High level executives are a tough bunch of people to reach. They are busier than you can ever imagine so getting on their schedule is not an easy task to attempt. You will also be very fortunate to present to a group of them together in one spot, let alone present to one of them. If you are able to get such an audience, you need to keep in mind that they are accustomed to making very big decisions in precious little time on highly accurate information.
Many of the presentations I have seen would never work for an executive team or for one of them, mainly because they are way too long and go way overboard on explanation of details. Most of this group is very bottom line driven, so you want to get to it quickly, and you will be very fortunate if they don’t interrupt you before you can get to your finish. Most of the time, you will be thinking that you could have answered their questions if only allowed to get to your next two or three slides, the problem is, you took too long to get to them. They move quickly!
They also have a tendency to tune out if you don’t get to the point pretty quickly. As a CEO Coach, I have been doing this for a while and even I dilly-dallied around, I was too wordy and lost a group’s attention just the other week. It can happen quickly, so you have to keep things moving! Here are a group of things you can do to keep your presentations sharp if you are able to deliver something to a high-level team.
1. Finish early
Take the amount of time you are allowed and cut it short. For goodness sakes, do not use it all for the presentation. Pretend that your time is cut to five minutes and you need to get your message across in that amount of time. Use the rest of your meeting time for discussion. Do your findings, conclusions and recommendations in short order. Hit them clearly and hard right away. Use anything else to answer questions and generate conversation.
2. Deliver what they want
Stay on topic and cover what you were invited to cover, nothing else. They have agreed to meet with you because you have something they want, give it to them right away. Supply the piece of data, information, solution or answer as soon as possible.
3. Set the stage
Let them know that you will be giving them the summation right away and that you will spend the rest of your time with them exploring the topic and answering questions. You will have primed them for patience, and they will give it to you knowing they won’t have to wait long before they can dive in with questions and opinions.
4. They love summaries
You will want to develop something (a slide or a handout perhaps) with a clear and short overview of your key points. If it’s slides, place them in the front of your deck, if its handouts, give them out after you’ve covered your points. Always control your presentation, don’t allow them any control to jump ahead either physically by turning pages or mentally in their thinking. After you present the summary, allow them to drive the conversation. If you do a good job, they will want to go deeper on your main points for supporting information but let them drive that.
5. Practice Practice Practice
Do your presentation in front of someone who has some experience in the area of presenting to high level groups. It does you no good to practice with someone who has never done this before since they won’t know any more than you. Get someone who will be honest with you about your approach and who can properly prepare you for success.
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