Giving a Presentation to the Executives:

I once saw a short video by the guy who used to write Bill Gates' presentations. I think he summed it up well:

- Tell them what you are going to tell them
- Tell them
- Tell them what you just told them

I think that is a great structure, especially for execs who are typically Driver types whose time is extremely important. I think one mistake many people make is to make too much of that middle portion. Put most of that in an appendix, and tell a short succint story, with all of you backup work in the appendix.

The other advice that the guy had was how Ballmer attacked a deck. He would demand that his decks get printed out. He would then ask "what three points are we trying to make?" Then he would take the print out and make one pile each for of the points, and the rest on the floor. You then re-order the deck based on the three piles. Keep it short and to the point

 Here are 9 more tips from 9 Tips to Nail your Exec Preso

. Organize your content to tell a story that addresses the exec’s concerns, which are usually about two things: 1) are things going according to plan, and 2) how do I minimize my own personal risk. Executive presentations are about helping the exec feel confident things are under control, or can be under control if your plan is approved.

2. Assume you’ll present for 1/3 the allotted time and the exec will talk/ask questions the other 2/3 of the time.

3. Make your main point in the first five minutes, before the presentation can get derailed by questions and pet side topics. Presentations can seem unfocused when they lead with data and don’t get to the conclusion until the end. Peers may tolerate this, but executives will get impatient and take control  if the presentation lacks focus.

4. Use the words and phrases the exec uses. Execs feel confident in people who “get” their vision. Using their words shows you are in tune with their vision and onboard to help them be successful. Even if you don’t agree with the vision, using their pet words will build trust necessary to start suggesting modifications to the vision.

5. Don’t be intimidated. It’s natural to feel nervous presenting but those who sell to executives, or work closely with executives, say the secret is to treat them as a person, not a title. How do you do that? First, remember that no matter how much the exec knows, you know more about your specific topic area and you were hired because you are qualified to be the expert. Second, don’t be afraid OF executives; be afraid FOR them. Execs are under a lot of pressure to deliver, so focus on what is scaring them and how you can relieve those worries.

6. Socialize your presentation with the exec’s lieutenants ahead of time. Let them fine-tune the wording, order the slides, re-use existing slides they’ve created. You want the lieutenants’ fingerprints to be all over your PowerPoint slides. You want them on your side during the presentation, not poking holes in front of the exec.

7. Invite the exec’s questions within the first 5 minutes. Execs will interrupt early to ask questions, so invite questions proactively and it looks like you’re controlling the floor (eg. “Have I captured your idea of success correctly?”, “Would you prioritize the target countries differently?”,  etc)

8. Be very specific about what you’ve already done and what you need from the exec. Don’t come in expecting the exec to solve your problems.  Say “We need you to do a 30-minute presentation to the operations team about our three-year vision” and not “The operations team won’t support our requests for faster fulfillment. What should we do?”. Do 90% of the work and ask the exec for a few very specific things you need to get over the goal line.

9. Always come prepared to ask the exec a few questions. Most exec directives are filtered through the ranks, so you don’t get the exec’s wishes firsthand. This is your chance to hear the exec’s wishes in their own words. How do they see the competitive challenge? What’s their measure of success? You get the idea.

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