Not all PowerPoint presentations are in front of 500-seat TED audiences. Many presentations get emailed around and read on screens.

Strategic decisions are usually a careful trade-off between options. Some choices are clear, fact-based and objective. Others are qualitative, and yet others are complete leaps in the dark.

To make a decision you need to have all of the factors on some page somehow. Yes, this dense slide violates all the rules about good presentation design. But there is one big difference: the audience that will appreciate it are insiders, who suffer from the Benefit of Knowledge (the opposite of the Curse of Knowledge [what?]). They have heard the arguments before and they are ready for decision time.

How to design a good decision slide for these people?
  1. A table: options in the columns, arguments in the rows
  2. Group the options and arguments somehow, sort options by risk, how radical they are, something. Group arguments: similar arguments go together, if they are sort of the same thing, you collapse them into one. Group the factual arguments, to make the more contested ones stand out.
  3. Label your options and arguments for the audience with the Benefit of Knowledge, short labels or placeholders that are enough for them to understand the full picture. After months of discussions “Blink first” might be enough to describe a strategic scenario covering 25 pages.
  4. Frame the options so that the answers are in the same direction: I usually pick positive ones: no cannibalisation, retention of talent, limited competitive threat. Etc. 
  5. Now the tricky bit: score options (1, 2, 3, low, medium, high) and use colours to distinctive good or bad. Re-group, re-sort options and arguments until you get the maximum number of continuous good and bad fields.
  6. Look at the result and tweak scores and weights until you reach your conclusion. If you had the push up the weight of the leap-of-faith type of arguments a lot to balance the factual criteria, you know what you will have to explain in your presentation
  7. Once you reach your conclusion you can make a hugely simplified version of this matrix, collapsing all similar arguments together and boiling it down to the 2 or 3 points that will tip the balance