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To be an Expert or a Master




by Tom Nixon

World-class speaker and business consultant Alan Weiss has said, “Give Me a Double Axis Chart and I Can Rule the World.” That may be overstated a bit but when done carefully these charts can be immensely valuable.

Any chart or graph can be a dense forest of data unless you deliberately create it with the goal of making the complex understandable. This double axis chart represents a core component of my “How to Do PowerPoint Right” Workshop. It is a build slide with each component revealed as I verbally introduce them so that the audience can understand how the chart works without the initial confusion caused by showing the entire chart at once. (see video here)

The goal here is to show how presentation technique and the complexity of the content work together to affect how the audience responds to the speaker.

The vertical axis represents the speaker’s delivery style from a low-end of relying almost totally on PowerPoint slides to deliver the content to a high-end style of mostly speaker delivered material.

The horizontal axis ranges from complex content on the left to reduced and simplified content on the right.

In the lower left corner the combination of a lot of content jammed into a series of PowerPoint slides results in a data-dump effect. Lots of facts but little meaning or retention of ideas. This is the curse of most bad PowerPoint presentations.

The lower right shows the result of simplifying the data in the slides but without the perspective and guidance of the presenter: it is a dumbed-down presentation. Perhaps pretty slides but no real meaning.

As we move to the upper quadrants we change from a PowerPoint heavy presentation to one where the presenter is the source of knowledge along with slides as enhancements.

Upper left: Complex content delivered well by the presenter is a common occurrence with technical presentations. The speaker is now the expert and has great depth of information. Technical audiences can extract great value in the right situation while a non-technical audience may become lost.

What I consider to be the best of both worlds is the upper right: The Master/Guru. Simplified content delivered by the presenter and not the slide set. The slides serve as a guide to enhance and reinforce the main message. This sets the speaker apart as not just an expert but as a master who can make the complex simple. Depending on the audience there may still be a need to provide some in-depth details.

By making the complex easy to understand you are providing the ultimate service to your audience – meaningful information not just data.



Tom Nixon has over 3 decades of experience assisting clients with meaningful business communications. Contact Tom to see how he can work with your business leaders and subject matter experts to create stunning visual presentations (PowerPoint, Keynote, etc.) and enhance their on-stage delivery.

Craig Hadden
Craig Hadden

I love this! Thanks Tom. I find charts like this really powerful too.

Reminds me of one I came up with to compare different types of slide content. If you use a mix of content from the 4 quadrants, you'll keep your audience much more interested: