Can you make a difficult concept simple?

What should you keep in mind when presenting financial information?

July 31 is one of the most important date on the business calendar. As we embark on a new financial year, many business owners, managers, and leaders are forced to cease avoiding dollar talk with staff. For this is a time to review finances, update plans, adjust the business structure and set up new projects for the future.

With such changes and announcements occurring in many businesses, it is incredibly important that you communicate in a compelling way.

When presenting financial data, almost always, complexity leads to confusion.

Keep it simple and keep them calm

Whether you are presenting or writing, it is essential to consider that many people are intimidated by financial data. Let’s face it, spreadsheets can be scary.

Even if you consider yourself somewhat of a number nut, and can navigate your way around some fairly complex financial jargon, you need to remember who your audience is. Unless you work at an accounting firm, chances are that for the majority of your workplace, this heavy-weight data could knock them out.

While you could try and train up your staff so you can use and understand more complex terms and formulas, it is often a lot easier – especially if you are not confident with business finance yourself – to take a user-friendly approach.

This means that you don’t have to use jargon. Nor do you even need to use spreadsheets. Too much of this makes it virtually impossible for an uninformed audience to comprehend what you want to say.

Although you may understand it, remember to think about whether your audience will.Although you may understand it, remember to think about whether your audience will.

Use metaphors to make it mean something more

Non-profit consultancy organisation The Bridgespan Group spoke to Brad Dudding, chief operating officer of the US Center for Employment Opportunities, who opined that when presenting financial data, almost always, complexity leads to confusion.

“People don’t want to look at spreadsheets,” said Mr Dudding. “[My staff] always tell me they want more narrative.”

So how can you incorporate narrative into a presentation about numbers? This doesn’t mean providing a play-by-play account of your year in review, it means looking past the numbers to find the hidden meaning in them.

Think about the oft-celebrated presenter, the late Steve Jobs. He didn’t describe the iPod’s storage capacity in gigabytes – he talked about it in the number of songs. This way, he turned the technical into something everybody could understand and appreciate.

The challenge is doing the same for your finances. Can you make your end of year presentations enriching and empowering by simplifying them? Maybe a course in communication effectiveness could help you out.


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