The task of presenting to senior leadership can be both exciting and daunting. The chance to get in front of higher-ranking leadership can be an opportunity to really show your value and impress those who may have a hand in your career advancement.
Done correctly, this is your chance to speak up and shine; done poorly, and you might disappoint or annoy.
Luckily, there are some key tenets you can stick to in order to make your presentation solid and designed to impress. Here are some best practices for successfully presenting to senior executives in your organization.
Nothing is more critical to the success of your presentation than clearly conveying your key message. Every slide, every bullet point, and every talking point must be examined carefully to ensure that it fits with your presentation’s agenda. When you begin compiling your notes, start by distilling your key point or desired outcome down to one or two short sentences, just for yourself. The exact words you write may never actually make it into your presentation, but they can act as your guiding light when editing your ideas to make sure they are fully on point.
- Have an agenda clearly in mind
- Make sure every discussion point furthers that objective
- Try to deliver multiple messages
- Simply share information – have a conclusion
It can be tempting to delve into all of the complex reasons why you are making a recommendation, or to detail all the circumstances that bring you to the issue or problem at hand. Whether you’re motivated by the desire to impress by “showing your work” or by demonstrating your understanding of the situation, it’s important to resist the urge.
Senior leaders want a clear, concise and confident presentation. Keep the details tight and the recommendations certain. Always stay on message. Be prepared with similarly succinct answers on any background information in case there are questions, but maintain a simple, clear approach in your presentation.
- Keep your notes and talking points crisp
- Be minimalist in your slides and visuals
- Give an exhaustive history of the current situation
When you’re deciding what data to share in your presentation, look at everything with a critical eye. The right data can really help you deliver your message, but there can definitely be too much of a good thing.
Focus only on what matters most. The information you’re presenting needs to be just as clear and on message as the words you plan to say – and when in doubt, leave it out. If you’re asked for additional information, you can offer to share it post-presentation via email. Too much information on your slides will only be a distraction.
- Use relevant, easy-to-read data
- Be ruthless in your decisions on the most important information to show
- Show complex or multi-step data
- Display graphs that require a lot of thought
The structure of your presentation is key. Every single component should be on message and on point and flow together in a strong, linear order that leads your audience to your desired conclusion.
Avoid tangents and extraneous ideas. It can be tempting to put in your favorite side notes or interesting tidbits, but when you’re presenting to senior leaders, follow the path straight to your goal without deviating.
- Follow a clear, linear order while presenting
- Jump around
- Go off on tangents or side notes
When all is said and done and you’ve completed your presentation, be sure to check-in with your stakeholders gather feedback from your audience. Find out what worked, what didn’t and how you could improve. It’s important to know if your key message was clear, and how you were perceived.
Did you seem confident? Nervous? Frustrated? Positive? Did the audience learn what they hoped to learn? Were they swayed to your perspective on the issue? Be sure to be open and gracious in learning from those you consult. Keep in mind that people in your audience may be hoping to see their own ideas reflected in your presentation, so know your audience and adjust your talking points to communicate accordingly.
- Solicit feedback soon after your presentation
- Politely accept feedback and suggestions on how to improve
- Make a plan on how you will do better next time
- Consider coaching to improve your presentation skills
- Make excuses or argue with feedback
- Wait too long to ask for ideas
- Give up! Keep improving!
Presenting to senior leaders can be unnerving, but with preparation and a solid presentation, you will be in a key position to show your value and demonstrate your knowledge.
Joel Garfinkle is recognized as one of the top 50 executive coaches in America. Global Gurus named Joel #14 on its list of top 30 global coaching experts. He has 19 years of first-hand experience working closely with many of the world’s leading companies, including Oracle, Google, Amazon, Deloitte, The Ritz-Carlton, Gap and Starbucks. He has written seven books, including "Getting Ahead." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his FulfillmentATWork newsletter. Subscribe and you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” If you are looking for practical advice for advancing up the executive career ladder, view his Career Advancement Blog.