The Power of Focus

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This month, a client shared the video-links below. It’s fun and make a great point about presentations: the importance of focus. Since this is a key issue we address when training and coaching executives, we thought we’d share the videos to discuss the point:

We’ve adopted the acronym of WINning presentations – to refer to this issue: Focus on What’s Important Now – and eliminate distractive clutter.

Less is more. People can only process so much information; we consciously and unconsciously screen out information to handle overload. So, the job of an excellent presenter is to:

  • Eliminate information that’s not critical to the current decision-making situation,
  • Present the key information in a compelling way
  • Structure the argument (set of slides) to guide the decision-making process
  • Make the entire presentation engaging (given people’s limited attention spans)
  • Present it powerfully and persuasively.


It’s the first issue that’s our concern today: presenters often think that the audience is focusing on what WE think is important, but instead they’re focusing on what THEY see and from which THEY conclude is probably important. The result is that either they miss critical information or it’s so watered down as to no longer have the potential impact that the presenter wanted.

For instance, our training program includes a sample slide which is similar to a client slide that was designed to make a specific point. The text says one thing and the chart, which covers 60% of the surface space that makes a completely different point. Every student who sees it incorrectly believes the point of the slide is what the chart shows, rather than what the client meant to say!

Many presenters – whether they’re making board, investor, management, marketing, research or sales presentations – start with a “data dump”: the feeling that all facts and features must be presented to the audience. Indeed, the goal is confused: they think it’s to impress their audience on all the work they did and fearing that they might exclude something important, they include almost everything. (Our old high school and college habits – share everything and make it longer – are dominating our decision-making; when in the business world, being succinct and concise are the values for which we should be striving.)

The audience, not knowing what’s really important for them to consider, generally pays attention to everything that seems important. But by doing so, they are paying attention to too many things that are unimportant – and are distracted from the key nuggets that matter. The result is a non-compelling presentation, that’s too long, boring and/or putting the audience to sleep.

Worse, by discussing all the information, without a specific focus on the goal – the decision that needs to be made – means the presenter isn’t focusing on the key points and can’t be as persuasive about them. From there, a downward spiral takes place, in which confidence in the material and the presenter is lost. This undermines both the presentation, and the extent to which the presenter is able to appear as a leader.

Put these behavioral patterns together, and you get a non-compelling, unpersuasive presentation. What a shame!

Don’t make these mistakes. Learn how to build ADAPs – Audience Driven Authentic Presentations. Presenters who master the WINning formula – what to include and how to organize and present it for power and impact – are much more likely to persuasively present compelling presentations – and close more deals, advance their careers and/or improve lives.