You’ve been working towards this bid for months. You’re presenting to the highest executives at a large and successful company. This bid could result in the biggest deal of your career.
How do you present to those at the highest level? Whether the audience includes your boss or a powerful prospect, you need to consider their motives. With such a big pitch at stake, it is important to really ensure that your chances are maximised. Above all, you need to be sure that your audience feel respected.
Below are some tips to help you prepare for an executive presentation.
- Find out how much your audience know about your chosen topic. If possible, talk to someone with contacts, or ask directly beforehand. If no information is available, assume they know nothing and give a very basic overview of your presentation before launching into greater detail.
- Make the presentation relevant. What are the company’s current business goals? What will the audience be interested in? Link your presentation to their place in the market; a recent change in legislation – anything you can find that will be relevant to your audience. Senior executives will appreciate your effort and understanding, as well as feeling naturally inclined to listen to data relevant to them.
- Chief executives are often more interested in problem-solving and the overall health of the company. It’s safer to assume that they want the broad picture, so don’t spend ages discussing minute details such as design aspects unless specifically asked to, or unless you’re presenting to a specified audience or department.
- Senior executives like high data intensity, but with clarity. Executive presentations should be supported with graphs, giving a broad overview of facts and figures. Ensure that you have all numbers to hand, as it is likely that questions will be asked.
- Anticipate questions and prepare for them. Include relevant slides of data and graphs, where applicable. The information that isn’t included in your presentation can be revealed here. Choose what will be most relevant for a basic overview, and hold the details back unless requested.
- Don’t include any information that isn’t completely sound. High-level executives are well experienced in picking holes in an argument. If there is something you’re not sure on, leave it out. It’s not worth risking your credibility.
- Senior management executives are busy people. The small amount of time they may dedicate to you is likely to be worth a great deal. Keep your presentation short; they’ll be grateful. Whatever you do, do not overrun your time slot. There is no surer way to annoy any audience, especially those who have important meetings that should have started ten minutes ago. Respect your audience’s time, and they will be more likely to remember you favourably.
- Having a limited time slot in an executive presentations means that it is especially important not to waffle. Not only is waffling unprofessional and annoying, but if you waste time on words that aren’t crucial to your point, you quite simply won’t get everything across that you need to. Be concise and to the point – if the audience want more detail on something, they’ll ask for it.
- Make sure that you allow adequate time for Q&A at the end. This is the point at which you can learn what exactly your audience wants to know. Senior executives are likely to specify precisely what is important to them, so this could potentially be the most crucial part of your presentation.
- Project a professional image. An important audience will want to be sure that you are worthy of their time and attention. Casual dress, malfunctioning equipment and a hesitant manner will not help to instil their trust. Walk in fully prepared, dressed smartly, and implicitly reassure them that you are credible.
- Anticipate interruptions. Whatever you do, stay calm and remain polite. It is not worth risking a pitch for the sake of pride. Set out an overview, suggesting that they might find it more useful to ask questions at the end, once they have a better idea of the whole picture. If you are interrupted, deal with it there and then – you’re there to talk about what they want to talk about, after all.
- In the same vein; be prepared to improvise. Executives are likely to ask tough questions, and ask to see something completely different to the slides you’ve prepared. It might develop that they’d rather talk about numbers, when your presentation has been focused on company morale. Be flexible – don’t expect executive presentations to be rigid.
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Cindy Simpson, Sodexo
I sincerely appreciate all your team did and the process defined by m62 that ensures focus on client value (benefits, not features) [...] Ultimately the outcome was fabulous. The final presentation helped us to tell a powerful story, “Why Sodexo?”, and why we were the best choice for our prospect. Both the presentation and coaching by the m62 team during practice helped to keep us focused and on track. The imagery did what we had hoped by evoking emotion and conveying our story in a way words could not.