How to Present to High-Level Executives
By David Greenberg
1. Start with the End
Most execs just want the bottom line. Sometimes the bottom line is a number and sometimes it’s your conclusion. Start there. For example, if your presentation would normally conclude, “As you can see, we need to hire an outside consultant to improve our presentations,” open with “We need to hire an outside consultant to improve our presentations.” If your presentation would normally lead to the conclusion, “As you can see, implementing the new sales initiatives has increased sales this quarter by 12%,” open with “Let me start with the bottom-line — implementing the new sales initiatives has increased sales this quarter by 12%, $3 million.”
2.Skip the Details — Unless You Are Asked
Rather than going into details that support your conclusion, the conclusion may be all you need to state. Then entertain questions (executives often prefer asking questions than listening to a “lecture”). You might say something like, “I have provided an Executive Summary with the research that supports this conclusion. Rather than go into the details here today, I’d like to answer any question you may have.”
3. Need to Know or Nice to Know?
Of course, sometimes you do need to provide detailed information during your presentation. When deciding what information to convey, put yourself in the executives’ shoes and ask yourself whether the information you are considering sharing is something that they absolutely need to know or just nice to know. If it’s just nice to know, skip it.
4. Get an Advocate
If you are seeking approval of a recommendation, try to meet with at least one member of the executive team before your presentation and ask for his or her support. If appropriate, ask this person to introduce you and your topic to the group, stating his or her positive opinion for your recommendation. It might sound something like, “Bonnie McGee is going to talk to us next about the need to offer domestic partner benefits. I believe it’s a necessity for our company’s future and I urge you to listen carefully to Bonnie’s research. Let’s welcome Bonnie.” It can also be very helpful to solicit this person’s advice on what to include and exclude from your presentation.
5. Keep it Brief
Use the 75% rule. Practice speaking for 75% of the time you’ve been allotted. People will appreciate that you respect their time and you’ll be looked upon as someone who can get to the point quickly and effectively.