Consulting templates: Visualize what you want to say

By | December 11, 2015

PowerPoint. Over the last 20 years, there are very few days when I have not worked in PowerPoint. Sad, but true. Even when I am not creating one, I am often reading investor relations presentations or analyst reports. Pay attention to strong presentations. Collect them. See how authors structure data.

Yesterday, I worked with my team on a 40 page PowerPoint.  The first 10 pages was the executive summary – building an argument for the executive to take action and explaining WHAT, WHY. The remaining 30 pages were the details – HOW, WHEN, HOW MUCH, and WHO. It is not a final deliverable yet, but getting there.

It was an assessment so the content was diverse – different functional areas, different time frames, different stakeholders. All good. Consultants like diversity, we get bored. Here are a few templates (just structuring of the page).  Here are a few scrubbed pages show how use the visual layout to tell the story. Consulting =storytelling.

Showing a process. Similar to the DMAIC format of SIPOC, we used this at the beginning of the current project to emphasize the key activities needed in the middle. This can be a drum-beat of a visual; use it to tell the team, and the client, where you are and where you are headed. Like road-signs, tell the passenger where they are headed.

  • Use parallel wording; all bullets start with verbs or nouns
  • Use PowerPoint language (phrases with only the most impactful words)

Consultantsmind - Process

Showing a stage/gate. When we were projecting phase 1 and phase 2 of different workstreams, I usually use something simple, a bit reductionist like it. Yes, you can use Visio – many on my team do – but I find that clients don’t prefer it. It’s hard for them to edit, its less visual, and honestly for their purposes, too detailed. Yes, it shows rigor, but at the expense of visibility, clarity, and power,

  • Don’t add more complexity than is necessary
  • Don’t use more colors than is useful; McKinsey was black and white for a long time
  • Increase the font size so it is legible; most of your readers are in their 50s and 60s

Consultantsmind - Project Plan

Draw out relationships. Need to be a little careful here because thoughtful organizational design is a separate project with specific methodology to do it right. That said, a lot can be done to delineate the responsibilities between different roles. Too often, there is confusion in decision-rights and who has the authority to make what decisions. Simplify.

Consultantsmind - Org Chart

Sequence of activities. There are multiple ways to show sequencing of activities, but this one below has the benefit of showing specific activities #1-8 and when they occur. One word of caution on this time of page is that it can look like an appendix page. . . with too many facts and tidbits of data, and not enough of a message. Don’t be afraid to put a kicker box at the bottom to reiterate your point.

Consultantsmind - Project Plan II

Comparing current and future.  A lot of consulting is showing the client the gap between what they want to be (future) and where they are now (current). Maturity models are particularly useful for this purpose, but you can also use a simple table like the one below to show the transition. Remember, people are very good at recognizing patterns.

Consultantsmind - Current and Future Consulting Template

The majority of our pages have texts, data analysis, and graphs which support arguments. That said, don’t hesitate using tables, frameworks, templates, and visuals to get your point across. Your clients will appreciate it. You can put the boring, text-heavy information in the appendix.

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