So, you have an opportunity to present to the executives at your company. How do you best prepare for your C-suite presentation?
While this can be an exciting change to gain more visibility in your career, it can also be a potential minefield for those earlier in their careers, or not especially comfortable with public speaking.
In order to become a President of edynamic, I had to spend years making these kinds of presentations. I spent some time thinking about both what went right and what went wrong in my past and consolidated my advice into 10 steps that should get you on the path to success.1) You’ve got 30 seconds… The first impression counts!
Your first 30 seconds of presenting to an executive audience are critical. But be aware that the success of your pitch is 90% about securing executive buy into you, and 10% about your topic or wonderful PowerPoint slides.
In fact, try your best to drive action without depending on your slides. Know your content and be prepared to present it with confidence. Rather than a crutch, lay out the framework of your idea, and use your deck as a leave-behind so that executives can delve deeper into your topic once you’ve captured their attention.2)Get to your point quickly- Why should they care?
Executives are very busy and don’t have time to hear all of the backgrounds on every specific situation. Net out the key issue or opportunity you are discussing, and present a clear statement on the crux of the issue, why they should care about it, and then summarize your recommendations, and the benefits of your proposed course of action will be to both the executives and the company.3) Know your audience
Meeting preparation means knowing both your material, and who you are presenting to. Use LinkedIn and other online searches to review the backgrounds of the key stakeholders in the room.
It’s also smart to do some internal research. Find an executive sponsor to coach you, and ask his or her opinion on each executives’ key priorities. If you can, find out their backgrounds, what motivates them, and how they are compensated (e.g., overall revenue, customer retention, keeping IT systems up and running, etc.).
This detail will allow you to hone your presentation to speak to what your audience cares about, plus avoid any pitfalls that could derail your conversation, such as stepping on someone’s toes or bringing up a politically sensitive issue.4) Anticipate questions & challenges
Executives will want to cut to the chase quickly and will start to drill down on your key points. Be prepared and know how to address key concerns. If you are unsure of a certain area it is better not to even bring it up. Only present what you can defend and discuss with confidence.5) Keep it simple – Focus on a single defensible truth!
Keep your presentations short and focus on presenting a single defensible truth. Tell them that truth in a candid open way, show them why it is the truth and present the credible facts and data to back it up your conclusions.6) Make the bottom line your top line
Show the bottom line benefits of what you are presenting to your audience as your first line of communication. This tells the executive audience why they should listen to the rest of your presentation. Focus on achieving commitment on the required actions and getting ownership from at least one of the executive team members. If you miss catching their attention quickly, they will begin looking for other ways to make their time productive, such as checking email. If your audience isn’t connected with your ideas, you will lose them.7) Support your presentation with data
Don’t make the mistake of presenting without data to back it up. Executives are inundated with a lot of great ideas, but it’s data that motivates executives to action. These information points can include: financial impact (revenue or losses), key customer impacts and pressure from competition.
Don’t present any data that you don’t clearly understand. Executives are very good at drilling down on a data point and finding a hole in your logic. One poorly presented data point can put into question your entire proposal.8) Always show up with a solution
The fastest way to lose credibility and support of the executive suite is to show up with a problem without a few well-thought our solutions. Executives are very good at sizing up situations quickly and tend to be naturally solutions-oriented. Which means that so before you even present your solutions they probably have multiple options already running through their head, and they are looking for you to do the same.
If your audience does offer their thoughts, validate their suggestions. This is a great sign because it means you have caught their attention. If you hit this point, be flexible enough with your presentation to go with the flow and move quickly to your proposed solutions to show that you have thought these through.9) Always cover your back!
You can never count fully on computers, projectors or the Internet. Make sure you have a back-up of your presentation on a flash drive in your pocket. If all else fails, have a one-page executive summary printed up on paper that you can hand out for a discussion and a decision.10) Keep a positive attitude
Your attitude is the number one factor that will determine your success. No matter how stressed out you may be in the inside, project a positive and confident demeanor.
I believe that a positive attitude is one of the most important aspects of success – not only for your upcoming presentations but more importantly as a key factor to having a successful life.
Good Luck with your executive presentation. Keep in mind that most executives want to help you and if you are presenting ideas that will help the company in a clear, solution-oriented manner, you will find the support you need.