Using presentations for decision-making

Which side of the decision fence are you on? Are you the persuader or the decider?

We hear a lot about how to persuade using presentations, but little about how to resist persuasion and make the best decision possible. So let’s talk about how you can use presentations to make a decision.

You have a decision to make and you want to make the best decision. You know that you need input, so you’ve asked a couple of subordinates or colleagues to present you the options. In other words, you can set the specifications for the presentation.

How do you get the best input possible? And, how do you use the presentations to make the right decision? There are many models for making decisions, but here is one approach.

1. Describe the problem

What problem is leading you to have to make a decision? By describing the problem clearly, you can make sure your decision will solve that problem. You can make a presentation describing the problem to your presenters.

2. Identify your goal

If you don’t identify your goal, it’s easy to be swayed to make a decision that doesn’t meet your goal. Include your goal in your presentation specifications so those working with you will look for the right data.

3. Identify the components

List the various components that you will evaluate in your decision. For choosing a software product, they might be cost, ease of use, features, and technical support. Then list the features that you need, want, or would just be nice to have. For deciding on a marketing strategy for a specific market, you might want to know cost, technical difficulties, how much time each strategy will take, and predicted conversion rates. These are the items about which you need to collect information. In your presentation specifications, be sure to include the components.

4. Collect the data you need

Collect as much information as you can about the situation. Data can be in many forms, such as lists of features, recommendations by others, historical information, surveys of users, expert opinion and research, etc. In our scenario, you are delegating this task, so your presenters make their presentations on the information they collected and how it relates to the problem and your goal.

5. Create a matrix of options

A table of the components and options, and ratings for each can help you decide. Here’s where you consider and balance the information you received. Perhaps your presenters promote a certain solution. Or you may listen to a series of sales pitches from various solution providers. But you need to stand back and evaluate before making a decision.

You may want to assign a person to be a “Devil’s advocate.” According to Wikipedia, “During the canonization process of the Roman Catholic Church, …the  Devil’s advocate was a canon lawyer appointed by Church authorities to argue against the canonization of the candidate. It was their job to take a skeptical view of the candidate’s character, to look for holes in the evidence, to argue that any miracles attributed to the candidate were fraudulent, etc.” In the same way, your Devil’s advocate can look for holes in the presentation’s argument to help you make a better decision.

6. Evaluate the effect of a decision on everyone who will be affected

It’s important to ask others what they think. Get pluses and minuses. This step will give you deeper insight into the implications of any decision.

7. Make your decision

Then implement it. You may use a presentation to present the results to those affected by the decision. You’ll be able to explain how this decision will help solve the problem.

8. Evaluate your decision after some time

If you think you made a poor decision, analyze how you could have made a better one and use that information for your next decision.

How do you integrate presentations into your decision making? How do you make sure that presentations you attend give you the balanced information you need

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