Executive Presentations: Don’t Forget to Ask For What You Need
You’re preparing for your next executive presentation, and you know it’s going to be a doozy.
As you picture the people around the table, you envision the swirl of competing priorities you’re up against. So how do you get their attention, ask for what you need, and avoid any big missteps?
9 Mistakes To Avoid in Your Executive Presentations
Start by avoiding these big mistakes.
1. Undermining Your Credibility
The execs will only buy your message if they believe you know what you’re doing. It’s vital to show up confident and strong,
One of the smartest women I know stayed up late every night the week before her presentation doing deep research and getting the presentation just right. No one in the room knew a tenth as much as she did on the subject. But when one exec made a snarky remark she lost it and burst into tears–a tragic credibility buster.
Exhaustion and too much caffeine prevented her from responding calmly and redirecting the conversation.
Other credibility-busters include weak words such as: “I guess” “This is above my pay grade” “You all are a lot smarter than me.”
Remember, you are the expert. Show up strong.
2. Lack of Confidence in Your Own Argument
Do your homework so you can answer the tough questions well. Be confident enough to challenge faulty thinking in a professional and respectful manner. State your argument with clarity and confidence.
3. Lack of Humility
At the same time, these men and women are in their positions for a reason. They’ve got perspective you may not have. Listen carefully to really understand their concerns. Write down their suggestions. Be sure they feel heard. Know that as much as you know, you don’t know it all.
4. Unclear Objectives
When I’m working with leaders on honing their executive presentations, I’m often surprised how few can articulate their primary objective. Be sure you can complete this statement in one sentence. Before going in, be sure you know what you want them to think, feel or do as a result of your presentation.
5. Underestimating the Audience
Executives can often be hard to read, but there’s a lot going in their quick-thinking brains.
Do everything you can to learn about the executive’s goals, competing priorities, decision-making styles, and political dynamics. This isn’t easy, but it’s a worthwhile investment.
Talk to those who’ve presented in the past. Talking to key members of their team is another great option.
6. Failure to Connect with a Stakeholder
If the topic is complex and/or controversial, it’s going to be tough to get traction in a room of opinionated execs. Seek out a few key players to ask for their opinion in advance. Incorporate and acknowledge their thinking. It will show you’ve done your homework and also have a few friendlies in the room supporting your argument.
7. Boring Delivery
It’s likely yours is the fifth or sixth PowerPoint deck they’ve seen that day. Spice up your data with a strategic story, metaphors, or illuminating statistics with powerful comparisons. Classic research by Hermann Ebbinghaus shows that most people forget 40% of what was said within the first 30 minutes. Be sure your message is memorable. A great, easy read to inspire better presentations is Get to the Point: How to Say What You Mean and Get What You Want.
8. Overstuffed Slides
You know a lot, or you wouldn’t be in the room. Resist the urge to throw it all up on your slides. Use clean visuals (not cute clip art) that represent your message with a few key points per slide. Always include a punch box at the bottom with a 5 to 7 words that articulate your main idea for that page. If you can’t come up with a punchy summarizing statement, consider if you really need that slide.
9. Failure to Ask for What You Need
This sounds so obvious, but it’s one of the biggest mistakes I see. Be very clear on your proposed next steps and what you need specifically from whom. Funding? Support from above? Communication with their organizations? Resources? Sure, some details may need to be worked out later, but be sure you can answer the question, “What do you need from us?”
Your turn. What would you add? What are the biggest mistakes to avoid in executive presentations?