At most company presentations I see:
- Data that only confirm prior beliefs
- Strictly positive performance of the division being represented
- Blanket statements about customer demographics
- Marketing campaign plans without goals or objectives
- Statistics that aren't relevant to the audience
**Warning, beginning of a rant**
Do any, some or all of those sound familiar?
These tendencies are (usually) not intended to mislead people. Simply put, a lot of people who actually present information tend to dictate what they would like on slides rather than asking their analysts to provide insights and data.
So, what is going on here?
The problem isn't typically the top down approach to presentations. There's a certain degree of direction that a presenter must have in order to get a point across. A presentation without clear direction is similar to a website that is designed by committee - it has a higher tendency to be ineffective.
However, there is a disconnect between presenters and those who are supplying information. Many people who are being asked to provide data aren't clued into the context of the meeting. A web analyst who is being asked to "provide year-over-year traffic growth categories" becomes immediately handicapped - being forced to find only positive results. What if the growth categories didn't seem very relevant but the stagnant or decaying categories had great potential? This information, while not intended, is not actually an indicator of business performance.
If an ad campaign finishes and a presenter wants to show off the results, he or she may ask for performance data but then cherry pick topics which look great. Some people even ask for "expectations" of the campaign after it has already concluded - creating another (unintentional) form of misleading information due to lack of forecasting, goal setting and planning.
The list goes on...
How can this be fixed?
First of all, presenters need to sit down with analysts and explain who the audience will be along with what decisions will be made after the information is presented. This is absolutely critical to driving successful analysts. Secondly, bring analysts into more "high-level" meetings. A good analyst will be able to listen to the problems the company is facing and start to provide data analysis and insights which people may not even know exists. Keeping analysts in the dark and then expecting a data dump will severely hinder the ability to get actionable insights. Thirdly, encourage analysts to speak up and ask questions. In many organizations, a "need-to-know basis" exists in which people may not feel comfortable asking questions which are "out of their pay grade." Do not let that happen to you!
**End of rant**