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Why I don't write in Word

Excel transformed the world. No question. The first impact that Excel made was nothing to do with its functionality; it was the way it looked. Excel arrived along with the Windows operating system. Excel allowed a user to format cells. You could have borders and bold text. You could make a spreadsheet look good even it all it did was arrange data in rows and columns and sum them. Herein were the seeds of accountants and others focusing on form rather than content.

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Put the real subject matter — the point — and even the conclusion, in the opening paragraph and the whole story on one page. Period!

This instruction was written 80 years ago this week. The whole memo has only 129 words.

If you are in a position of some authority why not write a similar instruction to your staff. The return on the investment of a few minutes of your time in terms of time and money saved will be enormous.

Note: This post was inspired by a post on the Daring Fireball blog about this memo from the Smaller War Plants Corporation (whatever that was).

AI can write a finance report in seconds but it is not going to replace accountants.

But that doesn’t mean that accountants should not improve their writing skills. Accounting is about words as well as numbers. All that classifying and analysing of financial data is pointless if its meaning is not communicated. That’s why I keep writing posts about the need for accountants to be better at writing and presenting. Somehow, we’ve gone from the time when people complained about predictive text because it caused them to send an offensive word to their boss to a situation where people are looking to “write” 2,000 word documents with it.

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Dos and don’ts for presenting financial data

Last year a colleague sent me a photo he took during a presentation. The presenter had a slide with a stacked column chart with 24 columns of data that filled the whole slide. The legend was too small to read. Overlaying the central part of column chart was a white box with a pie chart in it. There was an arrow pointing to one of the columns because, I infer, this pie chart was showing in a circle the same analysis of composition as the column.

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How to tell a story in a finance presentation

Improve your presentations with one simple tactic. You’ve probably heard that you should use storytelling in your presentations but do you know how to do that? Especially in finance. How do stories fit into a budget presentation? Well, you could use the 3-act structure. This means you structure your presentation into 3 parts: The set-up ➡️ The confrontation ➡️ The resolution The set-up is where you introduce the situation to the audience.

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Directing the Audience: The Key Skill Every Presenter Needs

A lot of posts about presentation skills – mine included – are about slides. They are about what your slides should include, what they shouldn’t include, how they are designed, and structuring them into a story. But slides are not presentations. Slides are the supporting media for a presenter. What matters is what the presenter says … and how they say it. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in recent weeks.

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How to replace bullet points in slide decks with something better in less than a minute.

There are lots of reasons you should avoid bullet point lists in your presentation slide decks. When you create a new deck you can, of course, avoid creating them. But what can you do if you already have slide decks that are basically one bullet point slide after another? One way is to put each bullet point onto a separate slide along with an image or chart or other illustration.

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If your reader doesn't do what you want or expect then it's your fault

That’s my key takeaway from listening to this this episode of the Fixable podcast. The podcast features Todd Rogers, a professor at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, who is a co-author of Writing for Busy Readers: Communicate More Effectively in the Real World. During the conversation with the podcast hosts, Todd explained six research-backed principles for effective writing that are in the book. These are: Use fewer words Lower the reading level Use formatting judiciously Make the purpose clear for skimmers Emphasise value for readers Make responding as easy as possible.

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My philosophy in 12 words.

𝗧𝗲𝗹𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗺 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘆 𝗻𝗲𝗲𝗱 𝘁𝗼 𝗸𝗻𝗼𝘄 𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝗻 𝘄𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝘆𝗼𝘂 𝘄𝗮𝗻𝘁 𝘁𝗼 𝘀𝗮𝘆. I wish I had actually written this sentence. Norman Marks wrote it as a comment on a LinkedIn post about writing internal audit reports. Keep it at the front of your mind whenever you start to write something, whether an internal report, an email, a sales proposal or even a LinkedIn post.

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Pro tip: Don’t start a finance presentation with a joke

Unless: 😂 It’s a good joke 😂 and you are good at telling jokes. Therefore, for most of us: no jokes. There is another serious reason not to start with a joke. The primacy-recency effect means your audience are more likely to remember the beginning and end of your presentation than the important bit in the middle. Do you want them to remember your joke or your message? Instead of a joke, therefore, I suggest you start your presentation with a promise.

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