Becoming a better information baker

May 26, 2021

Early in my first year in university, one of my teachers, gave the following feedback to a group of students who had just pitched a project idea.

quote: "I was hoping to eat a cake, but your presentation leaves me eating egg and flour separately.", by Cord Oliver Molthan

I find myself using his metaphor on a regular basis. An idea or concept is not the sum of its components — it’s how you craft them into a coherent train of thought. In other words, it does not matter how good the ecologically farmed eggs are. Or what quality of flour you use. If you get the baking process wrong, all you will be left with is a burnt mess.

Why it happens

The challenge is that it is easy to buy ingredients but it takes time and effort to perfect the baking process. So we take the easy way out and hope people will not mind the dry taste of flour in their mouths.

How to become a better information baker

1. Start with the end - The message

What would you like your audience to take away from your presentation? If you could give them only one sentence, what would that sentence be? Write it down! (This is unbelievably hard. Don’t give up.)

Message examples

I went through the same exercise for this post. It took me a couple of attempts. For each iteration, my message got shorter and more refined. While the shortest message is not always best, it is important to cut out the noise.

I want to talk about how to refine an idea and present it to people in a structured, engaging and understandable way.

Why it is important not to present raw facts but to bake them into a story.

How a baking metaphor can make us better presenters.

How a baking metaphor can help us tell a better story.

2. What information will you need to provide

Think of what your audience already might know. From there, what information do you need to give them to understand your thought process and the message you want to give in the end?

3. Bake a lot

Your first cake will inevitably not be perfect. While step 1 & 2 can set you up for success, that alone is not enough. You would not want to invite guest to your house and serve them burnt cake. Would you? You’d practice a couple of times until you feel comfortable with your result. In the process, you might even improve your recipe.

My message ;-)

Did you make it all the way down here? Thank you for reading! Keep those thoughts in mind next time you present something and you will be surprised how a baking metaphor can make you a better presenter.