This article is the third in a series. It was first published on June 16th 2020, via LinkedIn.
Every document has a purpose. Every document has a function.
Every document has elements that it needs to include. This can be because certain information is:
- explicitly prescribed (tender responses),
- organisationally mandated (your boss told you to put it in), or
- you simply think it’s a good idea (“the heart wants what the heart wants”).
Whatever the elements that you need to combine, it’s crucial that you spend some time planning precisely ‘how’ you’re going to integrate them. At a minimum, this involves consideration of order and emphasis. You need to ask yourself:
What content is most important?
How will you prioritise your points?
What’s the most effective way of ordering them to get your message across?
Art over Mechanics
There’s a necessary mechanical aspect to collating your content and working through the questions listed above. Whilst mechanical processes can be dry and boring, they help to ensure that everything that needs to be done, is done. The mechanics of putting your report or presentation together are important, but the real magic lies elsewhere. If you want your document to sing, it’s all about the ‘art’.
What do I mean by ‘art’? (Word nerd alert…)
In this context, ‘art’ refers to connection. If you can seamlessly link the elements of your document together, it will be easier for your audience to follow. The easier it is for them to follow, the greater the chance of you getting your message across.
How do you make the connection?
There are a number of techniques available to help you achieve better connection:
- Firstly, getting the order of your content right is imperative. Does it make sense to have it in the sequence you propose? Is it logical? Does it flow? Does each subsequent point build on the earlier content?
- How are you going to link your content segments? Will it be with language or imagery?
- Have a theme! Linking the elements of your document together into a cohesive narrative is easiest when you have a powerful theme to build around.
I’ve always found this last point (i.e. theme) to be the most useful. It can serve as your ‘north star’, ensuring that all content is aligned around a central message. By organising your content this way, you’ll find it hard to stray too far.
To make your report or presentation sing, the magic lies in how you connect elements. This is the ‘art’ of creating great documents.