How to Prepare for Executive Presentations
The following are tips to help you master preparation for executive presentations. “Executive Presentations” are those presentations intended for introducing new ideas or reviewing performance for management within an organization. These suggestions are intended for optimizing powerful and focused communications.
Be Brief, the Ten Minute Rule
Regardless of the amount of time that you may have scheduled for your meeting, make sure that you can convey your complete message in ten minutes or less. Strip away conjecture, comments or perceptions to convey the core message as quickly, accurately and concisely as possible. If you have additional interesting materials, place it in an appendix for leisure reading. (Do you know many executives who have time for leisure reading? If your audience is not going to read the material on their own spare time, then don’t put it in the heart of your presentation.) Would you rather present to a Board of Directors, or board directors?
Bullet Points, Numbers, Dollars, Graphs, Charts and Pictures
Can you convey your message in five bullet points or less? Can you substantiate your message with numbers, dollars or a graphical representation? Then do it. A picture is worth a thousand words, but dollars can common sense will get the most attention. Graphical and financial representation of data and trends changes what you “think” into what you “know”. Do not waste time discussing opinion, but rather provide substance to generate meaningful conversation about interpretation of the facts.
Be prepared to name the resources required and the individuals, organizations, departments or customers who will contribute or be impacted. Be prepared to respond to the worst case scenario impact by person or area, and the countermeasures.
Try to state what you are presenting in seven words or less
Be prepared with a timeline, plan, milestones and metrics of measurement. If you are proposing an idea that has fiscal impact, demonstrate the key milestones as points in the process that can be measured and compared for progress. Don’t wait to measure at the end of the project, know how you will measure from the beginning and through the entire process. Identify the critical path elements that could delay a project or strategic direction, as well as points in the process at which a project could be completely stopped, if necessary.
Is your presentation related to specific geographical or demographical area? If so, it may be appropriate to indicate the limit or scope of the topic. It may not be necessary to include this in the presentation, but you should be aware. It is equally important to recognize if your presentation or proposal specifically excludes a particular geography or demographic. For example, does your idea benefit end-user customers at the expense of corporate customers? Is your global strategy equally relevant in Latin America as it is in Europe?
This can be included with the ‘When” of your planning process. If you are presenting a plan, proposal or change in strategic direction, then show your plan. How you plan to implement or improve should be integrated with timelines, milestones and measurements. It is much easier to review a plan than to discuss a concept.
Unfortunately, far too many presentations are completely focused on the intent of the message. It is reasonable to assume that the purpose of a presentation is some benefit. The benefit may be associated with reduced cost, risk avoidance, strategic initiatives, revenue generation, compliance or planning. Whatever the benefit may be, it is important to balance the benefit message with substantive facts and responses to the above mentioned details as applicable. The benefit statement in your presentation should also be concise, easy to understand and very focused. State the purpose of your message in one sentence.
Every presentation or ideas has alternatives. The alternative to change is to remain status quo. Although remaining status quo could be a substantial competitive disadvantage for most organizations, sometimes it is better than the risk associated with proposed changes. Enhance the power of your presentation by offering a few bullet points that demonstrate investigation of the alternatives and the potential comparative impact.
Use an appropriate manner of communication to accommodate your audience. This may be a Power Point presentation, a single sheet of paper with bullet points and graphs, or a documented study with an executive summary at the beginning. The most important element of your presentation is the content. Convey your message quickly. Be prepared to substantiate your message with facts, a plan, impact and alternatives. If a conversation erupts about your message, embrace it and use the communication as an opportunity to engage the audience. A conversation is infinitely more interesting than a presentation. Deliver your material in a manner that fosters thoughtful interactive dialogue with active participation for best results.
Words of Wisdom
“And, of course, you have the commercials where savvy businesspeople Get Ahead by using their MacIntosh computers to create the ultimate American business product: a really sharp-looking report.”
- Dave Barry
“I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.”
- E. B. White
“I have always found that in preparing for any presentation that the plan never applies, but the preparation does.”
- John Mehrmann, Executive Blueprints Inc
John Mehrmann is a freelance author, industry expert and President of Executive Blueprints Inc, an organization dedicated to developing human capital and personal growth.
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