Hit Your Senior Level Presentation Out of the Park

Presenting to a senior audience can be intimidating, even for those that have been doing them for many years. So, how do we set ourselves up for success?  This month Roundtable Members Zev Smith and Claudia Calderon shared their tips on how to get off on the right foot with these types of high-pressure presentations.

Zev Smith, People Business Partner at Aviva, highlights the importance of mindset, clarity of purpose, appropriate materials, anticipating the audience’s interest and scheduling. Here are his tips in these areas:

Have the right mindset.

Consider your presentation an opportunity to make a positive impression on a group of highly influential people that you don’t regularly have access to. Make your preparation a priority, regardless of how busy you are. TWEET THIS

Be clear on your purpose.

Be clear on what your mandate is and have 1-2 key things you want your audience to take away. Most senior leaders will sit through a dozen meetings a day and you want to be the presenter who stands out for being focused on key points, clear on a resolution and explicit on any applicable next steps.

Prepare appropriate executive level materials.

Keeping in mind how busy this audience is, keep your materials brief and to the point. As well, since senior audiences typically include leaders from different parts of the business, it’s important that your materials are understood by all – stay away from jargon or acronyms and only go as detailed as you need to.

Find out if the materials will be sent as a pre-read prior to the meeting. If sent as a pre-read, materials will need to stand on their own when read (hopefully) by your audience the night before. As well, when you start your presentation, it’s a good idea to ask if they want to be taken through the material, or if they prefer to discuss and ask questions. If materials are not sent as a pre-read, consider using bullet points or illustrations that support what you say.

Anticipate your audience’s interest.

As you prepare, think about each member of your audience and see the topic through their eyes. For example:

CFO – will be focused on the cost and return on investment, know your numbers cold

COO – will focus on implementation and execution

CPO – will be thinking about the people aspect

Also, think about the questions they may ask and have your answers ready, or even better pre-empt questions by addressing them while you present. If you are unsure about an audience member speak to your ‘sponsor’, the Executive in the room you report up through, and gather some information from them.

Bonus – Schedule strategically.

Try to present as early in the meeting as possible to ensure there is good energy and attention in the room for your presentation. Executive Team meetings can at times last all day and the energy in the room ebbs and flows. TWEET THIS

Also, be sure to know the length of your time slot and ensure that your presentation fits within it while allowing for questions. You don’t want to find yourself needing to speed through the material or get cut off just as you are about to make your ask.

Claudia Calderon, Sr. Director of Marketing – CSD Portfolio & Field Planning/ Activation at PepsiCo Beverages Canada provides these additional tips, focusing both on what to do prior to and during the presentation.

Prior to your presentation…

Prepare, prepare, prepare.

Spend the time to get yourself comfortable with the content – it may be time consuming but it will pay off in dividends in terms of your confidence. Feeling like you’ve got a good handle on the material is a great way to set yourself up for success.

Leverage colleagues or mentors.

Leverage the learning from others with experience presenting to senior leaders. Take them through your presentation and ask for their coaching both on content and delivery.

Pull supporting data together.

Be armed with as much supporting or backup data as you can. No matter how much you prepare you will never be able to anticipate or know the answer to every question. If you can’t remember the answer or need additional facts during the meeting, you can turn to your backup data to help you. TWEET THIS

Align your boss in advance.

Bring your boss along during the process to leverage their experience and create an advocate in the room for you the day of the presentation.

During your presentation…

Set expectations.

Be clear on presentation objective and what you need to get from the audience, right from the onset. Setting the context of the meeting and being clear on the end goal will help you set the stage for a fruitful and focused discussion.

Be concise.

Focus on the most relevant points of your presentation and tell a clear story. More importantly leave time for discussion and questions!

Be flexible.

Think about your presentation as a discussion rather than a download. This will help you have the right mindset and expectation for the meeting. If a big discussion emerges half way through your presentation, or you’re asked to go back or jump ahead, you won’t get thrown off and can keep your momentum.

Be confident in yourself.

Be confident in your abilities – confidence in yourself will instill confidence in your plan. While senior leaders may have more experience than you (and that can be intimidating), remind yourself that more than likely you’re closer to the situation than anyone else. TWEET THIS

Claudia also reminds us that senior leaders are there to challenge us to think differently so that we can continue to grow and develop as professionals. Thus, assume that any feedback is meant with positive intent and will make the outcome of any presentation one from which we can learn and grow from.

Good luck!

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