Hi, welcome to this week episode of The Art of Business English. Have you reached a point in your career where you are required to present to senior executives in your company? If yes, then that is awesome, it is a great honour, however it can also be a little stressful. In fact, I am sure you are aware that they are one of the most difficult audiences you are likely to face. They’re incredibly impatient because their schedules are jam-packed with other meetings and events. What’s more they have to make lots of high-stakes decisions, often with little time to weigh up the options.
With that being said, long presentations with a build up to some amazing revelation at the end do not work for them. They’ll want you to get to the point right away. Furthermore, they are also likely to interrupt you with questions and you should be prepared to answer them.
So, today with that in mind, I am going to teach you some tips to retain their attention, and to make them consider what you have to share.
Let’s dive in!
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Understand what they want
Successfully winning over an executive requires helping them organize their thoughts around your proposal. To achieve this, you must first understand their mindset. What do they care about most? What do they need in order to act quickly on your request? Many presenters forget this fundamental step. They are too busy thinking about their presentation from “their” perspective and not from that of their audience.
To process any one request, executives need to be fed relevant, organized data and facts. They also require you to be flexible and responsive to their questions in the moment and have the relevant data to hand.
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Use your time wisely
Like I said before, senior executives have very limited time, since their schedules are filled with a wide variety of responsibilities to attend to. Therefore, get to the point quickly; summarize up front and be clear regarding what is the purpose of your presentation. Senior executives need to know exactly what your call to action, solution or recommendation will be.
If possible, take less time than you were allocated. So, stay on topic and try to state in one sentence what your audience will get out of your presentation. Chose meaning over details, if the executives need you to analyse those, they will ask you to.
Make sure you are able to answer their questions
Senior executives will have questions, they will ask them, and they likely won’t wait until you announce that it is time for Q&A. They will want to explore the current and future context, your understanding, and the consequences of your recommendations. So, my tip is to manage this by setting expectations at the beginning of your presentation. For example, you could tell the audience you will spend the first 5 of your 30 minutes presenting your insights into the topic and then spend the remaining time on discussion. Most executives will be patient for 5 minutes if they know that they will then be able to spend the rest of the time asking questions and exploring the topic in more detail.
Also, make sure you prepare summary slides where you develop a clear, short overview of your key points. After you present the summary, let them drive the conversation. Executives may want to go deeper on some points that will aid their decision making, so, create a series of complementary slides where you offer more in-depth details and insights to help them in their decision making.
Manage your nerves
Presenting to senior executives can be a nerve-wrecking task, so make sure to give yourself plenty of time to prepare your presentation. Research what they know and believe about the issue, what they value, and the criteria they use in making decisions.
Another tip is to rehearse your presentation several times and ask a colleague to give you some feedback. Seek out colleagues who have been successful at getting ideas adopted at the executive level. Is your message coming through clearly and quickly? Does your summary include all the necessary key insights? Are you missing anything your audience is likely to expect?
Remember, presenting to senior executives is something you should be proud of. It means they respect you and your opinion. Bring them what they need, respect their time and you will be on your way to success.
If you are looking to improve how to prepare, run, manage, and close a meeting successfully in English, then why not sign up for the online course "Confidence in Business Meetings". On this course we teach you all the necessary language that you need to effectively participate in and run effective meetings.
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As always, if you have further questions or if you would like to share other recommendations on how to successfully present to senior executives, send me a message on speakpipe below or drop me a comment on the blog.
See you next week!