Presenting to the Top Dogs
You walk into the board room. There they are, seated around the long rosewood table watching your every move. Your heart starts pounding. Your mouth goes dry even though you've reviewed your slides 25 times in preparation for this presentation. You say "Good Morning", click on your first slide and before you can move to your second slide out comes a question, the answer to which is buried inside your presentation or worse yet, isn't something you had planned to talk about. What do you do? Why does this always happen? How can you prevent it? I have answers for you.
Presentations are difficult enough but when you're presenting to the 'Top Dogs', tensions rise, risks increase and reputations are on the line - YOURS. It's no wonder you feel nervous. The key to solving this dilemma and winning the hearts and minds of those executives or board members is simply to put yourself in their shoes.
In "Winning over the Boss," Rae Cook & Associates says executives can "become difficult audiences ... when you violate their personal principles of time and information management."
How do you manage their time and information efficiently? You need to answer these three questions that they have on their mind:
1.What are you there to talk about - give us context?
2.What do you want from us - how much will it cost?
3.Are your ideas in alignment with our strategic plans?
If you don't address these questions within the first minute of your presentation, they have every right to start taking control of the conversation. Let's talk about how you need to prepare for each of these three questions.
What are you there to talk about? Your opening words set the tone for the rest of the presentation. Provide them with a brief context statement about the issue that is prompting your presentation and immediately transition to your PURPOSE statement and the points you will cover. It should be short, to the point and have the appropriate action verb accompanying it.
Example: "Given the recent acquisitions announced by the competition, we are in a very different position this year then we were last regarding the Mountain View Project. It's for that reason that we are here to propose a different path forward that will move us to commercialization more quickly." We will cover 1.) Key process changes, 2.) Risk mitigation and 3). Timelines.
What do you want from us? Usually when an issue is brought to the executive team or the Board it means there are resources needed or budgeting adjustments that must be approved. It all takes money. To postpone the CALL TO ACTION until the close of the presentation is a big mistake. All they hear is "bla bla bla" until you state upfront what you need them to do. Once they know, they can listen more intently to your ideas and determine if you've made a strong enough case to warrant the additional funding.
Example: "We have come to you for budget increase of $4million dollars to hire two new engineers and additional testing equipment that will enable us to up the pace and meet this year's market deadlines for beta testing this new product. Originally we were targeting next year, but we can't afford to let the competition get there first."
Are your ideas in alignment with our strategic plans? By being prepared to answer this question, it will force you to stay out of the weeds. No executive or board member wants to hear all the details or how to's. They trust you will do what you say you will do. What they do want to know is that your ideas are strategically aligned with the business goals they have spent a great deal of time crafting.
Example: "We knew the competitive landscape could shift, we just didn't know when. Our long term focus has been to be first to market with this product and with this shift in operational direction, we believe we can achieve our goals."
Will being prepared to address these three questions as you open your presentation guarantee that no questions will be asked before your second slide? No. Will it improve your chances that you can move forward with your concise key points and persuade them to move to action? Yes.
Now you can take a breath, say good morning, pause, and answer those three questions before you click on that first slide.
If you're interested in learning more about improving your persuasive presentations, contact Red Cup Learning today.