Learning to share with Powerful Work Presentations
Presenting work is essential to getting things done. It’s the gateway to collaboration, getting buy-in and sharing knowledge. Building shared understanding of the abstract concepts, and complex decisions of information architecture is as important as the quality of the work. Unfortunately, these meetings frequently trigger opinionated debate and fail to move things in a productive direction.
Hear about insights gathered from years of observation and experimentation in a wide array of situations. You will learn how to create a presentation strategy, select the right level of detail, and handle difficult moments. Use work presentations as an opportunity to connect and make progress.
One of the most unproductive questions in design. If I am in the role of decision maker, or teammate or subject matter expert I now need to guess what is helpful input. It’s daunting. I may be someone who doesn’t want to hurt your feelings face to face, I may feel like there is a right and wrong answer. I may think you want to know if I like it or not, rather than if I think it will be the right thing for the people who use our product.
We don’t ask this question in usability tests, why are we asking it when we share our work?
If your audience is asking the wrong questions and picking at inconsequential details, it is an indication that the path you have taken is not getting you results. Look at it as a usability test for your process. If design discussions are not moving the project forward, you need to change tack.
Having others weigh in on design goes beyond getting someone on board with our thinking. Hopefully we are all working in teams and closely with people who bring a diverse set of perspectives to the problems we are trying to solve. Collaboration means taking in the input of others, combining it with our own in order to create something better than any of us could alone.
So we aren’t just seeking approval from our cohort. And we are not just explaining it to someone who will build or test it. We are going through a process that takes things forward.
I had the opportunity to chat with Dr. Steve Julius who came to speak at Process Prototypes and Play in Chicago last year. I talked him about how challenging I found it figure out how to get people from a point of being introduced to a new idea all the way to becoming an evangelist. That process had eluded me. He told me that people have different thresholds for change. You have to allow for the process of change to take place in steps rather than just convince someone you have a good idea.
The first thing is acknowledging that design is change. We are making new things or evolving things that already exist. Humans have complex reactions to change.
Change creates uncertainty Change can be risky Change can take you from the familiar into the dark unknown. People can feel threatened by change
I was talking to someone about a reorg and they were wondering why people had so many feelings about it. I suggested to think about it this way: You’ve just told someone that they are going to live in a house in a different neighborhood with a new spouse and kids. The have no control over it, no control over who these new people are that they will spend a ton of time with. And they are supposed to be happy about it.
Changing a product or service or creating a new line of business could alter someone’s world. Without taking someone through a process, it can feel like being airlifted into wonderland. It’s easy to see why someone would have strong opinions to some sketches.
Much like us this morning, it is helpful to get peoples heads in the space you are talking about. We all come to meetings from fragmented days having our brains in separate contexts. Provide a mental on ramp to the discussion. It’s okay to reiterate items that the group has already accomplished or decided. Often doing that minimizes people going over the same debates or coming to a decision that contradicts their previous direction.
What is the problem you are trying to solve? What are the constraints you are working within? What are the pressures?
What do you know and what do you need to uncover?
What stage of the process are you in?
What have you tried so far?
When will they have a chance to weigh in on other aspects? When will other things be done?
Magnify the value of design byproducts. That time an analysis done to design something can have impact beyond the design itself. Capture this stuff.Don’t let it evaporate into the ether. Just because we are in an agile world doesn’t mean that we don’t document anything. Design principles, insights captured from collaboration sessions, affinity diagrams, card sorts. All these things could have value from sharing across different contexts and groups. Don’t throw it away. That’s the stuff you need to share that design journey with executive decision makers. It’s the stuff you need to show your new development team who wasn’t there when you did your persona research. That’s what you need to share with the new product manager who just came from a different product line. We are out of the deliverables business, thankfully. So now we can consider what artifacts amplify the work that we have done.
What are the ideas that are pivotal to your design? What are the hypothesis you are testing? What is determining your trajectory?
Design principles Insights, User research findings
If you can get people to agree on the design principles, then they have criteria upon which to judge what you put in front of them.
Agree on the goals that the thing is supposed to achieve. How is it supposed to improve upon what is currently happening? What are the OKRs?
If you can’t agree upon what the design is supposed to accomplish, you will be swimming through the opinion infested waters. Good luck.
Simplified models share your process and explorations
What ideas do they need to accept or believe as a prerequisite to your ideas?
Think about if someone would have created Twitter before the widespread adoption of texting. Or before Facebook. Would it have caught on with a populace that wasn’t used to forcing conversations into 140 characters and comfortable with sharing parts of our lives daily online?
What ideas have you already internalized that led you to your current conclusions? You have to take your decision makers through that journey.
Do they agree on the problem you are trying to solve? Do you have a shared understanding of the need and the goal? Do they know what is possible and do you know what is feasible?
Design principles are a great way to really understand what your stakeholders mean and the unspoken needs. Agree on the principles that you will base design decisions upon before you get to the pixels.
What’s the big picture and how does this fit in? Don’t overwhelm with all the information that you have.
The right details not all the details.
Each time you talk about design, you aren’t talking about every aspect in each discussion. That’s not productive. Yet that’s often what happens when we hold up our design like it is homework to be graded.
What is the purpose of the discussion? It’s an opportunity not just to show something, but to expose unanswered questions. Work though problems in that moment with the design as stimulus.
What details do you need to talk about with this group? Tell them what you need from them. Set the agenda.
People tend to be delighted when you ask them to roll up their sleeves and design with you rather than asking for their opinion.
You can often do this by using slides instead of showing the artifact or output. We tend to hate power point (death by power point), but it is a tool that you can use to steer a conversation.
What are the details that will help the person provide the input that you need? Simplify Filter
You want to help them understand the meaning of their decisions.
What does a sitemap mean? How does that impact the experience? How does the organization of information reveal itself in the product?
Prototypes are great for this. Mockups or hand drawn sketches just to show that the main sections are navigation.
I’ve experimented with this technique particularly with Information Architecture. I’ve tried different styles of diagrams and oration and the best thing I’ve found is to actually show what it means for navigation and layout. What you’re doing is supporting their mental model.
We gravitate toward hierarchical schemas when we see diagrams of information. Many things are too complex to have them organized by a pure hierarchy and that hierarchy is rarely simple and not necessarily stored in that structure.
So what do the design decisions that are in documents and artifacts mean in their application? Paint that picture. Connect it to the goal and the design principles. Reiterate things that you’ve decided on together.
How you present yourself does a lot to communicate to people how they should react to what you show them. Are you confident in the work? Are you interested in working with them? Can they trust you to lead them?
You need to lead them through a process. That often means listening more than you talk. Sitting through silences as people think and group dynamics play out.
Anxiety and excitement are physiologically essentially identical in the human body.
Yes, presenting design is a performance. It’s an interactive art that you plan and design. This is not artifice or being inauthentic. This is communication design. And it takes time to do. The more experience you have, the more able you are to improvise on the spot, but thinking ahead of time is much more effective.
What is their perspective? What questions do they need answered? What are they concerned about? What pressures do they experience and how is their success measured?
_Value your wins, especially the small ones_ Take a moment to celebrate the progress the team has made together.
Learning to share with Powerful Work Presentations
Learning to Share
with Powerful Work Presentations
IA Summit | May 7, 2016