lead to an effective and quick decision.

In order to be a more effective leader, effective decision-making in meetings is crucial. Also, the format of rules and engagement to discuss, debate and decide impacts the effectiveness of meetings.

In this episode of the Growth Whisperers podcast, Brad Giles and Kevin Lawrence discuss how to achieve effective decision-making during presentations and meetings.




Please note that this episode was transcribed using an AI application and may not be 100% grammatically correct – but it will still allow you to scan the episode for key content.

Kevin Lawrence  00:13

Welcome to the Growth Whisperers podcast where everything we talk about every week is about building enduring great companies. Brad Giles, my partner down in Perth, Australia, and myself, Kevin Lawrence, up in Vancouver, Canada, get together weekly to talk about things that we’re passionate about things that we see happening in the companies that we work with, or in the studies that we do ourselves. All things that help us to build enduring great companies. So Brad, how you doing today?

Brad Giles  00:41

Lovely, very good indeed. And cold. It’s 11 degrees Celsius today, which might not sound a lot for you in Vancouver, but here in warm Perth, Australia, 11 degrees is cold. How are you doing?

Kevin Lawrence  00:55

We’re doing well. We’re in our summertime. So we’re warm, and we’re liking it. Even though we’re not getting the best summer. It’s alright. So hey, before we jump into the topic today, just a reminder to our subscribers, if you haven’t subscribed yet, just hit that subscribe button. And if you’re happy to give it a rating, we would appreciate it of course, any feedback or ideas you can always send to Brad or myself. So Brad, what are we digging into today?

Brad Giles  01:19

Today,  how to structure presentations to ensure effective decision making.

Kevin Lawrence  01:29

This one gets me and so many meetings, people make these presentations, which are interesting, informative, make it really hard to make an informed decision. In that moment, they just did some things differently. Man, it’d be much easier for them and for us, too. So yeah, this is a topic we’re both very passionate about. But first, let’s kick off with our Word of the Day. What’s yours?

Brad Giles  01:57

So what’s on my mind in this regard is its supply chain. We are just seeing so many people, it’s the holidays, the school holidays for kids over here at the moment. There are so many people who are reporting lost baggage with airlines or cancel our airlines are a mess.

Kevin Lawrence  02:17

Our airlines actually cut to national airlines have cut back service as a way to improve cut back the number of flights to try to improve service. Yeah. How’s that work?

Brad Giles  02:31

Yeah, they’re obviously struggling on so many levels. So yeah, it’s, that’s the pointy end. But broader than that, there are so many supply chain issues. It’s chain squeezes at the moment, what about yourself?

Kevin Lawrence  02:46

The phrase, that’s embarrassing. My daughter who is at the stage where she wants to get a job and is out there in the world, doing her own thing keeps using that phrase, that’s embarrassing for the things that she doesn’t want to do that put her out of her comfort zone. So I would say that, you know, as I we jokingly say, well, it’s embarrassing, it’s also embarrassing or uncomfortable not to get what you want. So there’s the discomfort of the doing the thing. And then there’s also the other discomfort of not getting the result that you want, and you’ve got to choose, and so joking with her with that, but a lot of times in companies, you know, that’s embarrassing, or which is code for that’s uncomfortable. You know, people avoid the hard things, and then they make it harder for themselves. So it’s really hard, or it’s embarrassing, what it’s embarrassing the supply issues that some supply chain issues that some people have, hey, well, well, we’ve got together pretty beautiful. Alright, let’s, let’s jump right in. So the idea here is that the distinction for today’s show is the distinction between discussing or debating, versus debating and deciding so one of the companies that I been doing some work with over the last couple of months, you know, I talk about a debate deficit where companies don’t get their debate, get through their debates. And they said, Kevin, we don’t have a debate deficit, man, we have nonstop debates. We’re always debating, we have a decision deficit. We don’t know how to get the darn things across the lines. Okay. I had to change my thinking from a debate deficit to a decision in company. And when you don’t make decisions, it constitutes up the whole system and slows the whole thing down. And you know, and we’re all guilty, including myself, sometimes dragging on decisions, you know, some decisions are hard. And the important ones that shouldn’t be hard. But it’s really today’s show, is that really, how do we make those important decisions better and faster, and the root of it is, we waste a lot of time discussing things because we are not well prepared. We don’t have the information we need for a well disciplined, well thought out. Effective decision. So then it takes way more time. time, people get frustrated. It’s not, for lack of actual, you know, intelligence, or knowledge or capability. It’s often process which we’ll dig into today or discipline at the core of it all.

Brad Giles  05:18

You know, it makes me think of Peter Drucker, who said that the job of the manager is to be efficient. And the job of an executive is to be effective. And if you’re going to be effective, a part of your role is you’ve got to do presentations, you’ve got to do presentations that lead to decisions. Okay, so the effectiveness of those presentations, is what matters.

Kevin Lawrence  05:45

Yes. And you got to teach your people to do the same. Yeah, you’ve got to teach your people how to make presentations to get the decisions that they believe are the right thing for the business. In many ways. It’s a little bit of sales person ship one on one, you know, we’re generally pretty good and selling some people better than others, but internally selling it to get the decision. Maybe we just need some sales training. Yep. So hey, if you want to take a look back at some previous episodes, Episode 58, collective intelligence, the key to leading a successful weekly meeting, also number 92, the meeting rhythm, the monthly leadership team meeting where we dig into some of this. And then finally, 114, the CEO only has one tool, which is meetings. And the root of this is creating highly effective presentations, discussions and decisions, which are a critical part of meeting so that sets it up. So the first point we have here is if you really want to make a presentation, have a successful outcome, know what the hell the question we’re debating, or the decision we’re making. And I don’t know how many times I’m in a room, and people start making their presentation. I go, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. What’s the outcome we’re looking for here? Well, I want to give you an update. Well, I don’t want to listen to it. I don’t want I want a decision. I don’t I don’t want updates. I don’t want to I want to know, what are you going to share with us so that we can make a decision, period? Update presentation, send it to me, and we’ll review it if it’s critical. So I don’t want to update wanting to help make decisions. Tell me why we’re listening to it wouldn’t be that rude. But that’s the intent.

Brad Giles  07:24

Albert Einstein said that if I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the question. Now, it’s not exactly the same. But you know, what he’s really saying is, understand the question, get very clear on what is the outcome that we want to achieve?

Kevin Lawrence  07:42

Yeah. And why is that important Brad? Because well, it takes us into our second point, which we’ll get into in a minute, but it’s about the information you need, because depending on the question, you will need very different information. So to finish off point, number one, know the question that we’re discussing, or the decision to make, and Big Deal things like who owns it? Whose decision is it to make in the end? Is it a group decision, or it’s one person’s decision, and we want just alignment or feedback. Second, is it helps people love or hate racy, and we have it in a previous episode as well. But if you look at RACI, it’ll tell you who’s responsible, accountable, consulted and informed? And making sure that you know, we get later, but are the people that should be consulted involved? Or have they been involved in it? And there’s something out of your book made to thrive as well? Brad, you want to touch on that?

Brad Giles  08:36

Yeah. So all team meetings are conducted with an agenda and data is available to effectively make decisions during meetings. So this is from my book made to thrive, which is about the five roles of a CEO. So, you know, you have to make sure that the meetings are run? Well, you know, in the US military, they have a saying, which is any decision is better than no decision. So if you’re in a combat situation, even if it’s kind of the wrong decision is better than standing around and getting shot at.

Kevin Lawrence  09:07

And it’s sometimes easier in the high pressure, high stakes. Yeah, it’s these the it’s these not important, sorry, are not urgent, but important decisions where we tend to get locked down. So look, you got to know what you’re trying to accomplish. Start the conversation with that to set people’s head in the right direction and make sure that the right people are involved. So number two, we need a whole bunch of information to make this now we need a whole bunch of information and we need it succinctly. We don’t need 427 slides. Please don’t send us 400 line spreadsheets. Right? If you want an executive decision need to present information in an executive way and it’s like, you know, why are we doing this? What are alternatives? What is our likelihood of success? Like how what’s the risks in this and if we Get it right. What’s the real benefit? No, I love this when we talk about like implementing CRMs, and Salesforce and stuff like that. And you know, it’s funny. Some people think implementing Salesforce increases sales. I think it’s almost hilarious. Now, if you have a problem in your company with tracking leads, and losing leads a CRM or something that manages leads that come in lots of people use HubSpot, and stuff like that. It can to help track and better manage leads. But last I heard sales management software doesn’t make salespeople have more meetings and make more presentations. I don’t know, maybe it does. But I generally think people get lost in this stuff. So anyway, you’re gonna have these beautiful debates like, is it actually gonna have the benefit that you think you gotta think of what dependencies and then and then you got to back it up with numbers, like, show us that you got to show us some current data in the business that relates to this and show us how it will be different IE, do you have a model, financial model, and then the main thing, if you’re going to bring a financial model, you better have had a finance person go through it with you. If you’re an operator, or you’re an HR, or you’re an IT or something else, and you want a decision, let your colleagues and finance validate your thinking with real math from the business, you’ll have a way better chance and some companies, it’s actually required.

Brad Giles  11:31

I saw a great example to this point, that CEO does when he’s running a meeting, he will send the slide deck, like you said, 427 slides, it’s not like that it’s you know, 10, 20, 30 slides, he’ll send it in the days prior to their meeting, expecting that everyone will review it. And then his job during the meeting is to talk about the nuance of the slide or talk to the deck. So assuming that you’ve already read it, he’s gonna say so this is why this chart matters.

Kevin Lawrence  12:14

I love the theory in practice, people reading stuff before a meeting, unless it’s a big strategic meeting, and people are setting aside for hours to prepare. I don’t ever count on it. Because some of the most important people often don’t read the damn stuff. If they have the discipline in the company, that’s great. It’s just that it’s rare.

Brad Giles  12:38

He has the discipline. And this is his weekly update. A part of collective intelligence, that type of thing.

Kevin Lawrence  12:45

Hey, if it works, then that is an outstanding approach. Yeah. And I would never count on it. But so which takes us to our next part of the point.He gets it prepared and shares it. I just find that generally, getting people to read information before him unless it’s a big meeting. It’s, it’s just challenging. So. So which takes us? So the final thing on the date, what you need to know is basically, what’s the ask? Clearly? How much you ask him for? Over what period of time? You know, we’ll talk about in a future episode, like, is this a bullet? Or is this a cannonball? Like, is it proven? Is it not proven? Yeah, but the on to the next point number three is, is that I call it you know, 80/20 meeting for decisions. The value is in the questions and the perspectives that it’s in the discussion. The mistake people make is they’ve got an hour slot to talk about the new IT infrastructure. Yeah. And then they present for 57 minutes. And there’s only three minutes to discuss. You’re not going to get a decision, I can guarantee it. So we help leaders in companies by saying if there is an hour slot 20% of that time maximum to present, which would be up to 15 minutes to present 12 minutes, I aim for 10. And if you can’t make your whole pitch in 10 minutes, you haven’t thought it through well enough yet. Or you don’t know how to present to executives. Yeah. So generally, even if you have sent it in advance, which is ideal for sure. Reviewing the key slides, or in some companies, just everybody reads it, executives seem to think that them making a verbal presentation is the best thing to do. It’s everyone does a PowerPoint. And that’s why they always take an hour. The other theory is write a two page document and we’ll just sit quietly and read it in the meeting, and then we’ll discuss it. I think it takes more discipline to write a two page document than a PowerPoint although they’re just you know, they’re not as pretty.

Brad Giles  15:01

But succinctly get the key points across that is that contains the information required for a decision to be debated. A and B decided and allocate. Your point is 80/20 rule is not an hour, 10 minutes to present, please, and then let’s discuss it.

Kevin Lawrence  15:21

It’s the discussion that will help us to get to the point of the debate. And if you’re really smart, you should anticipate every single question. And if you’re not that smart or experienced, your managers should prepare you. And you should, the best people that make presentations, they already know what we’re going to ask. And they already have the questions. We don’t have that experience run up by somebody else. First. It’s this is for the person preparing it is super important, because it’s pretty predictable if you’re an experienced leader. So the value is in the questions at 20 Present 20% of the time maximum no matter what you’re allotted, because you want to hear from people. Yeah, the next thing is, how do you actually go ahead, set the table for debate?

Brad Giles  16:12

So how do you make sure that the debate will be healthy, that the debate won’t go on. And as always happens, people bring up the same old things, the same old problems, time and time and time again, and you go down into these rabbit holes, or people have personal missions that they want to address. So allocate an amount of time, we’re going to talk for 20 women debate this for 20 minutes, or 40 minutes, whatever it is, and keep people to that time. We’re now halfway through, we’ve now got 10 minutes remaining, we’ve still got to cover off those three points before we get to the decision.

Kevin Lawrence  16:58

Yeah, I even use a timer. If there is 40 minutes for discussion, I set a timer for 30. And I say there, look, I’m setting the timer for 30. That lets us know that we have 10 minutes left, just and I’m putting on my phone. So it’s loud, so people can hear it. It’s a guideline or a guide post to help us.

Brad Giles  17:15

Yeah, yeah. So understand the rules for debate. Like we don’t do this. And we don’t do that. Like it should be healthy debate. We say how do we here’s one thing that I’ve noticed, you know, on Zoom meetings, they’ve got this raise hand function. Yeah, with most of the teams that I’ve been working with, we weren’t using that. And one team, they just, they just started using it. And it was so effective as facilitating it.

Kevin Lawrence  17:46

Most of our teams, we got the habit of using the user. The only problem is, as a facilitator, sometimes I’m so focused on what’s going on, I would still miss the hands. I know. But then, but then other people are calling it out. And the best thing on Zoom, you look on the right hand side, and they’re put in order of when they came up so you can easily manage and respect the order. But yeah, that raise the hand once you got that going. It’s beautiful. We often have it in our meetings, including myself, a facilitator, we have the hand raising, and it’s interesting. The team all owns it. Again, I’ll be facilitating a debate and I’m in it, and we’re working on it. And someone’s gonna go I go, Oh, Brendan, you’re next. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no, sorry. Sorry. Josephine was so Joseph. The team will help it but it’s the raising the hand is a simple, elegant way to not trample and just obviously facilitator schools to help that but, you know, it’s a great exercise for a team to come up with your rules for debate. Like how do you do it? Like what is you know, like one of my ones I hate is soldier gathering. Well, everybody thinks you’re an idiot. Now I can tell you I think you’re an idiot. But everywhere you go, you start gathering other people’s opinions to put more weight behind your own cheese anyways, people have their own things and you know, one company I’ve worked with they have phrases like Have you considered instead of I think anyway, just however you do but yeah, the main thing is you’re saying there Brad is set yourself up for an effective debate and one of the big things is are the right people in the room because if there is someone who is a key part of this if this decision is there pitching the new IT system, but you don’t have the user like if it’s a new retail POS point of sale system and the head of retail right or or the people in that part of the business aren’t there you can’t have a discussion because if the back of house it people love it, but the front of house don’t. It’s a waste of time, so having the right people in the room to make the decision.

Brad Giles  19:59

Yeah, and then we move to the next point, which is, eventually it’s time to decide why minutes left, we’re at 55 minutes of a 60 minute discussion. Yeah, we’ve presented you understand all of the data, the costs, whatever it might be, you understand the situation. we’ve debated, we’ve heard from disparate people’s questions and perspectives. Okay, so now it’s time to decide, when the whole reason that we’ve come together is to make a decision, what are we going to do? Are we going to go for this? Or are we not? Or is there a third option that we hadn’t considered, that we’ve had has come up through the debate? But yet, what are we going to? How do we land this? And who’s accountable for it?

Kevin Lawrence  20:40

Yep. And often, it’ll come down to disagree and commit, right? Is that you’re not gonna, if you push them for consensus, it’s gonna take forever, and we’ll all go around the room and some decisions if I’m in the room, say, okay, just, you know, so the final decision, is this just show of hands, okay? And just go around, everyone’s good, good, good, good. Someone’s waffle in their head. You know, hey, Margarita Margarita. is still on the edge. She’s like, yes. Are you willing to although you don’t fully agree, commit to this? And wholeheartedly follow through? Yes. Okay, great. Let’s go. Decision made. Yep. And then document it, write the damn things down. You know, in a lot of companies, we have a discipline and noting who what wins, we’ve actually tweaked it to decisions and actions, actions is the who owns but also logging those decisions. And then it gets circulated to anyone that was missing at the meeting. So documenting those decisions. And, you know, if those notes aren’t enough, sometimes there’s other specific people that need to be informed. But some point you got to call it, I think, in Robert’s Rules of Order, they call it calling the question, I think, is what they call it. So the key point here is, hey, people make a lot of presentations, they burn up a lot of our time, and don’t get decisions. So they have to come back and present again, that’s our fault. We need to set them up to win, and not let them into the room until they’re ready to win. By the way, I spent half an hour with an executive Friday afternoon. She wanted to present something I know, it’s a very sensitive and challenging issue to get a decision in that company. So I asked to see it first. Well, we went through and I helped her with it, because I was passionate about it. And we had to make some notable changes just on her third, last slide, which is a third to last slide. Because if she needed to have strong recommend, there wasn’t a recommendation. It was an information share. Yeah, which would lead to a nightmare. And so we helped to figure but basically, we had to restructure it so that it now can be effective, with the two of us putting our brains together on so how do we be effective, get the decisions we want and move ahead and not bore people to death and waste their time. So number one, be clear on the what we’re debating and the decision that we want made? What’s the ask to who’s accountable and is going to prepare all that information. So we can succinctly have it and then three, in the meeting 80% of the time is discussion at only up to 20% the presentation, right?

Brad Giles  23:25

So once we understand the question that we’re answering, once we understand the values and the perspectives, but then we’ve got to make sure that we’re facilitating a debate, which is the bulk of the time making sure that everyone is heard, making sure that all of the questions are answered and that everyone understands what’s being done using some of those things such as timers, the rules for debate, raising hands that we mentioned before. And then finally get to the point where it is time to decide, call it out. explicitly say now how are we going to sort decide how are we going to close this issue? Make sure that we walk away with a decision and with accountability. We mentioned racy earlier, maybe that’s something to consider but making sure that the decision is made and the accountabilities are set.

Kevin Lawrence  24:15

Yeah, one last point branches that I loved is making sure everyone’s heard. One of my favorite techniques and I forget but as we always get to hear from the quiet ones, because they’re thinking while the rest of us are yapping, but as to go around the room. Hey, what’s your perspective and literally do a circle around the room to get the views? Yep, as long as you’re awesome. All right, sir Brad.

Brad Giles  24:39

Well, I hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode of the growth whisperers You can find us on YouTube by searching the growth whisperers whispers if you’re interested in seeing our smiling faces. Also, we have interesting newsletters that we produce each week. Kevin’s website is Lawrence and co.com and mine is evolution partners.com dot I you do hope that you’ve enjoyed today’s episode, how to structure presentations to ensure effective decision making. Have a great week.