End information overload

Richard Saul Wurman explains that you know you’re in information overload at a meeting when you forget everything the speaker said and you also forget where you parked your car.

But overload is a subjective thing. Thomas Davenport, writing in the Harvard Business Review, notes that people don’t experience information overload as long as they’re receiving information that they value.

That’s why every presentation of information — whether it’s a staff meeting, a lecture, an article, a presentation or a Web site — has to start with an analysis of the audience. Find out:

  • who they are
  • what they know already
  • how they feel about it
  • what they want to know next.

Maybe you’ll find that you have multiple sub-audiences. That’s fine. Since one page can’t serve everyone’s needs, maybe you need to spin off some targeted sub-pages.

Most of all, answer the W questions. No, not who, when, where and why – your material needs to answer:

  • WDAC (Why Does Anyone Care?)
  • WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?)

Answer those well and no one will complain of information overload. Why create your own information overload?

Also: End email overload

Last Reviewed: 6 years