Presenting a project proposal to the executive team for the first time can be a frightening prospect. You may feel confident in the work that you’ve done but nervous about conveying the ideas effectively and succinctly. After all, if you are presenting to busy executives, there’s pressure to not only make your point but to make the best use of their time as well. But rest assured, if you’ve been tasked with presenting to executives that means your managers have confidence in your ability to do so and you should enter the room feeling that way. Here are a few ways to help you stay concise, engaging and to the point.
Short, Sweet and to the Point
The executive team has limited time so the best way to keep their attention is to prepare them in advance. Provide read-ahead material to allow leadership to gain an idea of the material and formulate questions. This should include an agenda page that lays out what you intend to cover and that highlights any “asks” of the leadership so they know specifically what you need. This will also help shorten the presentation time and allow more time for questions and answers.
Think about the purpose of your presentation and what your knowledge means to the executives. You want to identify a problem and let them know how you can fix it. Their role is to understand situations and make decisions. Keep the discussion at a higher level. This isn’t the opportunity to share everything you know. Remember less is sometimes more. Stick with the essential information and don’t get bogged down in the details. If they want more information, they will ask. And make sure you know the answers to those potential questions if they are asked.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Public speaking is a top fear for many people, but you can ease some of your anxiety if you feel well prepared. Be authentic. The best way to do this is to stay calm, practice and speak to the slides rather than read from the slides. They can read the slides themselves. Tell a story with each slide and try to stick to just 3 bullets per slide. Your words should add color to what you are presenting visually. Take the time to rehearse, become comfortable with your script, get your timing down and ensure that you make the points you want to make. Present to a friend or family member for feedback. Try to anticipate some of the questions you will be asked so you can practice answering without offering a ton of extraneous detail.
Step by Step
Start by greeting everyone and briefly introducing yourself. Try to limit your presentation to 15 to 20 minutes. You might want to set a silent alarm to alert you when you have 5 minutes left so that you can summarize the presentation before opening up for questions and discussion.
Get to the point right away. Identify the project and the purpose of the presentation – to secure input or approval, to decide on next steps or to update on progress. Clearly state the project objectives along with a description of how the project works from requirements, design and coding to tests, packaging and more. Qualify and quantify the benefits of the project to the organization. Share the project scope, timeline and roadmap, the results to-date as well as real and anticipated costs. Outline the next steps.
Provide your recommendations and a short summary of why. Stay credible. Be sure to give credit where credit is due especially for supporting research that is out of your area of expertise. Provide your recommendations. Open it up for discussion and Q&A. You want this to be a lively exchange of information. If there is a question you don’t know the answer to, say, “That’s a great question. Let me get back to you with specifics.” You do not need to know everything. Lastly, thank them for their time and the opportunity to present.
By the end you should have answered the following questions: What is the objective of the project? How will the project improve, solve a problem for or create opportunities for the company? What are the costs? What are the expected outcomes? What is the ROI? What are the next steps? Projects are driven by the needs of the organization. In order to get leadership buy-in, you’ll need to convey how your project meets those needs and how you can bring about success. Presentations matter. This is an opportunity to showcase your talents and how much you can contribute to this project and the company as a whole.