CEO and voice expert , Monique Harrisberg
The senior executives are the toughest crowds you will have to face when doing a presentation. “They are incredibly impatient because their schedules are jam-packed and they have to make important decisions, often with little time to weigh options,” explains voice and communications expert and CEO of The Voice Clinic, Monique Harrisberg. “They almost never sit still for a long presentation with a big reveal at the end. They will most likely interrupt you before you get to the most important part of your presentation,” says Harrisberg.
Says Harrisberg, “It can be very frustrating because you probably have a lot to say to them, and this might be your only shot to say it. But if you want them to hear you at all, get to what they care about right away in order for them to make their decisions more efficiently.” If you ramble on in front of top executives, you will most likely get a look that says, “Are you kidding me, do you really think I have the time to care about this?”So quickly and clearly present information that’s important to them, ask for questions, and then be done. If you present short and insightful, you will most likely get an opportunity again.
The Voice Clinic has some useful tips to your top management’s attention and support:
Summarise up front:
When creating your introduction, pretend your slot has been cut with 5 minutes. This will force you to lead with all the information your audience really cares about, high level findings, conclusions, recommendations, a call to action. State those points clearly and right at the start, then move on to supporting data and material that is peripherally relevant.
Let the audience know you’ll spend the first few minutes presenting your summary and the rest of the time on discussion. Even the most impatient executives will be more likely to let you get through your main points uninterrupted if they know they’ll soon get to ask questions.
Create summary slides:
When putting together your slide presentation, place a short overview of key points at the front; the rest of your slides should serve as an appendix. Follow the 10% rule: If your appendix is 50 slides, create 5 summary slides, and so on. After you present the summary, let the group drive the conversation, and refer to appendix slides as relevant questions and comments come up. Often executives will want to go into more detail with certain points that will aid in their decision making. If they do, quickly pull up the slides that speak to those points.
Give them what they ask for:
If you are invited to give an update on a specific topic do that before covering anything else. This time-pressed group of manager invited you to speak because they felt you could supply a missing piece of information. So answer that specific request directly and quickly.
Before presenting, run your talk and your slides by a colleague will give you his honest opinion. Find someone that has presented to executives before. Ask for pointed feedback, is your message coming through clearly? Are you missing anything your audience is likely to expect?
It is a lot of work but presenting to an executive team is a great honour and can open doors for you. If you nail this, people with influence will believe in your ideas.