A common concern I hear from my clients who are aspiring leaders is how to effectively catch the attention of senior executives via their presentations. My clients know that effective communication skills and being visible with senior management are key to developing their careers.
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Another group of clients I often work with are exactly those senior managers. And do you know what their main irritations about junior managers are? Ineffective communication skills and in particular, not getting their point across clearly and concisely.
Let’s be honest, senior executives are one of the toughest audiences you could experience. They are extremely busy people and have very short attention spans. I’m not saying this to scare you, but to encourage you to prepare your presentations properly so you get noticed and for the right reasons!
Here are some guidelines to help you prepare your next presentation to a senior executive audience.
Lead with your key message
This means communicating your ‘big idea’ right at the beginning of your presentation. For a big idea to be impactful, it should contain your perspective on the topic and what’s at stake for the audience. Focus on the things they care about such as high-level findings, recommendations and your call to action. Then spend the rest of the (short) presentation giving some context and detail to support your key message.
Make sure you stay on topic
Don’t be tempted to digress, let them decide if they want to digress and to where. That ‘where’ matters to them so be flexible about that.
Leave room for discussion
Deliver your presentation in less time than originally allocated so there is room for robust discussions.
Prepare well for questions
Think about the areas of your presentation that may be susceptible to deep-dive questions and make sure you’re prepared with additional data in appendix slides. Having these slides ready to pull up at any moment shows the executives that you’ve thought through the dynamics of the session well and can be flexible if required. However, don’t show these slides unless they request additional information.
As with all your business presentations, you should know your topic cold and prepare and rehearse well. With a senior executive audience, however, this is crucial, there’s too much at stake to do otherwise. When you practice your presentation, pay special attention to how your message flows and how clearly and concisely you’re communicating the main points.
Without a doubt, presenting to senior executives is a challenge, but as with everything else, the skills and mindset you need to be successful can be acquired and developed.
At the same time, having the opportunity to interact with a senior leadership team can be exhilarating. These people can help you promote your ideas which may make a real contribution to the organization’s future.
If you have to present to senior executives and wish to do it more effectively and with greater confidence, send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.