Core Consulting Skills – The Biggest Consulting Mistake

A core consulting skill is the ability to present data and analysis. But though many technically skilled consultants do an excellent job in number crunching phase, they fall flat when they present their data. The problem is a lack of knowledge about how to structure presentations that include data and analysis. And with a simple formula it’s easy to rectify.

Over the past 10 years that I have owned and run a small consulting firm I have coached and mentored many consultants. To a person they were desperate to learn the secrets of how to analyse a company, how to get to the big issues, or how to turn around an ailing business. But when it came to presenting their data they always said the same thing “if my analysis and findings are good” then the data will present itself; wrong!

I have cringed through many a presentation where the analysis and data gathering were fantastic, but when the consultant got up on their feet to present it, they simply withered and died; and typically the client looked bored. In every single case the problem was the same: a lack of knowledge about how to structure their data so that it told a logical story and only the pertinent points were used.

For example let’s say that over a four week analysis of a business you may gather two or three hundred pieces of data. Wouldn’t you agree that to try and present all of that information to a senior management team will not only confuse them but is unlikely to help them make decisions? I think so, but that’s what happens.

So if you want to avoid death by data what can you do to help your audience to get your message, and also help you keep and grow the client?

1. Build a mega-structure for your data. Choose three main questions that you will use to categorise your data i.e. “What’s going wrong in the business, why is it happening, and how can we fix it?”

2. Take each question and answer it with two to three main points, e.g. “what’s going wrong?”

a. “Customers are complaining”
b. “There is low staff morale”
c. “You are losing money.”

3. Take each point and find the best piece of data to support your argument. Force yourself to only use one (maximum two) bits of evidence.

Finally, do your planning on paper or a large whiteboard, leave building the PowerPoint slides until the very end; if you do you’ll leave your client impressed rather than depressed.

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