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Tips for using models like spreadsheets, graphics, etc. to help make decisions

Let's look at some tips for using models like spreadsheets, graphics, etc. to help make decisions during business meetings.

Alright, pretend you're back in high school, in history class in fact, and you're studying the fall of Rome and the rise of the Germanic cultures that eventually plowed through everybody and that's how we got English. I hope that my very erudite summary took you right back to the glories of American high schools. Anyhow, you're bored as heck, you've listened to three lectures in a role in which the lecturer droned on and on from smudged sheets of paper in his or her hands, when suddenly-that one guy stands up!

We all know that one guy. He dressed cool but not too cool, and the same went for his hairstyle; he was good at everything, including interpretive dance; he didn't get beat up because he was the captain of the football team; and so on. We hated him! But when it came to presentation day in history class, his arrival on the scene was a relief, and why? Because he used models to give his report, that's why. He used pictures, did layouts on his laptop, whatever made things more interesting-and we appreciated it.

The same thing, of course, applies directly to business. Now, business meetings are among some of the dullest in the world; they rank right after the annual gathering of the three-toed sloth, for example. Also, business meetings occur a lot-and therefore it's very important that we use models like spreadsheets and graphics, not only to pep things up, but to get people's minds trained on making important decisions for your company.

Here are some tips for using models like spreadsheets and graphics to help make company decisions:

1. Don't try to be cute. When using spreadsheets and graphics during business meetings, remember that your creativity can only go so far before it becomes enraging. Fade ins, changing colors, etc., are nice, but it's not necessary to have a digitized rabbit reading bulleted items and turning pages. When using spreadsheets and graphics during business meetings, be sure to have a good sense of humor, but also keep in mind where you are and what you're doing. Your spreadsheets and graphics are really there for one purpose: to help you and your colleges make better decisions for your company. Therefore, don't be cute when using spreadsheets and graphics during business meetings!

2. Don't be too complicated. When using spreadsheets and graphics during business meetings, remember that your sophistication can only go so far before it becomes enraging. Spreadsheets and graphics are great for showing company sales, expenditures, goals, projections, and so forth-but if they're like reading advanced calculus, you may as well not show up for the meeting. When using spreadsheets and graphics to make business decisions, (1) use a large font; (2) leave plenty of space between each sentence; (3) use a soft, easy-on-the-eyes color like blue or grey for the background; and (4) try to write at about a junior high level. Now, this doesn't mean that your colleges are stupid, or that you are stupid, or that anyone is stupid. It simply means that meetings are hard to get through, and that one's brain naturally begins shutting down the moment the meeting starts. If you keep your charts, graphs, graphics, spreadsheets, etc., at a much lower level, cognitively, than your colleges are accustomed to, they (and you) will stay more alert, and you'll be able to get to the heart of the matter far quicker and far more comprehensively, too.

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