How we deliver information is often just as important as the information itself.
One day, a professor brought a beautifully decorated cake to her class. She presented it on a table in front of the class for all to admire and to tantalize their taste buds. She then asked a pupil in the front row if he would like a piece of the cake. The pupil excitedly exclaimed, “Of course!”
The professor nodded, carefully took out a plate, set it next to the cake, and paused as she beheld this decadent confectionary creation. Then, in a sudden motion, she grabbed a handful of cake, plopped it on the plate, and shoved it into the student’s lap. Smiling, the professor said, “Bon appétit.” The student sat in shock staring at the blob of cake and frosting in his lap.
The professor explained that often the hard work we put into our projects, assignments, or tasks can be marred by our presentation. The student had received the cake, but it was given in a way that prevented him from truly appreciating and enjoying it. The task was completed, but the quality of the content was diminished or lost by the presentation.
In contrast, Airbnb, a company that now offers more lodging listings than any hospitality chain in the world, realizes and uses the power of effective presentation. They initiated a policy early on that set them apart from other room listing sites by offering, at no charge, a professional photographer to shoot photographs for the host’s Airbnb profile. This gave them a clean, respectable, and safe presentation, which has translated into millions of successful transactions. They found that blurry and dark owner photos had decreased sales. The “cake” was much more desirable when cut beautifully and professionally, and presented cleanly on a plate.
We often spend hours, days, weeks, or even months, on the makeup of professional tasks and projects. Unfortunately, these can turn out under appreciated or misunderstood when a similar level of effort and forethought is not also given to how they are presented. This can also be applied to how we present ourselves as industry leaders to our bosses, colleagues, customers, and competitors. Remember, how we deliver the information is often just as important as the information itself. Your professional efforts can have good content, yet will likely be overlooked, misunderstood, or avoided, if it is not presented in an appealing manner, just like a piece of cake.
Think of the challenges you have faced recently, and all the tedious time you have spent on them.
- Do you take the time to consider how best to present information to maximize its appeal, understanding, and benefit before you do so?
- How do you present yourself each day in a professional setting? Consider your appearance, language, and gestures. Do these match your career aspirations?
- Like any good skill, the best way to improve is to practice, practice, practice.
- Are you actively seeking feedback on how you are perceived in professional settings, particularly as you communicate and share information with others?
- Do you customize your presentation to the needs and interests of the audience?