You know what a highlight is…I am talking about the opposite! Lowlights are the things that didn’t go well. One thing I learned at Microsoft within the first week of arriving there from 26 years at Procter & Gamble was that lowlights were what was discussed in business reviews. The highlights slide was the last slide in the PowerPoint deck. That was a rule Bill Gates instituted early in the life of the company and is was sacred!
It is human nature that we are all much more comfortable about talking about what has gone well. In fact, we are quite skilled at taking things that have gone ok and dressing them up so they seem even better that they actually are. It is somewhat embarrassing to talk about the things that didn’t go well. Hence, we put off the discussion and couch them in the context of excuses that make them not to appear so bad. Even better, we find extraneous factors that we had no control over, and note how they were a factor in the disappointing results.
Why talk lowlights first? Because the first priority should be improving things. Fix what is not going well and figure out how to take advantage of key trends before your competitor does. If you don’t talk those things first, you will have less time when you eventually get to them. It doesn’t hurt if you run out of time and don’t discuss highlights. Nothing is lost. A lot is lost if you don’t get plans in place to fix the lowlights.