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Writing project documentation helps with future presentations

written by Eric J. Ma on 2022-09-28 | tags: audience career career advice clarity communication documentation feedback knowledge graph learning lessons logic narrative practice presentation project management structure teamwork

In a 1:1 session with one of my teammates, I gave feedback on a presentation she had just delivered the hour before. One really cool lesson we learned from this experience was how writing project documentation helped a lot with preparing a presentation.

We contrasted two presentations that she had delivered in the past. One was on a project for which she had written a lot of documentation as part of our broader DSAI team's quarterly docathons. The other was on a project where the project execution was more ad hoc, and hence we had not had the opportunity to write stable documentation. With the first project, the presentation was much smoother, and that came from the prior practice of linearizing her internal knowledge graph of the project into a written piece of documentation. Also, because the elements (nodes) of that knowledge graph were clarified while writing, it turns out that she could easily compose those elements into alternative narratives for multiple types of audiences. With the second, the presentation delivery had more challenges, and we attributed that to the narrative being less structured, logical, and linear, and that this was the result of having less clarity on the elements of the knowledge graph for that project.

On thinking about this more, it's clear to me that writing documentation gives us:

  1. A reason to clarify the elements of our mental knowledge graph of a project,
  2. A chance to practice linearizing that knowledge graph into one or more narratives,
  3. A 'hard copy' record of those elements from which we can draw in future presentations.

This was a fantastic lesson to learn!

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