Sharing spreadsheets before in-person meetings

I was recently on the phone with an entrepreneur. I had requested that he share an Excel spreadsheet containing a cohort analysis evaluating the effectiveness of the company’s co-marketing campaigns. Rather than share it upfront, he suggested that we review the spreadsheet together during an in-person meeting. This way he could explain the complex spreadsheet.

I’ve been in many meetings where the attendees are presented with a spreadsheet for the first time. They’re not effective. The reason is that it takes time to review the assumptions, logic, and calculations in spreadsheets. It’s not possible to do this on the spot. And without internalizing this information, you can’t have a productive discussion. The party who prepared the spreadsheet knows what they’re talking about but everyone else is stumbling in the dark. They’re trying to wrap their head around the structure of the spreadsheet while also trying to draw insightful conclusions from it. And you can’t do both at once.

As a result, I request that entrepreneurs share their spreadsheets with me over email before we debate its contents and conclusions in an in-person meeting. Most spreadsheets can be understood without additional context, and adding a few words of context is enough to clarify even the most complex spreadsheets.

This makes in-person meetings much more productive.

Also published on Medium.