Presentation and attention to details is about making your ideas and content more impactful after you have covered all the bases. It’s an ‘and’ not an ‘either/or’. It’s about ‘Insisting on highest standards’ all the way through.
Not form over function but form and function.
Design matters and attention to details matters
Steve Jobs famously turned around Apple by obsessing on details – even those that aren’t visible to customers, like the visual clarity of the physical layout of the components in an iPhone, or the visual design and cleanliness of Apple’s factory floors.
Should that matter? Why isn’t function the only thing we should care about? Do we really need to refine the presentation of our content once the facts are there? YES!
Details matter. Presentation matters. Fit and finish matters.
Think about your own experiences. You (probably) like Apple products. Why? You could use any other computer/phone and would be able to do the same things: write documents, make calls, catch up on stuff. But you don’t, you find pleasure in things that are well crafted and where attention to details has been amply paid.
You likely had much more fun with your phone when it was new and without scratches. Why? It still fulfills the same functionality. Why should you care about it no longer being flawless in every aspect of its appearance?
How would you think if someone scratched your new car? It still drives just the same. Will it matter to you?
How about a precious gift for your loved ones? Would you wrap it in ugly, crappy and crumbled paper?
Everything is a sell. Everything is a presentation
Ok, here is where I’m going with this:
Everything is a sell, even if you sell primarily through data (function), you still have to sell.
All too often I see people spending a lot of time in thinking through problems, collecting data, working hard on the details – and then dropping the ball on presentation.
Supposedly small things destroy the overall impression that your content makes: hastily copy-pasted emails that are painful to read, documents where formatting of lists, paragraph alignment or spacing changes from paragraph to paragraph, inconsistent bolding, Xs and Ys that are forgotten in the text (do a simple search!), appendices that were not updated, supporting data that doesn’t pass a simple sniff-test…
If you don’t give your content that last final touch, you give away a significant part of the impact that your hard work could have. Doing a final check on ‘design’ and ‘details’ is probably the best bang for the buck you can get on any document that you have worked on for several hours. Invest that time!
Word has grammar checkers, go to full-page view to check alignments, search for Xs and Ys, check every appendix and make sure it received some love. Read your document or presentation one more time as if you didn’t know it. Better even, ask someone else to read it – not for the content but the presentation.
Don’t undersell your work. It’s not only the data, but also the presentation. Even if people tell you that it doesn’t matter, subconsciously it makes a huge difference. Would you rather get the scratched phone handed down or the same model that’s sparkly new?
Make it readable, engaging and make it look like you care. What you do matters, make it count! Have pride in your work and show that pride!
Obsession for detail differentiates Great from just Ok.
Last not least you are also sending a message to the reviewer: “This is good enough for you, I don’t care enough to make it nicer/clearer.” Sometimes you might do that consciously and strategically, but I assume in most cases you didn’t have that intention.
Bring your work over the finish line and make it matter!
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