If you want people to think you’re really smart and well informed, carry The Economist around with you. If you actually want to be really smart and well informed, read it. The weekly magazine that calls itself a newspaper has been in print since September 1843. That’s not a typo; the newsmagazine has, indeed, been around for a whopping 169 years. Clearly they know what they’re doing over there across the pond in London. The venerable Economist has been around for more than a century, and it shows no signs of stopping. Here are some lessons in presentation that we can learn from the esteemed newsmagazine.

Be Necessary

Pundits and talking heads love to wax apocalyptically about the future of print media. They cite declining subscriptions, lack of readers and poor profit margins as evidence of the impending death of what we once considered print journalism. Who would pay for content when they find it online for free, after all? Interestingly enough, in spite of these negative predictions, The Economist has continued to be very profitable in recent years­. And it is one of the only print publications on newsstands that can claim such success.

This success is a result of readers’ belief that The Economist’s content is essential to their daily life. A typical Economist reader is a well-educated businessperson who sees its information as necessary to doing their job. It’s this kind of necessity, this kind of need that compels people to spend $6.99 on a magazine.

Fashion this kind of necessity in your presentation’s content. Ensure that you are offering something indispensable to your audience, something that they need to– better yet, must– absorb and know. Make your presentation necessary, not expendable.

You Don’t Matter (That Much)

Unlike any other publication, The Economist doesn’t print bylines on any of its stories. Neither do they print names of the editors or publishers. Anonymity rules. On its About Us page, they write, “The main reason for anonymity is a belief that what is written is more important than who writes it.” The magazine is a collaborative effort, they say, which may be humbling or frustrating for any budding writer who seeks recognition and accolades. But what the newsmagazine is really saying by embracing anonymity is that you don’t matter, your content does.

This is a great mantra to remember when crafting a presentation. Of course, your appearance and your delivery are important, but assuming those things are smartly taken care of, it’s the content of your presentation that truly matters. And rightly so, as it is your content that you want the audience to remember and think of again when they leave the room. You matter to the extent that the presentation is delivered with skill and grace, but it’s really your content that speaks loudest for you. Remember that – it’ll also help take the edge off when you’re panicking before the big day.

Don’t Forget the Basics

The Economist gets its fair share of knocks from critics who deride it as an elitist magazine, a publication for snobs and know-it-alls, but that’s precisely its intention. It’s a magazine for smart, well-educated people who need information and analyses about global news quickly and concisely. The magazine is a dense publication– lots of text about lots of issues in lots of faraway corners of the world. Its readers have no time for superfluous material; they have no time for overemotional rambles and fanciful description. Everything is included for a purpose whether that is to nuance, strengthen or prove a point.

The same should go for your presentation. Emotion is okay at certain times, as we’ve discussed, but being overly emotional detracts from your presentation. Include only what is truly necessary, and say it in the most concise way possible. Think of how easily people remember quotes, proverbs and parables. Try to mimic that type of succinctness in your presentations; information presented in that way will stay with your audience much longer.

Don’t just take our word for it– head over to The Economist to see for yourself how succinct content makes for effective delivery, how you are important but not as important as your content, and how to be truly necessary to your audience.

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  • Fine points, and it is also worth mentioning that The Economist is also excellent at designing simple covers with high-impact images and accompanying titles, which are very good examples of how we should also approach slide design.

    And their graphs are always clear and usually attractive and uncluttered, which is exactly how we should approach graphs in our presentations.



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