This slide from Deloitte shows the importance of slide structure when it comes to communicating insights to your clients, and how even small tweaks like color choice can make a significant difference in the overall readability of your slide.
Deloitte has been a formidable player in the consulting industry over the last couple decades. As one of the Big 4 accounting firms, it’s often recognized as a global leader in Tax, Audit, and Financial Advisory. But with its reputation as a strategy, operations, and technology consulting powerhouse continuing to strengthen, it has gained favor with prospective clients and employees alike.
By most accounts, it hasn’t quite reached the upper echelon of consulting royalty, reserved for the dynamic trio of McKinsey, Bain, and BCG (despite some online suggestions that it should be “MBBD”). But in my experience, the firm consistently produces high quality content, with presentations that meet if not exceed the standards of an industry that demands PowerPoint perfection.
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In this post I’ll be reviewing a slide from a Deloitte presentation called, “Consumer Privacy in Retail”. I’ll provide a complete breakdown of the good and the bad, and I’ll try to highlight principles that might apply to any slide building situation.
“Consumer Privacy in Retail” Deloitte Consulting , October 2019
Full disclosure: the author of this post worked at Deloitte Consulting from 2012-2015. However, all opinions are his own and do not represent Deloitte Consulting in any way. The presentation referenced in this article was released after his employment with Deloitte, and was obtained through publicly available sources.
Good: Solid title that summarizes the slide
The title of the slide says, “Consumer businesses may have historically had lower compliance costs than other major industries; however, privacy regulations will likely change that dynamic”. And the reason why this works so well is because it provides a full description of the slide’s main takeaway.
If you’ve seen my other slide breakdowns you know that I talk about this point quite a bit, which is that the title of your slide should provide a summary of the main points of the slide so that the audience can understand what you’re trying to tell them as quickly and as effortlessly as possible.
The other reason is that you want the audience to have the information they need to process the rest of the details on the slide in the way you want them to. Notice how the title has the largest font of all the text on the slide. This is because that’s what they want you to see first. They want you to get the main idea, then go into the details of the slide to find support for the main idea.
The concept behind this by the way is the Pyramid Principle, which is really just a way of communicating (often used by consultants) where you start with the main idea first then go into the details. You can see this very clearly with this slide by by reading the title first (the main idea), then reading through the details of the slide layer by layer).
For more information the Pyramid Principle and why it matters check out our full breakdown and explanation here.
Good: Clear insights and visual connections
The slide is essentially broken out into two parts – the part on the left that shows compliance costs for each industry, then a list of regulatory compliance requirements on the right. The whole idea of the slide is to connect these two charts and essentially make the point that despite compliance costs being low for retail (which you can see in the chart on the left) the difficulty of data privacy regulations are going to affect the retail industry. And what they’ve done really well is connect these two charts together with various visual highlights and callouts.
First of all they have this box of text in the middle that very clearly spells out the connection. And this is a great principle to follow in general which is that you don’t want to make any assumptions about what your audience understands about the data and it’s connection to your message. You want to clearly explain as many things as possible, and make it easy for them to grasp the insights.
Would a smart person be able to understand that consumer privacy laws are directly applicable to retail? Yes. Especially someone that already has an interest in the topic. But with so much information coming at them all at once, your audience will need as much help as possible if you want them to understand, and more importantly, be persuaded by your message.
Then the second thing that they’ve done well is the color connection. Notice how the color of the pyramid matches the color of the top bar in the bar chart. This is very subtle but it definitely makes a difference in helping the audience see how these two data points are connected.
I also like how with the bar chart on the right they only colorized the important bar, and left the rest of them a subtle light blue color so they don’t stand out too much. Again this helps direct my attention to the parts of the slide that matter the most, and away from the supporting details.
I would have liked to see the same thing on this chart here on the left, with the main pyramid staying the blue color, but the other colors both being something more neutral and less eye catching. For example if they were both the same color as these other bars on the bar chart I think it would have helped focused the attention of the slide more on the data points that matter the most – the retail pyramid and the top bar of the bar chart.
Good: Icons provide nice visual boost
Another thing about this slide that is important to notice is the use of icons below the chart on the left. This is a small design choice but I think it’s effective. Rather than just using simple titles, they’ve added visual depictions of the industry to make it that much easier to understand them quickly.
Anyone who reads the word “healthcare” knows what that means, but having a small and subtle icon will just make it that much easier to grasp quickly. Remember, the goal is to make it as easy as possible for the audience to process and understand the information on the slide, so small stuff like this makes a difference.
Bad: Chart titles are lacking
Another thing that’s interesting about these two charts is the choice of titles. Notice how they explain what’s in the chart but they don’t call attention to the actual insight. For example on the left the title of the chart is “Average Compliance Cost by Industry,” which just tells me the type of information that’s in there but doesn’t provide any insight.
There’s nothing that says what they want me to get out of the chart. For example, it could instead say something like, “Compliance costs for the retail industry are low.” That way I don’t need to make my own interpretation of the data – I can see what they want me to see. This is something that consulting firms usually do pretty well – rather than leaving me to find the insights myself, they spell it out for me really clearly.
So it’s not how I think the charts should be titled, but there are a couple reasons why I think it still works to some degree. The first is that both charts are pretty simple. Especially the chart on the left – there’s not a whole lot of interpretation that needs to happen. The data is pretty straightforward. Then the second reason is that the insight is very clearly spelled out in the title, which takes some pressure off of the subtitles.
Bad: Use of pyramids for the column chart
Then one final thing I have to address is the choice to use pyramids for the column chart instead of just regular columns. I don’t feel like it adds enough to the slide visually to justify the distraction that it is. Typically it’s dangerous to use unconventional shapes for your charts because it makes the data more difficult to compare (3D charts are a prime example).
However, I will cut them some slack here because in this case the data is still clear. On top of that, the precise differences of the pyramids don’t matter all that much; it’s the relative size of the third pyramid that drives the point home. Again, it’s not my favorite choice, but I don’t think it does any damage to the readability of the slide.
This slide from Deloitte does a great job of clearly communicating a simple but powerful message. It provides a great example of the importance of slide structure when it comes to communicating insights to your clients, and how even small tweaks like color choice can make a significant difference in the overall readability of your slide.
You can watch a video version of this article on YouTube.